The goal of this chapter is to describe major salient features in the structures of African languages and their approximate distribution. A typological classification is not aimed at. The chapter begins with a sketch and discussion of typological subject areas generally, followed by a review of previous studies in African comparative typology that highlights the broad spectrum of objectives and methodological operations, as well as the basic principles of typological classification. The presentation of salient typological features of African languages is divided into phonological and morphosyntactic characteristics. Special emphasis is laid on noun class systems, which are widely found in Africa, case marking, verbal extensions, and serial verb constructions.
Dina El Zarka
This overview of intonation in Arabic compares the intonational systems of selected Arabic dialects from Morocco in the West to Kuwait in the East. The formal comparison will mainly be carried out within the framework of autosegmental-metrical (AM) theory, taking the phonetic micro-prosody of the identified pitch accents as a tertium comparationis. Furthermore, the intonation systems will be compared with respect to prosodic phrasing. The second part of the overview is devoted to the functions of intonation in Arabic. In this section, the comparison will be based on a wider range of descriptions, including work carried out within other theoretical frameworks. The section will identify the role of metrical and tonal structures and the way they interact with syntax, information structure, and sentence mode in different varieties of Arabic. The concluding section will provide a preliminary typological picture of Arabic prosody with respect to the macro-rhythmic properties of Arabic.
Oliver A. Iggesen
Many languages with nominal case inflection apply the same distinctions of case forms evenly across their entire nominal lexicon. Hence, all conceivable subclasses of nominals must unequivocally be analysed as exhibiting exactly the same inventory of case categories. This morphological state of affairs is known as case-symmetry. There are, however, languages in which certain (or all) case distinctions apply rather selectively to only a subset of their nominals, in such a way that the inflectional paradigms of the minority subclass can be envisaged as containing more, less, or substantially different case categories than the bulk of the nominals. In other words, certain morphological cases arguably fail to have scope over the entire nominal lexicon in such languages. This is known as case-asymmetry. This article discusses asymmetry in case marking, focusing on nominal vs. pronominal systems. It examines the theoretical implications and argumentative rationale of case-asymmetry and illustrates a case-asymmetrical paradigm structure: the opposition of direct case vs. objective case in English, which applies only to a small number of pronominal lexemes.
Canonical transitive events involve a volitional and controlling agent and a thoroughly affected patient. Any deviation from this prototype may result in a change in the coding of the denoted event. Case plays a central role in this process: accusative marking of patients (nom-acclanguages) and ergative marking of agents (abs-erg-languages) are usually associated with the coding of prototypical transitive events, while other case frames (such as nom-dat/ins or abs-dat/ins) usually code events with a decreased degree of transitivity. The changes in the case marking of (core) arguments may be motivated basically in two ways. First, the changes may follow from verbal morphology as is the case with such derived constructions as passive and antipassive. Second, the changes may follow independently of verb morphology. This article focuses on transitive clauses and the changes in the marking of agent and patient arguments. It first discusses the relation between case marking and transitivity from a formal perspective, and then considers the semantics of case in transitivity alternations.
Case is a category of marking dependent noun phrases for the type of relationship they bear to their heads. The three phenomena that are clearly determined by case functions in many languages are explored: phonological realization, selection, and agreement. A brief overview of influential approaches that offer an explanation for the CH and the constraints is provided. Markedness and grammaticalization approaches share a number of common assumptions and are able to explain case-based asymmetries by generalizations that are much wider in scope. It has revealed that from a typological perspective, cases are formally quite disparate elements, a distinction of broader typological relevance existing between inflectional affixes that characterize the synthetic type and free forms which establish the analytic type. The discussion of the semantic function of cases focuses on split-intransitive, ergative, and accusative patterns, which are well documented and extensively discussed in the typological literature.
Johan Van Der Auwera and Volker Gast
This article first addresses some historical remarks on the notion of the categories in philosophy and in linguistics. The differences between prototype theory and the classical model of categorization are also described. It should be mentioned that the internal structure and the fuzzy boundaries should be kept apart. The article then briefly reports some of the central hypotheses of prototype theory and their impact on matters of categorization. The examples presented show the concepts from prototype theory that were used to define analytic notions, and which are indispensable tools in the description and comparison of languages. Furthermore, the idea of structuring a larger conceptual domain in terms of a family-resemblance graph has been used in the concept of ‘semantic’ or ‘conceptual maps’. Aspects of prototype theory, such as the assumption of internal category structures and family resemblances, can be very useful in many domains of grammar and lexicon, and in linguistic conceptualization.
