Canonical Typology

Instructor(s): Greville Corbett

What is a possible human language? Typology tackles this question by determining the types, and the possibilities of co-occurrence between them. As we tackle successively more difficult areas, we need new methods. A recent proposal, the canonical approach, means that we take definitions to their logical end point, enabling us to build theoretical spaces of possibilities. Unlike in classical typology, we only then ask how this space is populated with real instances. This approach has been adopted for problems in morphology, in syntax, and partially in phonology. The course will focus on morphology and syntax, particularly on the interesting problems that we find at the interface between them, looking at the morphosyntactic features: person, number, gender and case. We shall examine challenging data from a range of languages, from Daghestan to New Guinea (as well as some old favourites), setting up clean and neat typologies, and then seeing how real languages fit and do not fit into our typologies.

There are no formal prerequisites. The requirements for enjoying and benefiting from the course are: a genuine interest in the variety of human languages; a willingness to engage with the difficult detail of particular linguistic phenomenon; an equal willingness to tackle theoretical issues in typology.

Course ID:

Mon & Thu 1:30-3:15

Classroom: STAD 112

Areas of Linguistics:
Syntax and Morphology