[Lingtyp] Americanist contributions to typology

Jan Rijkhoff linjr at cc.au.dk
Mon Jul 4 08:25:43 UTC 2016

Hi David,

Here are two more items for the list -- both on avoiding European bias in establishing relevant categories and on enriching the cross-linguistic database of language-specific categories: part-of-speech systems and the expression of ‘number’.

- word classes / part-of speech systems. For example, Hockett recognized the existence of flexible word classes (see also more recent work on e.g. Salishan languages). He discussed differences between language specific part-of -speech systems in terms of “athletic squads, trained in different ways to play much the same game”. Some languages train only specialists, while others have “all ‘round players” (Hockett 1958: 225). A combination of these two types in a single language is also possible, “producing some specialists but also good numbers of double-threat and triple-threat men” (cf. van Lier and Rijkhoff 2013: 6).

- Boas also avoided the application of categories as attested in the familiar Western European languages in his discussion of optional/obligatory real/apparent markers of ‘plurality’. He wrote, for example,  “It would seem that, on the whole, American languages are rather indifferent in regard to the clear expression of plurality, but that they tend to express much more rigidly the ideas of collectivity or distribution. Thus the Kwakiutl, who are rather indifferent to the expression of plurality, are very particular in denoting whether the objects spoken of are distributed here or there. When this is the case, the distribution is carefully expressed” (Boas 1991: 37-38).

Boas, Franz (ed.). 1911. Handbook of American Indian languages: Part 1 (Bulletin 40 of the Smithsonian Institution). Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology. [Reprinted 1969 in Oosterhout, the Netherlands: Anthropological Publications]
Hockett, Charles F. 1958. A Course in Modern Linguistics. New York: Macmillan.
Rijkhoff, Jan and Eva van Lier (eds.). 2013. Flexible Word Classes: typological studies of underspecified parts of speech. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jan R

J. Rijkhoff - Associate Professor, Linguistics
School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University
Jens Chr. Skous Vej 2, Building 1485-621
DK-8000 Aarhus C, DENMARK
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E-mail: linjr at cc.au.dk
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From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of David Beck <dbeck at ualberta.ca>
Sent: Saturday, July 2, 2016 4:20 PM
To: <LINGTYP at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Subject: [Lingtyp] Americanist contributions to typology

Hi, everyone

At the International Journal of American Linguistics, we’re planning a 100th anniversary issue and part of it will have a survey of developments in linguistics and typology influenced by studies of American (in the Arctic-to-Tierra-del-Fueego sense) languages. So, I thought I would do a bit of a straw poll and ask the typological community what areas they thought had been most influenced by data from American languages (rather than relying on my own narrow point of view). Thoughts?


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