Typological studies based on original texts

Peter Austin pa2 at SOAS.AC.UK
Mon Apr 3 23:16:07 UTC 2006


The emergence of 'Documentary Linguistics' over the last few years (Himmelmann 1998, Woodbury 2003) and the huge boost in corpus-based language documentation with 30 DoBeS-funded projects and around 70 ELDP-funded projects (plus a large number of the NSF-NEH DEL-funded project) means that electronic corpora of a range of smaller, and especially endangered languages, are now being contructed and will come 'on stream' through archives such as MPI Nijmegen, AILLA Texas and ELAR at SOAS over the next few years (there is a new organisation, DELAMAN, that is bringing digital archives together for collaborative ventures, and projects such as the DAM-LR that ELAR, MPI Nijmegen and Lund are involved in to provide a seamless user interface to distributed corpora). Many of these corpora are richly annotatated and should be of great interest to typologists, especially those interested in corpus-based cross-linguistic research. We are already seeing grammars appearing with linked digital corpora available on CD-ROM (eg. Nick Thieberger's grammar of South Efate, Vanuatu) and more of these are in the pipeline. Typologists will thus be able to both have the corpus-based grammars mentioned in the first posting, and also be able to get their hands dirty with annotated corpora.

Friederike Luepke has recently written a paper on the use of small corpora (of the 200,000 words + range) that is in Language Documentation and Description Volume 3 (available from SOAS via www.hrelp.org) - she shows how one can not only do interesting typological research, eg. on transitivity and verb valence, using such corpora but also valuable sociolinguistic, genre and language contact work.

As Wolfgang said, the desire expressed by Bernard will be able to be met in coming years, especially as the documentary linguistics agenda starts to bear fruit.


-----Original Message-----
From: "Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze" <W.Schulze at lrz.uni-muenchen.de>
To: LINGTYP at listserv.linguistlist.org
Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2006 13:46:07 +0200
Subject: Re: Typological studies based on original texts

Dear Colleagues,
I think both Nick and Greville have addressed a very important point, 
which is also decisive for the design of descriptive grammars. If I am 
not totally wrong, usage-based analyses (hopefully) gain more and more 
ground in Typology. As a matter of fact, descriptive grammars should be 
much more usage-based than they appear today. Naturally, that's not 
always easy to do. Especially for 'smaller' languages without a written 
tradition, it is difficult do establish a corpus of sufficient 
significance. For instance, in the descriptive grammar of Udi (East 
Caucasian) I am currently writing I work with a corpus of roughly 
200.000 words (from native narratives, other types of text, conversation 
etc.), a little bit of nothing in the light of corpora usually referred 
to in corpus linguistics. Still, even such a small corpus allows 
retrieving important information on the actual significance and dynamics 
of grammatical issues in the given language, and - as a consequence - 
reconstructing the linguistic knowledge base and linguistic practice of 
its speakers. Often enough, the corpus-based data go against what one 
has elaborated with the help of more or less openly elicited data. So, 
it seems that Bernhard's 'wish' perhaps comes a little bit too early. 
What we need first are more comprehensive descriptive grammars based on 
corpus analyses (together with the standard illustrative and analytic 
sections). Here, typologists should start to address analogous questions 
in order to make the corpus-based data of the individual grammars 
comparable. In a second step, cross-linguistic surveys could emerge 
based on the type of data Bernhard has called for.
Best wishes,

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze
Institut für Allgemeine und Typologische Sprachwissenschaft  (IATS)
[General Linguistics and Language Typology]
Department für Kommunikation und Sprachen / F 13.14
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
D-80539 München
Tel.:     ++49-(0)89-2180 2486 (secretary)
             ++49-(0)89-2180 5343 (office)
Fax:     ++49-(0)89-2180 5345
E-mail: W.Schulze at lrz.uni-muenchen.de
Web: http://www.ats.lmu.de/index.php

Prof Peter K. Austin
Marit Rausing Chair in Field Linguistics
Director, Endangered Languages Academic Program
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG
United Kingdom

web: http://www.hrelp.org/aboutus/staff/index.php?cd=pa

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