AbstractAnalyzing the evolution of dialects remains a challenging problem because contact phenomena hinder the application of the standard tree model. Previous statistical approaches to this problem resort to admixture analysis, where each dialect is seen as a mixture of latent ancestral populations. However, such ancestral populations are hardly interpretable in the context of the tree model. In this paper, we propose a probabilistic generative model that represents latent factors as geographical distributions. We argue that the proposed model has higher affinity with the tree model because a tree can alternatively be represented as a set of geographical distributions. Experiments involving synthetic and real data suggest that the proposed method is both quantitatively and qualitatively superior to the admixture model.