Typological studies based on original texts

Bernhard Waelchli bernhard.waelchli at ISW.UNIBE.CH
Mon Apr 3 08:23:24 UTC 2006

Dear colleagues

Does anybody know of any typological investigation based mainly or in a
substantial part on the material of original texts in a large number of
languages (say, 20 or more). There are by now many typological studies based on
reference grammars, and even some based on questionnaires, parallel texts, and
story stimuli (Pear stories, Frog stories) but it seems to me--I would be very
pleased to be wrong--that there are virtually no large-scale studies based
mainly or exclusively on original texts. One study I am aware of is the following:

Güldemann, Tom. (2001). Quotative constructions in African languages: a
synchronic and diachronic survey. Habilitationsschrift Leipzig. Unpublished
[based on texts in 39 African languages]

In a way it seems to be strange that there are few such studies, because
Greenberg, who was so influential in other respects, made some pilot studies in
this direction:

Greenberg, Joseph H. (1960). A quantitative approach to the morphological
typology of languages. International Journal of American Linguistics 26: 178-194.
Greenberg, Joseph H. & O'Sullivan, Chris. (1974). Frequency, marking and
discourse styles with special reference to substantival categories in the
Romance languages. Working Papers on Language Universals 16: 47-72.

Connected to the few typological studies based on original texts there is a low
prestige associated with careful editions of texts (with translations and
glosses). As a consequence of the intensive typological work based on reference
grammars, it seems that reference grammars have acquired a higher status during
the last decades in ever more places (more libraries buy them, more linguists
write and publish grammars, it becomes a possible topic for a Ph.D. thesis in
more and more universities). The same does not hold for text collections (most
libraries do not buy them, most universities will not accept an edited text
collection as a Ph.D., many linguists never publish their collected texts or
only a small portion).

Please, send references to me about typological studies based mainly on original
texts in more than 20 languages and including at least some non-European
languages. If there will be any answers I’ll make a survey.

Bernhard Waelchli
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Linguistics
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

Bernhard Waelchli
University of Berne
bernhard.waelchli at isw.unibe.ch

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