[Lingtyp] case splits

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Wed Dec 5 16:57:42 UTC 2018

On 30.11.18 16:16, Adam James Ross Tallman wrote:
> Thanks Mark, Nigel, Daniel, David and Martin!
> Very helpful sources and things to consider!
> On Martin's comments. Yes, I agree that building an analysis off of 
> symptoms will lead to cherry picking (I think that's what you are 
> saying here). There is a proposal on the theory/typology of case 
> splits by Coon, Laka and Salanova (and its an idea that I've explored 
> in Chacobo), that typological variation in the number of case splits 
> (speaking strictly about morphological encoding) can be reduced if we 
> consider that some of the case splits involve biclausal constructions.

Yes, but why should one want to *reduce* the number of case splits? From 
Coon's and Salanova's generative perspective, it doesn't seem to make 
much sense, because their analyses don't contribute to solving any 
learnability puzzle.

It's of course an interesting diachronic question what kinds of changes 
occur in different parts of the world (Mayan, Jê, Basque, Panoan) and 
what they might have in common.

> Without presupposing the existence of a monoclausal/biclausal 
> distinction (or at least a discrete distinction), it seems like the 
> correct line of research is to see what the correlations are between 
> the "symptoms of biclausality" and the case splits (I think this would 
> roughly follow the methodology in Bickel that you mentioned, but 
> Bickel doesn't deal with complementation and auxiliary verb 
> constructions). If we get a perfect (or near perfect) correlation 
> somewhere, then maybe the Laka-Coon-Salanova proposal has something to 
> it, regardless of whether we happen to regard that symptom as 
> definitional of the monoclausal-biclausal distinction.

But why should there be a synchronic correlation? It seems clear that 
some biclausal > monoclausal changes have happened in the past, and some 
of them led to alignment changes (cf. also Denis Creissels's work). This 
gives us diachronic explanations, but I don't see how it would give us 
explanations of cross-linguistic patterns. I would think that universal 
patterns are generally due to some "pull" factor (= some functional 


Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10	
D-07745 Jena
Leipzig University
Institut fuer Anglistik
IPF 141199
D-04081 Leipzig

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