LOT Summer School 2018

Linguistic typology and language diversity

František Kratochvíl



Title of the course

Linguistic typology and language diversity



Course description

Linguistic typology is a subfield of linguistics that systematically investigates linguistic diversity in space and time. Its goal is to map the design space of human language, by identifying universal and possible language design features, their distribution and compatibility. This course introduces the history and the current topics in the field.

Students will learn several methods of comparison and apply them to datasets. In the second part of the course, three dimensions of comparison will be explored in detail starting with the organization of phonological bulk (sound and sign), organization of meaning units (morphology and syntax), and creation of meaning (semantics and pragmatics).

Day-to-day program

Monday: History and goals of linguistic typology

This class describes the history of linguistic typology, surveys recent debates about its purpose and methods and draws parallels with types of scientific classification as well as with daily life matters.

Tuesday: Tools and resources

This class surveys a number of tools used in language comparison, most notably databases (lexical, categorial, distributional), stimuli, and parallel corpora. It also discusses the structure of grammatical descriptions, which are primary sources of typological datapoints.

Wednesday: Sound and Sign

This class deals with the auditory and visual modality of language and surveys the known universal tendencies within each. The class also relates the current typology to the historical comparative method, which allows reconstructing older phonological stages of language within a certain time horizon.

Thursday: Morphology and Syntax

The bulk of current typological work is concerned with the organization of morphemes and words which are compared along a number of defined grammatical categories. The focus will be on the World Atlas of Linguistic Structures. Comparative work will be replicated using a number of datasets.

Friday: Meaning, Use and Outlook

Currently least explored and mapped domain of linguistic typology is concerned with the structure of meaning (meaning granularity across languages) and with general language use patterns (pragmatics). We will review the latest efforts in both lexical meaning documentation as well as in

Reading list

The material to be used in your course should be accessible to students. This means that you should either use published work that is accessible online (please include doi’s) or that can be bought easily (e.g. a handbook). If you need to include older or unpublished work, please make sure that students can download this from your webpage, or prepare a zipfile to send to your students a month before the course begins. We suggest that you include no more than three readings per day and that you prioritize them.

Background and preparatory readings:


Course readings:

Lecture 1: History and goals of linguistic typology

Evans, N., & Levinson, S. C. (2009). The myth of language universals: Language diversity and its importance for cognitive science. Behavioral and brain sciences, 32(5), 429-448.

Lecture 2: Tools and Resources

Read the descriptions of the following databases (the About pages) and browse them:

(i) http://concepticon.clld.org/about

(ii) http://wals.info/

(iii) http://valpal.info/about/project

Read also the following manual and browse http://fieldmanuals.mpi.nl/ (you need to register to log in)

Bowerman, Melissa & Eric Pederson. 1992. Topological relations picture series. In Stephen C. Levinson (ed.), Space stimuli kit 1.2: November 1992, 51. Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

Lecture 3: Sound and Sign

Please read any 2 chapters of the WALS database (full reference below) dealing with sound and read one of the two following readings:

Hyman, L. M. (2009). How (not) to do phonological typology: the case of pitch-accent. Language Sciences, 31(2-3), 213-238.

Zeshan, U., & Palfreyman, N. (2017). Sign Language Typology. In A. Y. Aikhenvald & R. M. W. Dixon (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Typology, Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics (pp. 178–216). chapter, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lecture 4: Morphology and Syntax

Please read about 3 chapters of the WALS database and browse the VALPAL database. Optional reading is Wichmann 2015.

Nichols, J. (1986). Head-marking and dependent-marking grammar. Language, 56-119.

Wichmann, S. (2015). Statistical observations on implicational (verb) hierarchies. Valency classes in the world’s languages. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 155-181.

Lecture 5: Meaning, Use and Outlook

Stivers, T., Enfield, N. J., Brown, P., Englert, C., Hayashi, M., Heinemann, T., ... & Levinson, S. C. (2009). Universals and cultural variation in turn-taking in conversation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(26), 10587-10592.

Evans, N. (2013). Semantic Typology. In J.J. Song (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Typology, pp.504-533. Oxford: OUP.

Further readings and reference works:

Aikhenvald, A. Y., & Dixon, R. M. W. (Eds.). (2017). The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Typology. Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Comrie, B. (1989). Language universals and linguistic typology: Syntax and morphology. University of Chicago press.

Malchukov A. Comrie B. (2015). Valency Classes in the World’s Languages. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

Newmeyer, F. J. (2005). Possible and probable languages: A generative perspective on linguistic typology. Oxford University Press on Demand.

Nichols, J. (1999). Linguistic diversity in space and time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Shopen, T. (2007). Language typology and syntactic description. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Song, J. J. (2013). The Oxford handbook of linguistic typology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tomasello, M. (Ed.). (2014). The new psychology of language: Cognitive and functional approaches to language structure (Vol. 1). Psychology Press.

Whaley, L. J. (1996). Introduction to typology: the unity and diversity of language. Sage Publications.

Typological Databases

BabelNet: http://live.babelnet.org/

CLLD: http://clld.org/

Concepticon: http://concepticon.clld.org/

Glottobank: http://glottobank.org/

Grammar Matrix: http://moin.delph-in.net/MatrixTop

Open Multilingual WordNet: http://compling.hss.ntu.edu.sg/omw/

VALPAL: http://valpal.info/

WALS: http://wals.info/

WOLD: http://wold.clld.org/