Syntactic Structures of World Languages

Ljuba Veselinova ljuba at LING.SU.SE
Wed Nov 2 11:13:36 UTC 2011

Dear All,

I would like to draw your attention to the project Syntactic
Structures of World Languages (SSWL,, hosted by the Department of
Linguistics, NYU. It is a  cross-linguistic database where information
on word order predominates for the moment. The project directors are
actively seeking collaboration with typologically oriented linguists
which is why I am posting this message to the list. The database has a
very transparent structure and handles interlinear text well; it also
interfaces google maps which means that all data values can be
immediately visualiazed interms of their geographic distribution.
Information about languages is elicited by yes-no questions set by
linguists; the answers to these questions are given by language
experts with linguistic training. The language experts are typically
easy to contact for any further discussion of their data and any
necessary clarifications.

I spent six weeks working on negation properties for SSWL last fall
and found it very useful. I was able to collect data for a number of
languages very quickly. I could also discuss any unclarities with the
responders. I know that formulating yes-no questions will sound
forbidding to many of us but since there is no limit to the number of
questions you can ask, any complex issues can be broken into several
independent questions. If I understand it right, if the topic you are
working on does not allow other kinds of questions, it is possible to
negotiate further programming that would make it possible to ask other
kinds of questions as well. I think that even in its current form SSWL
is a very good elicitation tool that speeds up collection of basic

As I mentioned above, the management of SSWL is now seeking to expand
the database in terms of the topics and language properties it covers.
So take a look if you like and see if you can contribute with further
properties that could in turn be useful for your own projects.

My best wishes,

Ljuba Veselinova, Associate Professor
Dept of Linguistics, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46-8-16-2332 Fax: +46-8-15 5389
URL  :

"We learn by going where we want to go."
                                          Julia Cameron

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