Year of publication
- Grammatical relations typology (2007)
- Traditionally, the term "grammatical relation" (GR) refers to the morphosyntactic properties that relate an argument to a clause, as, for example, its subject or its object. Alternative terms are "syntactic function" or "syntactic role", and they highlight the fact that GRs are defined by the way in which arguments are integrated syntactically into a clause, i.e. by functioning as subject, object etc. Whatever terminology one prefers, what is crucial about the traditional notion of GRs is (a) that they are identified by syntactic properties, and (b) that they relate an argument to the clause.
- Absolute and statistical universals (2007)
- Language universals are statements that are true of all languages, for example: “all languages have stop consonants”. But beneath this simple definition lurks deep ambiguity, and this triggers misunderstanding in both interdisciplinary discourse and within linguistics itself. A core dimension of the ambiguity is captured by the opposition “absolute vs. statistical universal”, although the literature uses these terms in varied ways. Many textbooks draw the boundary between absolute and statistical according to whether a sample of languages contains exceptions to a universal. But the notion of an exception-free sample is not very revealing even if the sample contained all known languages: there is always a chance that an as yet undescribed language, or an unknown language from the past or future, will provide an exception.
- Verb agreement and epistemic marking : a typological journey from the Himalayas to the Caucasus (2008)
- Studies of the epistemic categories expressed in Tibetan auxiliaries and copulas have mostly compared the phenomena with mirativity marking, and this is no doubt the correct comparandum in diachronic research. However, synchronic descriptions are also often tempted to compare the relevant categories with agreement systems or similar reference-related structures, at least for expository purposes when explaining how the system works (e. g. Denwood 1999, Tournadre 1996, Goldstein et al. 1991).
- Prosodic tautomorphemicity in Sino-Tibetan (2003)
- Sino-Tibetan is a prime example of how strongly a language family can typologically diversify under the pressure of areal spread features (Matisoff 1991, 1999). One of the manifestation of this is the average length of prosodic words. In Southeast Asia, prosodic words tend to average on one or one-and-a-half syllables. In the Himalayas, by contrast, it is not uncommon to encounter prosodic words containing five to ten syllables. The following pair of examples illustrates this.
- Space, territory, and a stupa in Eastern Nepal: exploring Himalayan themes and traces of Bon (2000)
- Recent research has adduced growing evidence for a distinct stratum of cultural practices that underlies various "tribal" traditions in the Himalayan region and that also seems to be characteristic of various local versions of the Bon tradition. Bon literature is not uncommonly embedded in cultural patterns that are more specifically Himalayan than belonging to the greater South Asian heritage. Two aspects of this that have received attention in Ramble's (1997) study of a Bon guide to the sacred Kong-po mountain (rKong-po bon- ri) are the symbolism of wild boar hunting involved in marriage rituals and poison cults with their corresponding beliefs about poisoning. Another pattern of cultoral organization that may help better understand the Bon tradition against its Himalayan background is spatial conceptualization.
- 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.
- On the scope of the referential hierarchy in the typology of grammatical relations (2008)
- In the late seventies, Bernard Comrie was one of the first linguists to explore the effects of the referential hierarchy (RH) on the distribution of grammatical relations (GRs). The referential hierarchy is also known in the literature as the animacy, empathy or indexibability hierarchy and ranks speech act participants (i.e. first and second person) above third persons, animates above inanimates, or more topical referents above less topical referents. Depending on the language, the hierarchy is sometimes extended by analogy to rankings of possessors above possessees, singulars above plurals, or other notions. In his 1981 textbook, Comrie analyzed RH effects as explaining (a) differential case (or adposition) marking of transitive subject ("A") noun phrases in low RH positions (e.g. inanimate or third person) and of object ("P") noun phrases in high RH positions (e.g. animate or first or second person), and (b) hierarchical verb agreement coupled with a direct vs. inverse distinction, as in Algonquian (Comrie 1981: Chapter 6).
- Introduction: person and evidence in Himalayan languages (2000)
- The present volume results from an initiative to foster cooperation between scholars of Himalayan languages in Europe. The initiative was launched five years ago and has brought about a series of annual workshop meetings and individual cooperative projects (cf. http://www.isw.unibe.ch/EuroHimal). The 1998 workshop, held in Heidelberg, was devoted to the role that notions of speech act participants play in the grammar of various Himalayan languages, and the present collection represents, with some additions and some subtractions, the proceedings of this workshop. In the following I will give some background on the rationale for the topics covered in this volume, especially on the ways in which the indexing of speech act participants is related in Himalayan languages to evidentials and other epistemological operators. I will close this introduction with a brief outline of the structure of the volume.
- Nominalization and focus constructions in some Kiranti languages (2006)
- It is well-known that in many if not most Sino-Tibetan languages relative clause and attribute/genitive markers are identical with nominalization devices and that sentences bearing such markers can also function as independent utterances (cf. Matisoff 1972, Kölver 1977, DeLancey 1989, Genetti 1992, Ebert 1994, Bickel 1995, Noonan 1997, etc.). This morphological convergence of syntactic functions, which we may dub the ‘Standard Sino-Tibetan Nominalization’ (SSTN) pattern, is particularly prominent in some languages spoken in the eastern and southeastern part of the Kirant because these languages not only feature prenominal relative clauses, but also allow, albeit as a minor type, internally headed constructions.