Robert Henderson

in Linguistics

ISBN: 9780199772810
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

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  • Linguistics
  • Anthropological Linguistics
  • Language Families
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Typology is used to cover two related types of investigations: (1) classifying languages based on shared grammatical properties that are not attributable to genealogical inheritance, and (2) identifying patterns in the distribution of grammatical properties across languages. Georg von der Gabelentz was the first to use the word “typology” to describe a discipline in this first sense, though typological thinking goes back hundreds of years before. Typology in the second sense, which is what dominates the modern typological literature, grows out of work by Joseph H. Greenberg on word order correlations (or universals). For example, Greenberg’s fourth universal says that “With overwhelmingly greater than chance frequency, languages with normal SOV order are postpositional.” Universals of this type are important because they allow for classifications of languages (in this case, prototypical SOV languages have postpositions), but they are facts about human languages that need explanation. For this reason typology has played an important part in linguistic theory, which aims to explain the range of possible human languages and why human languages are the way they are. Given its theoretical importance and the fact that almost any aspect of human language can be studied typologically, typology is a broad discipline that is of importance to every subfield of linguistics.

Article.  8503 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Anthropological Linguistics ; Language Families ; Psycholinguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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