Typological studies based on original texts

Nick Evans nrde at UNIMELB.EDU.AU
Mon Apr 3 09:08:43 UTC 2006

Berni, an interesting question, and I agree it's 
very important, though my preference would be to 
lower the number of languages: large sample sizes 
can often get in the way of perceptiveness about 
what's going on, and the most interesting things 
happening in texts often require you to have the 
sort of detailed knowledge of language structure 
that isn't possible to extend to large numbers of 
An example which I don't know if you'd count is 
Nikolaus Himmelmann's 1997 Deiktikon, Artikel, 
Nominalphrase. Zur Emergenz syntaktischer Struktur
which really takes advantage of a text based 
approach to identify emergent structures, in this 
case the NP or emergent precursor therefore.
Best, Nick Evans

>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 Unpublished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
>This mail was sent through IMP at http://mail.unibe.ch

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