[Lingtyp] Temporal features?

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Mon Oct 1 15:05:11 UTC 2018

Dear all,

On 01/10/2018 17:05, Hartmut Haberland wrote:
> I have been told that in Florutz German (spoken in an Alpine valley) 
> you have to put the potatoes that you have peeled down or up into the 
> dish depending on whether the dish is between you and the stream in 
> the middle of the valley (‘down’) or you are between the stream and 
> the dish (‘up’). That might be a myth, but it is a nice story. Hartmut
An analogous system is certainly no myth in many dialects of 
Malay/Indonesian (as well as their respective substrate languages).

But I would like to offer a complete different example of a "temporal 
feature".  Earlier in this thread there was mention of work by Trudgill 
and others suggesting that small societies (of the kind that were more 
widespread in past eras) are more conducive to linguistic complexity.  
For the past several years I have been engaging in an experimental 
project measuring the complexity of thematic role assignment across the 
world's languages, and my findings are that greater grammatical 
complexity in this domain actually correlates positively with greater 
socio-political complexity (and hence, by implication, with more recent 
languages). So for example, larger contemporary languages are more 
likely to distinguish agents from patients than smaller contemporary and 
hence presumably also ancient ones.  (These findings need not be 
construed as contradictory to the Trudgill et al position, since both 
the grammatical domains and the time frames are different in the two 

(Unfortunately, I don't yet have a written reference to offer. I've 
presented these results at several conferences, including ALT, and have 
an unpublished extended abstract to offer anybody who's interested. But 
I'm still working on writing up the complete study.)


David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

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