Year of publication
- 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.
- 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.
- Cultural formalism and spatial language in Belhara (2010)
- When looking at ethnographies of Himalayan societies, one is impressed by the recurrent relevance and importance of spatial notions in cullural domains from shamanism to architecture, from belief systems to everyday behaviour, from religion to grammar.
- Der Hang zur Exzentrik: Annäherungen an das kognitive Modell der Relativkonstruktion (1991)
- Vor gut vierzig Jahren hat Milewski (1950) das Werkzeug der Syntaxtypologie um das Begriffspaar "kon- und exzentrische Struktur" vermehrt. Dieses Klassifikationsmittel wurde später von Nichols (1984,1986) erneuert und terminologisch mit der Unterscheidung von head- und dependent-marking erfasst. Dabei hat die Autorin vorgeschlagen, diese Unterscheidung auch für die Typologie der Relativkonstruktion fruchtbar zu machen.
- From ergativus absolutus to topic marking in Kiranti : a typological perspective (2003)
- In many languages, clauses can be subordinated by means of case markers. For Bodic languages, a branch of Sino-Tibetan, Genetti (1986) has shown that the meaning of case markers on clauses is in most instances a natural extension of their function on nouns. A dative, for example, which marks a referential goal with a noun, signals a situational goal, i.e., a purpose, when used on a clause. Among the case markers recruited for subordination, we not only get relatively concrete cases like datives, comitatives and various types of locatives, but also core argument relators such as ergatives and accusatives. In this paper, I focus on ergative markers in one subgroup of Bodic, viz. in Kiranti languages spoken in Eastern Nepal, especially in Belhare.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.