Johan Van Der Auwera and Jan Nuyts
This article examines the relations between cognitive linguistics and linguistic typology. First, it offers a “neutral” characterization of the field of linguistic typology, defined as a cross-linguistic, descriptive as well as explanatory enterprise devoted to the unity and diversity of language with respect to linguistic form or the relation between linguistic form and meaning or function. It then argues that cognitive linguistics and linguistic typology are eminently compatible, that there is work that illustrates this, but also that most cognitive linguists and typologists nevertheless work in different spheres. It also considers the difficulty of applying typology's sampling method in cognitive linguistics. Finally, the article looks at the typologists' prime orientation on grammar and their hesitation to relate their strictly speaking linguistic generalizations to wider cognitive concerns.
Kurt R. Jankowsky
Francis Bacon’s (1561–1626) demand for scientific language investigation, supplemented by Gottfried Leibniz’s (1646–1716) endorsement of natural scientific methodology, provided the theoretical framework, further elaborated by William Jones (1746–1794) and Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), for Friedrich von Schlegel’s (1772–1829) comparative grammar and facilitated Franz Bopp’s and Jacob Grimm’s (1785–1863) subsequent practical work for the Indo-European and Germanic languages, respectively, culminating in the Neogrammarians’ axiom of “Sound laws suffer no exception” and the development of language typology.
This article first addresses the drive for non-referential symmetry in Cambodian, and comparable decorative frills in other languages. The evidence within Cambodian favours the ‘whole cloth’ theory. A striking property of the symmetrical Khmer compounds is that they alliterate much more often than they rhyme. It has always been stated that the final motive for analogical extension or levelling is the drive to make one meaning correspond to one form – and hence, the drive is ultimately a cognitive one for transparency. The iconic motivation is an example of congruity, in this case between a linguistic and a conceptual structure. The discussion has dealt with both syntagmatic and paradigmatic cases of non-referential symmetry.
Béatrice Lamiroy and Walter De Mulder
This article analyses the variation in degrees of grammaticalisation across languages. It proposes the hypothesis that an essential property of grammaticalisation also applies within a genealogical family and that several grammaticalization processes may be more advanced in one language than in the other languages of the same family. It provides evidence from three Romance languages and shows that French, has reached a further stage of grammaticalisation than Spanish and Italian.
Over the past two decades, linguistic typology has been moving increasingly away from its original goal of classifying languages into ideal types that would be constrained by categorical universals. What has been emerging as a new paradigm instead starts from the distribution of structures in the world, asking “what’s where why?” I present here a concrete approach to this question, called “Distributional Typology.” The approach starts from causal theories on the forces that affect language change, from processing preferences to the historical contingencies of language contact. The predictions of these theories can then be tested against fine-grained matrices of cross-linguistic diversity, using statistical methods for estimating diachronic trends from synchronic distributions.
John A. Hawkins
This article looks at Edward Sapir’s notion of ‘drift’ in the history of the English language and examines drifts from the perspective of John A. Hawkins’ Performance-Grammar Correspondence Hypothesis (PGCH). According to the PGCH the preferred word orders selected by users in languages with word order freedom are those that are grammaticalized in languages with less freedom and with more fixed and basic orderings. Languages with different verb positions are also predicted by the PGCH to have numerous different correlating properties. In the context of historical change, the PGCH provides a set of principles that are argued to have shaped the evolution of new conventions of grammar as languages change over time. What seem like unrelated changes in the history of English, currently reflected in contrasts between English and German, are examined from this language processing perspective. Many of these changes and contrasts involve greater ambiguity or vagueness in surface forms, both in the lexicon and in the syntax, and a tolerance for temporary ambiguities in performance resulting from the new basic verb position of Middle and Modern English.
Edith A. Moravcsik
This article examines the roles of language universals; but first, a few words on what is meant by ‘language universal’ and by ‘explanation’ are given. It starts by addressing how language universals explain facts about individual languages. One of the two ways in which language universals figure in linguistic explanations is shown: they explain language-specific facts. The article turns to the other role of universals: serving as explananda themselves. Moreover, the structural, historical, and functional explanations for universals are explained. Two cases of universals elaborated by universal sources and universal constraints on change are offered. In addition, two case studies of functional explanations of universals are considered. The discussion generally emphasizes some of the complexities of explaining universals resulting from conflicting explanatory principles, especially with respect to functional explanations.
