LING 318 / 518: Introduction to Linguistic Typology

Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:00 to 5:30 pm.

Room to be announced (Frieze Bldg?)

Instructor: Peter Edwin Hook

Phone: 763-9178 (Please phone before 9 pm.)

Office hour: Wednesdays, 12:30 to 1:30 am, in 3084 Frieze Bldg. Or by appointment


Website:     (May migrate to Coursetools by Fall 2005.)

    Human languages, especially those spoken by members of unfamiliar and distant cultures, appear on the surface to be very different from one another. But closer examination reveals that languages differ in systematic ways and that more than half of them can be divided into a relatively small number of basic types. In this course we will identify and study some of these basic patterns and explore possible reasons for their existence, seeking explanations where possible in the communicative function of language as well as in the historical evolution of languages.

    The course will introduce students to basic grammatical structure and function by (1) having them investigate unfamiliar languages through study of published descriptive grammars and (2) relating this direct experience to the principle findings of contemporary typological research. Coursework will consist of (1) readings and lectures on the major parameters which are used to define language types, (2) the completion of a number of short (2 or 3-page) assignments or reports on given phenomena as they are manifested in the languages that students will adopt, (3) discussion and comparison of these individual findings in class, (4) a midterm exam, and (5) a project written up as a 10-12 page term paper (for 518 students 15 to 20 pages.) This can be an examination of a particular typological parameter in one or more languages or other topic mutually agreed upon. See suggestions for course paper.) Students may work in pairs on a correspondingly more ambitious coursepaper. Toward the end of the course there will be five to ten minute oral presentations to the class of a pre-final version of course projects.


  Evaluation:   Short reports (best 5):   30%    
  Two hour exams:   40%
  Oral presentation:     10%
  Write up of presentation:   10%
  Attendance and participation:     10%

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Schedule of course activities.
(This schedule was written for Fall 2003. Dates should be transposed to fit the Fall 2005 calendar of Mondays and Wednesdays.)

1 Sep: Introduction.

6 and 8 Sep: Choosing of grammars. The methods, purposes and limits of linguistic typology. Readings: Chapters 1-3 in Whaley (pp 1-53). 6 Sep: Bring in descriptive grammar of a language that you do not already know. Find an example in it that shows whether adjectives precede or follow their nouns. 8 Sep: Bring in two examples that show if 1) your language is OV or VO and 2) if your language has prepositions or postpositions.

13 Sep: Basic categories (Whaley, chapter 4, 54-78) and basic word order (Greenberg 1963 and Whaley textbook, chapter 5, 79-95). Bring in a preliminary version of assignment #1 on word order.

20 Sep: More on word order.

22 Sep: Second version of report #1 (word order) due. Extensions and evaluations of Greenberg. (Dryer 1992)

27 Sep: Markedness (Greenberg 1966).

29 Sep: Subject and object marking, ergativity/accusativity.  Whaley, chapter 9, pp. 151-169.  (518 students also read Dixon.) 29 Sep: Report #2 (word order in Kashmiri) due.

4-6 Oct: Case/adpositional systems. Experiencer datives.  For 4 Oct:  Read Dryer 1986.  (518 students also read Bresnan et al.)  6 Oct: Report #3 (subject and object marking) due.

11-13 Oct: Relativization. (Whaley, chapter 15, pp. 247-266). 13 Oct: Report #4 (actants) due.

18 Oct: NP Accessibility. Causatives. Read Chapter 11, pp. 183-202 ("Valence") in Whaley.

20 Oct: Causatives. (Read Keenan & Comrie 1979). Outline of coursepaper due.

25 Oct: Head vs dependent marking. Review. Report #5 (relative structures) due.

27 Oct: Midterm exam.

1 Nov: Agreement and noun classes. (Lakoff) Report #6 (causatives) due.

3 Nov: Tense and aspect. Report #7 (option to #8, on noun classes and agreement) due.

8 Nov: Unaccusativity and unergativity. Read Van Valin 1990.

10 Nov: Scalar phenomena and grammatical categories (Hopper and Thompson). Report #8 (option to #7, on tense and aspect) due.

15 Nov: Iconicity (Bybee).

17 Nov: Endangered languages and language death. Readings TBA. Oral presentation.

22 Nov: Foundations of deixis. Read Pederson et al. (1998: not yet in JSTOR.) Oral presentation.

24 Nov: Typology and historical linguistics. Grammaticalization. Oral presentation.

29 Nov: Assumptions and explanations. (Perkins 1988). Oral presentation.

1 Dec: Human language families and the molecular biological record. Oral presentation. Course Evaluation.

6 Dec: Exolinguistics.

8 Dec: Second hour exam

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1. Text: Whaley, Lindsay J. Introduction to Typology: The Unity and Diversity of Language. Available at Shaman Drum Bookstore. 313 South State St. Phone: 662-7407.  You can avoid having to wait in the queue by going to the Shaman Drum Website to order and pay (with a credit card).  The textbook will be waiting for you at the downstairs pick-up desk on the following day.

2. A grammar of a language that you do not already know.

3. Additional readings.  Most of these are available on the University's Electronic Course Reserves and/or JSTOR.  Greenberg 1966 is available in Reserves at the UGLI and will be made available with Pederson et al. 1998 as a coursepack at Accu-Copy.

..I. September and October.

..II. November and December (provisional list).

4. Recommended reading:

  a. Croft, William. 1990. Typology and Universals. Cambridge University Press.

  b. DeLancey, Scott. 1981. An interpretation of split ergativity and related patterns. Language 57:626-657. On JSTOR

  c. Dixon, R.M.W. 1979. Ergativity. Language 55:59-138. Available on JSTOR

  d. Mithun, Marianne. 1991. Active/Agentive case marking and its motivations. Language 67:510-546. On JSTOR

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Last updated: 5 Aug 2004.