[Lingtyp] Languages that lack syntactic self-embedding

Kilu von Prince watasenia at gmail.com
Mon May 4 07:03:19 UTC 2020

Dear all,

thank you very much for responding to my question about syntactic
recursion! I'm dividing my brief summary into two sections. One section is
more general, and the second section is dedicated to the Pirahã debate,
which quite a few of us appear to be following closely. In that section, I
also included some of my own recent finds for your reference.

All the best,

=== Languages lacking specific recursive structures ===
* Two recent articles on recursive NPs:
-  Widmer et al. 2017 on diachronic developments in NP recursion in

- Comrie 2019: Possessive chains and possessor camouflage:

* Two classic texts worth revisiting
- Launey's (1994) analysis of classical Nahuatl as "omniprédicative"
implies a flat syntax:

- Mithun (1984): How to avoid subordination

* Lack of (adverbial) subordinate clauses in Papuan Malay, described in
chapter 14 of Kluge (2017) and freely available here:

=== The Pirahã debate: recent developments ====
* Special issue of the Russian Journal of of Cognitive Science 5(1), 2018,
on the Pirahã debate

* Recursion across domains: book containing reports on experiments on
Pirahã recursive syntax
- Responses in Language by Everett and Gibson (critical), Hornstein


* Video on youtube critical of Everett's work:

- Response to the video by Everett and Gibson:

- Response to Everett and Gibson's critique, by Rodriguez


On Thu, Apr 23, 2020 at 9:08 AM Kilu von Prince <watasenia at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear all,
> I'm trying to get an overview of languages that have been described as
> lacking (certain types of) syntactic embedding, such as Teiwa, Kayardild or
> Pirahã.
> In particular, I'm interested in languages that do not allow for (certain
> types of) subordinate clauses. Evidence for lack of iterated possessive NPs
> (Mary's mother's house) or PPs (the pen on the book on the desk) would also
> be of interest to me.
> Feel free to send me your references and examples directly, I promise to
> compile a summary of all informative responses and post it to the list.
> All the best,
> Kilu
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