[Lingtyp] Americanist contributions to typology

Claude Hagège claude-hagege at wanadoo.fr
Mon Jul 4 14:07:12 UTC 2016


Hi  everyone,


        I’d like to stress that, after the  monographs on Nahuatl written in
the XVIth and XVIIth centuries by, among others, Alonso de Molina, Andres de
Olmos, or on Guarani by Luis de Montoya, work on incorporation and
polysynthesis, became more and more important in Europe due to  the
discovery of these morphosyntactic features by Pierre du Ponceau, who
invented these technical terms, first applying them to Nahuatl, and thus
showing what outstanding contributions Amerindian languages were able to
make to language studies. There is, therefore, a tradition referring to the
study of these characteristics, and this went as far as prompting linguists
to add the polysynthetic type to Schlegel’s and Humboldt’s famous three
types, to wit isolating, agglutinative and inflectional, which, long before
Greenberg, laid the foundations of linguistic typology. This research
tradition on polysynthesis and incorporation is illustrated by many works,
giving the lie, by the way, to Martin’s  assertion that “these terms have no
clear definition in typology, because they rely on the notion of word”.
Among such works, there are for example, if I may mention them, 


-         CH, « Lexical suffixes and incorporation in Mainland Comox »,
Forum Linguisticum, Vol. 3, n°1, August 1978, 57-71.


-         CH,  « On noun incorporation in universal grammar (further
comments on a previous article) », Forum Linguisticum, Vol. 4, n°3, Apr.
1980, 241-245.


-         CH, « Incorporation nominale et suffixation lexicale : essai de
typologie et cas particulier du comox (Colombie britannique) », Bulletin de
la Société de Linguistique de Paris, tome 72, fasc. 1, 1977, 319-340.


-          CH « Language as a faculty, languages as “contingent”
manifestations and humans as function builders », Reconnecting Language.
Morphology and Syntax in Functional Perspective,  « Current Issues in
Linguistic Theory » series, 154, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins
Publishing Company, 1997, 29-47.















 Lingtyp [mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] De la part de
Envoyé : lundi 4 juillet 2016 12:35 these terms have no clear definition in
typology, because they rely on the notion of "word"
Objet : Re: [Lingtyp] Americanist contributions to typology


The paper by Antoine that Enrique mentions is specifially on what is
nowadays called "associated motion", something where Australia and South
America have been leading the way.  The paper -- and it's probably the
longest we've ever had -- is in LT 20(1) 2016, an issue that was regrettably
held up by production hiccups, but is to finally hit your screens and/or
mailboxes this month.  ToC attached.



In its early days (17-18th century) typology, and simultaneously language
evolution, was a subject for "conjectural historians", and seriously
Americas-informed factually-based typologising arguably only began with the
likes of James Burnett (see below a passage from a handbook article for his
actual language coverage) and Peter Stephen Du Ponceau.  I'd say grappling
with polysynthesis/incorporation/Einverleibung was the first really
significant typological contribution whose chief inspiration was American,
superseding what had been speculated about the typological and evolutionary
status of holistic event designations, aka impersonal/subjectless sentences.
Very early, certain sound/phoneme inventories, lacking labials that just
about everybody else loved and acquired early, were also perceived as a
typological challenge from the Americas, calling for corrections of facile


(Good) typology is so driven by (deep) knowledge about languages.  Good of
Mark to recall Sapir.  






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