[Lingtyp] Americanist contributions to typology

Marianne Mithun mithun at linguistics.ucsb.edu
Mon Jul 4 17:18:00 UTC 2016

Note on polysynthesis.

The Oxford Handbook of Polysynthesis is now in press, slated to appear 
early next year. A major thrust of the volume is the question of whether 
polysynthesis is an identifiable and/or useful type, whether there are 
sufficient or necessary features and what they might be, whether 
languages can be more or less polysynthetic, whether core polysynthetic 
languages tend to show other structural features, etc.

There are general chapters on polysynthesis and complexity, 
polysynthesis and holophrasis (in the sense of all crucial parts of the 
predication specified within the verb, including core arguments), the 
limits of polysynthesis, the nature of the lexicon in polysynthetic 
languages, different theoretical perspectives on polysynthesis, the 
nature of the word in polysynthetic languages (phonological and 
morphological challenges), social circumstances stimulating the 
development and retention of polysynthesis, etc. There are also chapters 
on the diachrony of polysynthesis, the acquisition of polysynthetic 
languages, areal perspectives on polysynthesis (geographical hotbeds), 
and chapters on individual languages that have been characterized as 
polysynthetic, in which authors weigh the various criteria that have 
been proposed for polysynthesis to see whether they add up to a 
definable type.


On 7/4/2016 7:07 AM, Claude Hagège wrote:
> 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.
> Cheers,
> Claude
> **
> **
>  Lingtyp [mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] *De la 
> part de* Plank
> *Envoyé :* lundi 4 juillet 2016 12:35these 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/Einverleibun*g 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 generalisations.
> (Good) typology is so driven by (deep) knowledge about languages. 
>  Good of Mark to recall Sapir.
> Frans
> _______________________________________________
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lingtyp/attachments/20160704/5fed2b43/attachment.htm>

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list