CFP: Current Issues in Areal Typology

Michael Cysouw cysouw at EVA.MPG.DE
Wed May 4 13:15:48 UTC 2005

   Call For Papers

Current Issues in Areal Typology

Workshop at the 28th annual meeting of the German 
Association for Linguistics (DGfS), Bielefeld, 
22-24 February 2006

Organised by:
- Michael Cysouw (Max Planck Insitute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
- Balthasar Bickel (University of Leipzig)


Over the past decade it has become increasingly 
clear that hardly any typological variable is 
evenly distributed over the world; most reveal 
systematic areal skewings. For example, 
inclusive/exclusive distinctions, or numeral 
classifiers, show frequency peaks around the 
Pacific; velar nasals are common everywhere 
except in the Americas where they are exceedingly 
rare; clicks are found in substantial frequency 
only Southern Africa, relative pronouns only in 
Europe, etc. And often these skewings have 
exceptions, which are themselves significant, 
e.g. South Asia has mid-to-low degree of 
synthesis, but the Munda languages systematically 
depart from this trend.

Such typological findings have renewed a strong 
interest in areal linguistics, but because they 
often involve larger geographical areas than 
traditional Sprachbünde, they demand new methods 
for testing and explaining areal skewings. With 
regard to testing, methods are currently 
discussed to distinguish real skewings from 
chance, to filter out dependent structural 
factors (as when e.g. an area reveals not only OV 
but also, as a consequence, postpositions) or to 
measure the gradience of areal extent. With 
regard to explanation, large-scale areas, and 
their exceptions, can often only be understood 
against what is known from population history 
through genetic, archeological and social 
anthropology. And proper understanding requires a 
detailed model of language contact and its 
effects over (deep) time.

This workshop invites contributions to these 
issues of testing and explaining areal skewings 
in typological variables. Possible topics 
include, but are not limited to:

- Presentation and discussion of particular (large-scale) areal patterns
- Exceptions to areal patterns
- Explanations for areal clusters
- Statistical methods to validate areal distributions
- Methods to display areal information (GIS and the like)
- Relations to other disciplines (Archeology, Genetics, Ethnology, etc.)

Please send your one-page abstract to Michael 
Cysouw at the address below, either by email (in 
plain text or in PDF format) or as hard copy, to 
arrive no later than September 1st, 2005. 
Notification of acceptance is by October 1st, 

To keep in sync with the rest of the programm, 
the normal time allotted for presentation is 20 
minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion. Please 
note if you would be interested in a longer 
time-slot, when available

Michael Cysouw
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig

email: cysouw at

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