The classification of languages
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The classification of languages. Introduction to Linguistics 2. Defining language. Dialect and language Defining criteria If two speeches are mutually intelligible, they are dialects. Fuzzy boundaries.

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The classification of languages

The classification of languages

Introduction to Linguistics 2

Defining language
Defining language

  • Dialect and language

    • Defining criteria

      • If two speeches are mutually intelligible, they are dialects.

Fuzzy boundaries
Fuzzy boundaries

  • Claimed to be one language, but there are a variety of mutually unintelligible ‘dialects’.

    • Chinese

      • Taiwanese, Cantonese, Mandarin/ Putonhua, Wu…

  • Claimed to be two independent languages, but they are actually mutually intelligible.

    • Serbian and Croatian

Approaches to language classification
Approaches to language classification

  • Genetic classification

  • Linguistic typology

Genetic classification1
Genetic classification

  • Languages with related historical decent are said to be genetically related.

  • ‘language families’

Case study the indo european language family
Case Study: The Indo-European language family

Linguistic typology1

Languages are grouped together according to the similarities of their linguistic features.

Linguistic typology

Linguistic universals
Linguistic Universals of their linguistic features.

  • The common linguistic features that are found in all or most languages.

How to describe linguistic universals
How to describe linguistic universals of their linguistic features.

  • Absolute universals vs. universal tendencies

  • Implicational universals

  • Markedness theory

Absolute universals vs universal tendencies
Absolute universals vs. of their linguistic features. universal tendencies

  • Absolute universals

    • The linguistic features that occur in ALL languages

  • Universal tendencies

    • The linguistic features that occur in MOST languages

Implicational universals
Implicational universals of their linguistic features.

  • The presence of one linguistic feature in one language must indicate the occurrence of another.

  • If A is found in language L, B must be also present in language L.

  • The implication is one-way.

  • Example:

    • If one language has fricative phonemes, it will also have stop phonemes

Implicational universals example
Implicational universals: of their linguistic features. Example

  • The implication is one-way.

  • Example:

    • If one language has fricative phonemes (/s/, /z/), it will also have stop phonemes (/p/, /t/).

    • But not vice versa.

Markedness theory
Markedness theory of their linguistic features.

  • The most common/default features are unmarked.

  • The less common features are marked.

Markedness theory example
Markedness theory: of their linguistic features. example

  • Gender in nouns

    • Which is marked? Masculine or feminine?

    • Prince-princess; actor-actress

    • Doctor-female doctor; nurse-male nurse

  • 萬綠叢中一點紅

    • Which is marked?

Typological classification by
Typological classification by of their linguistic features.

  • Phonology

  • Morphology

  • Syntax

Typology phonology
Typology: phonology of their linguistic features.

  • Vowel systems

  • Consonant systems

  • Suprasegmental systems

  • Syllable structure

Typology phonology vowel
Typology: phonology: vowel of their linguistic features.

  • Universals

    • The most common vowel system

      • 5 vowels /a/-/i/-/u/-/e/-/o/

    • The most common phonemes

      • /a/-/i/-/u/

    • Front vowel phonemes are generally unrounded.

    • Low vowels are generally unrounded.

Typology phonology consonant
Typology: phonology: Consonant of their linguistic features.

  • Universals

    • All languages have stops

    • /p, t, k/

    • The most common fricative phoneme is /s/

    • Most of languages have at least one nasal.

  • Implicational universals

    • Fricatives -> stops

    • Voiced obstruents -> voiceless obstruents

    • Affricates -> stops and fricatives

Typology phonology suprasemental
Typology: phonology: suprasemental of their linguistic features.

  • Types

    • Tone languages

      • Languages that use pitch to make semantic distinctions of words

      • Mandarin Chinese

    • Stress languages

      • Fixed stress

      • Free stress

  • Syllable structure

    • CV, V

Typology morphology
Typology: morphology of their linguistic features.

  • The isolating type

  • The polysynthetic type

  • The synthetic type

    • The agglutinating type

    • The fusional type

Typology morphology the isolating analytic type
Typology: morphology: of their linguistic features. The isolating/analytic type

  • One word represents one single morpheme.

    • No affixes

  • Mandarin Chinese

Typology morphology the polysynthetic type
Typology: morphology: of their linguistic features. The polysynthetic type

  • One single word with a long string of roots and affixes

  • The semantic equivalent of one sentence in other languages.

    • Qasu-iir-sar-vig-ssar-si-ngit-luunar-nar-puq ‘some one did not find a completely suitable resting place.’ (Inuktitut)

Typology morphology the agglutinating type
Typology: morphology: of their linguistic features. The agglutinating type

  • An agglutinating words

    • Contains several morphemes

    • The root and affixes in the words can be semantically identified.


Tu –ta –wa -on- esha


'we will show them'

An aggluinating example antidisestablishmentarianism
An aggluinating example: of their linguistic features. Antidisestablishmentarianism

  • establish (9)

    • to set up, put in place, or institute (originally from the Latin stare, to stand)

  • dis-establish (12)

    • ending the established status of a body, in particular a church, given such status by law, such as the Church of England

  • disestablish-ment (16)

    • the separation of church and state (specifically in this context it is the political movement of the 1860s in Britain)

  • anti-disestablishment (20)

    • opposition to disestablishment

  • antidisestablishment-arian (25)

    • an advocate of opposition to disestablishment

  • Antidisestablishmentarian-ism (28)

    • the movement or ideology that opposes disestablishment

Typology morphology the fusional inflectional type
Typology: morphology: of their linguistic features. The fusional/inflectional type

  • A fusional/inflectional word contains several morphemes which indicate grammatical categories.

    • Ein kleiner Hamster "a little hamster" (nominative case)

    • Der kleine Hamster "the little hamster"

      (nominative case)

    • Ich sah den kleinen Hamster "I saw the little hamster" (accusative case)

    • Mit kleinem Hamster "with little hamster" (dative case).

Typology syntax
Typology: syntax of their linguistic features.

  • Word order universals

    • SVO

    • SOV

    • VSO

Word order svo
Word order: SVO of their linguistic features.

  • John loves Mary.

Word order sov
word order: SOV of their linguistic features.

  • 私 は 箱 を 開けます。

  • watashi-wa-hako-o-akemasu.

  • I box open

  • ‘I open the box.’

Word order osv
word order: OSV of their linguistic features.