Linguistic Typology and Formal Grammar

Maria Polinsky

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Typology

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199281251
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Linguistic Typology and Formal Grammar

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  • Linguistics
  • Linguistic Typology
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



This article discusses the relationship between linguistic typology and formal grammar. It explores several areas where typology and formal grammar diverge, and where they most need to establish a viable dialogue: general goals, the nature of primary data, the structure of theory, and the significance of methodology. The article provides some (hopefully) constructive suggestions about bridging the gap between the two orientations; these include a possible shift in the research strategies used in typology and a significant shift in existing methodologies, of which all the orientations in linguistics need to be cognizant. It is striking and somewhat disconcerting how much particular orientations in modern linguistics differ with respect to what constitutes ‘proper’ data and what does not. The typological and formal orientations are united in their commitment to language and in their ability to enlighten other disciplines studying consciousness in the intricacies of language structure and linguistic diversity.

Keywords: linguistic typology; formal grammar; modern linguistics; language structure; linguistic diversity

Article.  6243 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Linguistic Typology ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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