I have put together a language tree using the following code (MWE):

\documentclass[b5paper,11pt,twoside,one column,openright,draft]{memoir}
\tikzset{every tree node/.style={align=center, anchor=north}} % to allow linebreaks
\settowidth{\msarabianlength}{Modern South Arabian}
\settowidth{\nwsemiticlength}{Northwest Semitic}
\tikzset{every tree node/.style={align=center,anchor=north,level distance=2\baselineskip}}
\tikzset{edge from parent/.style={draw,thick}}
\tikzset{level distance=2\baselineskip}
\Tree [.{Afro-Asiatic}
    [.{\makebox[\egyptianlength][c]{Berber}} ]
    [.{\makebox[\egyptianlength][c]{Chadic}} ]
    [.{\makebox[\egyptianlength][c]{Egyptian}} ]
    [.\node (Semitic) {\makebox[\egyptianlength][c]{Semitic}}; ]
    [.{\makebox[\egyptianlength][c]{Cushitic}} ]
    [.{\makebox[\egyptianlength][c]{Omotic}} ]
\node[below of=Semitic,yshift=-1.5em,xshift=-5.5em]{
    \Tree [
        [.{West Semitic}
            [.{\makebox[\msarabianlength][c]{Ethiopian}} ]
                            [.\node (CentralSemitic) {\makebox[\msarabianlength][c]{Central Semitic}}; ]
            [.{\makebox[\msarabianlength][c]{Modern South Arabian}} ]
                    [.{East Semitic}
\node[below of=CentralSemitic,yshift=-9.5em,xshift=-7.5em]{
    \Tree [                 
        [.{\makebox[\nwsemiticlength][c]{Old South Arabian}} ]
        [.\node (NWSemitic) {{\makebox[\nwsemiticlength][c]{Northwest Semitic}}}; ]
        [.{\makebox[\nwsemiticlength][c]{Arabic}} ]
\node[below of=NWSemitic,yshift=-13.75em,xshift=-8em]{
    \Tree [                 
        [.{\makebox[\canaanitelength][c]{Ugaritic}} ]
        [.{\makebox[\canaanitelength][c]{Aramaic}} ]
        [.\node (Canaanite) {{\makebox[\canaanitelength][c]{Canaanite}}}; ]
\node[below of=Canaanite,yshift=-17.75em,xshift=-3.1em]{
    \Tree [                 
        [.{\makebox[\pplength][c]{Phoenician/Punic}} ]
        [.{\makebox[\pplength][c]{Moabite}} ]
        [.{\makebox[\pplength][c]{Ammonite}} ]
        [.{\makebox[\pplength][c]{Edomite}} ]
        [.{\makebox[\pplength][c]{Hebrew}} ]
\caption{The Semitic languages in their Afro-Asiatic context}

The fancy use of lengths and \makebox-es helps the tree not look so skewed. However, I have one problem, and one hope for 'a better way'...

Problem: the vertical distance between e.g. 'West Semitic' and 'Central Semitic' is much less (in terms of line length) than that between 'Central Semitic' and 'Northwest Semitic'.

Enhancement: it would be nice if the xshift and yshifts (which currently I determine by trial and error) could be made relative (i.e. drop down x from the baseline at the midpoint of the label text).

Any suggestions? I tried adjusting vertical distance based on info provided here but without success. Perhaps I'm not doing it properly....


1 Answer 1


This seems to be easier with standard tikz trees. In these node on a given level are evenly spaced and the vertical spacing is more uniform. You can adjust horizontal spacing in a sub-tree by setting sibling distance:

Sample output




    \path[level distance=35pt,parent anchor=south,child
    anchor=north,text height=7pt,text depth=0pt,thick]
    node{Afro-Asiatic} [sibling distance=2cm]
    child {node{Berber}}
    child {node{Chadic}}
    child {node{Egyptian}}
    child {node{Semitic} [sibling distance=7cm] 
      child {node{West Semitic} [sibling distance=3.5cm] 
        child {node{Ethiopian}}
        child {node{Central Semitic} [sibling distance=3.2cm]
          child {node{Old South Arabian}}
          child {node{Northwest Semitic} [sibling distance=2cm]
            child {node{Ugartic}}
            child {node{Aramic}}
            child {node{Canaanite} [sibling distance=2.5cm]
              child {node{Phoenician/Punic}}
              child {node{Moabite}}
              child {node{Ammonite}}
              child {node{Edomite}}
              child {node{Hebrew}}}}
          child {node{Arabic}}}
        child {node{Modern South Arabian}}}
      child {node{East Semitic} [sibling distance=1.5cm] 
        child {node{Eblaite}}
        child {node{Akkadian}}}}
    child {node{Cushitic}}
    child {node{Omotic}}  ;
\caption{The Semitic languages in their Afro-Asiatic context}


The paths all descend from a given point on the parent node, as I have specified parent anchor=south, rather than the standard border.

I have specified text height and text depth to make sure nodes where the text has descenders are aligned with those where there are none.

  • I've only just seen this now (recovering from serious illness), but it looks like it should do the trick! Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 23:26

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