- Working Paper (5) (remove)
- What is typology? - a short note (2001)
- It is often assumed that the goal of typology is to define the notion ‘possible human language’. This view, which I call the Universalist Typology view is shared, for example, by virtually all contributors to Bynon & Shibatani’s 1995 volume Approaches to Language Typology, and by Moravscik in her review of this volume in Linguistic Typology 1 (p.105). In the following I claim that this assumption is fundamentally mistaken. To clarify the theoretical status of what is meant by ‘possible human language’, I argue here for a distinction between typological theory (theoretical typology) and grammatical theory (theoretical syntax and theoretical morphology) as distinct subdisciplines of linguistics.
- Principles of event framing : genetic stability in grammar and discourse (1999)
- Ever since Wilhelm von Humboldt’s (1836) pioneering study of Nahuatl, linguists have recurrently recognized that languages differ fundamentally in the syntactic weight they attribute to noun-phrases as the arguments of a verb. Currently, the most prominent attempts to turn this intuition into a precise hypothesis revolve around the notion of ‘configurationality’.
- Grammatical relations, agreement, and genetic stability (1999)
- Languages vary in whether or not primary grammatical relations (PGRs) are sensitive to information from clause-level case or phrase structures. This variation correlates with a difference between verb agreement systems based on feature unification and systems based on feature composition. The choice between different PGR and agreement principles is found to be highly stable genetically and to characterize Indo-European as systematically different from Sino-Tibetan. Although the choice is partially similar to the Configurationality Parameter, it is shown that Indo-European languages of South Asia are nonconfigurational due to areal pressure but follow their European relatives in PGR and agreement principles.
- Rhythm and feet in Belhare morphology (1998)
- In Belhare (Sino-Tibetan, Nepal), consonant prothesis at morpheme boundaries and deletion of stem "augments" is found if either metrical or morphological parsing would violate the bimoraic trochee pattern that underlies the stress system of the language. This finding corroborates Dresher & Lahiri’s (1991) "Principle of Metrical Coherence" and provides new evidence for the cross-linguistic applicability of Crowhurst’s (1994) "Tautomorphemic Foot" constraint. The data also support a view of the Prosodic Hierarchy as weakly layered, allowing consonants to be directly dominated by the foot or word node if they are prothetic and do not therefore need feature licensing within the syllable canon.
- A general method for the statistical evaluation of typological distributions (2008)
- The distribution of linguistic structures in the world is the joint product of universal principles, inheritance from ancestor languages, language contact, social structures, and random fluctuation. This paper proposes a method for evaluating the relative significance of each factor — and in particular, of universal principles — via regression modeling: statistical evidence for universal principles is found if the odds for families to have skewed responses (e.g. all or most members have postnominal relative clauses) as opposed to having an opposite response skewing or no skewing at all, is significantly higher for some condition (e.g. VO order) than for another condition, independently of other factors.