Year of publication
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.