Mark C. Baker
This chapter lays out an approach that combines a formal-generative perspective on language, including tolerance of abstract analyses, with a typological focus on comparing unrelated languages from around the world. It argues that this can be a powerful combination for discovering linguistic universals and patterns in linguistic variation that are not detected by other means.
This article outlines the typological variables that define or condition specific grammatical relations (GRs). It specifically discusses the relational roles and the referential properties of arguments. The article also reports the kinds of constructions that have GRs, and explores the interactions between GR definitions in different constructions. It then briefly addresses issues of worldwide distributions, and provides suggestions for future research. There is a common principle in the way referential features affect GR specifications. The properties of conjunction reduction are presented. The statistical evidence for referential hierarchy effects on case alignment is weak. GRs hold in constructions and not in languages. It is virtually impossible to estimate a priori which values on which variables will reveal significant clusters worldwide. The variables described in this article are meant to help in this work by providing a toolkit for comparing GRs across constructions in a single language, as well as across languages.
This article considers grammaticalisation in relation to linguistic typology and presents topological studies of grammaticalisation. It addresses the question of how grammaticalisation is realized, a question that ultimately entails a typology of manifestations of grammaticalisation. It suggests that the processes of grammaticalisation are not cross-linguistically homogeneous because there is a certain degree of cross-linguistic variation concerning the interaction between pragmatics and form. It also argues that East and mainland Southeast Asian (EMSEA) languages represent a type of grammaticalisation that is characterized by its limited coevolution of meaning and form.
Greville G. Corbett
This article provides a discussion on implicational hierarchies. It presents the examples of typological hierarchies and considers in turn syntactic, morphosyntactic, and lexical hierarchies. A well-known syntactic hierarchy is the Accessibility Hierarchy. The Agreement Hierarchy and the Animacy Hierarchy are the two well-established examples of morphosyntactic hierarchy. The Berlin and Kay Hierarchy is a famous typological hierarchy for lexis. Any proposed hierarchy must be justified by the range of data that it explains and the closeness of fit between the data and the claim made. The use of hierarchies for research on individual languages is described. The article finally deals with the extension of hierarchies and the relation of hierarchies to semantic maps.
This article explores the different sampling strategies and sample sizes. It also explains the types of bias that threaten the reliability of a language sample in the face of specific research questions. The article then presents an overview of some of the approaches to sampling that have been proposed to overcome such biases. A generalized sampling technique, called Diversity Value (DV), is further addressed. It is shown that there may be practical circumstances which force a researcher to just grab the data that happen to be available and sufficiently reliable. The causes of unbalanced samples include bibliographic bias, genetic bias, areal bias, typological bias, and cultural bias. The DV method allows for adding weights to the branches, assigning more or less depth to each of them, thus increasing or diminishing the DVs of their mother nodes. It also has some clear restrictions. The article finally reports the future of linguistic sampling.
This article describes the different stances on language universals. A number of arguments are offered supporting the view that typological universals as such should not be regarded as part of a speaker's linguistic knowledge. The article also argues that there is no evidence that a speaker's linguistic knowledge consists of an inventory of universal grammatical categories and relations which can be defined in formal terms. Three types of universal elements are posited that are manifested in the grammatical organization of human languages: universals of language proper, functional principles, and the range of conceptual situations which can be encoded by linguistic expressions. In addition, the cross-linguistic validity of grammatical relations, and a number of problems with this approach, are reviewed. There appears to be no evidence for universals in the sense of Universal Grammar.
Whereas the typological change of the English language from syntheticity towards analyticity has been described almost exclusively for the inflectional domain, little attention has been paid to the developments in derivation. Focusing on the changes in inflection, however, ignores the fact that this change was embedded in more general trends which also affected the derivational component of English and thus the lexicon. This article describes an alternative perspective on the change of English’s typological profile by analyzing three major changes (one quantitative and two qualitative ones) that occurred in the English lexicon: changes in the frequency of use of bound morphemes (affixes) employed for the indication of lexical categories; changes in the morphological status of lexical bases and thus in the structure of “words”; changes in how a language packages semantic material into words, that is, in the internal semantic structure of words (conflation).