Typology & Universals - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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  1. Lec. 3 Typology & Universals

  2. Language Universals A linguistic universal is a pattern that occurs systematically across natural languages, potentially true for all of them . For example, All languages have nouns and verbs, or If a language is spoken, it has consonants and vowels. Research in this area of linguistics is closely tied to the study of linguistic typology, and intends to reveal generalizations across languages, likely tied to cognition, perception, or other abilities of the mind. The field was largely pioneered by the linguist Joseph Greenberg, who derived a set of forty-five basic universals, mostly dealing with syntax (see the list), from a study of some thirty languages. Retrieved from www.wikipedia.com

  3. Approaches to investigate Linguistic Diversity Historical Perspective Detailed Description • Investigating the origins of language, & • Pointing at the importance of linguistic change • Making a detailed description of the similarities & differences regardless of historical background, & • Generalizing about the function & structure of human language (similarities & differences)

  4. Similarities & Differences

  5. Why are there language similarities & differences?

  6. Differences or Similarties? Language Typology 18th century Language Universals 1950’s • The focus on linguistic diversity (comp. philology, dialectology) • To look for the structural features that differentiate most languages • Influenced by comparative philology & dialectology • The focus on linguistic diversity (a research model) • the structural features (similarities) that are common to most languages • Chomsky’s generative grammar ( a set of rules from which all the grammatical sentences can be derived) • The universal properties of language - innate

  7. Breadth or Depth? The Typologists The Universalists • a wide range of languages as part of their inquiry • generalizations dealing with the more observable aspects of structure. • in-depth studies of single languages • focusing on grammar • generalizations about the more abstract, underlying properties of language

  8. Breadth or Depth? The Typologists The Universalists • E.g. word order, word classes, and types of sound, etc. • Languages are unpredictably irregular and idiosyncratic • It is a more desirable approach • Focusing on one language (e.g. English) will lead to universals. • All languages have vowels • Languages are homogeneous entities • E.g. (3rd person / she runs) not found in all languages

  9. Relative or Absolute? • Absolute or ‘exceptionless universals’ do not exist • Many linguists prefer to look for ‘relative universals’ across languages which can be given statistical validity. • E.g. grammatical studies of word order report that 99% of languages are SVO. • (English, Spanish, French SVO) • (Japanese, Korean, Turkish – SOV) • E.g. Phonological studies of over 300 languages report that less than 3% have no nasal consonant

  10. Remember • These two approaches are complementary to each other • Both have considerable insights to offer • Both are widely practiced

  11. References • Crystal, David. (2000). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. 2ed Edition.. Cambridge.: Cambridge UP • Chapter: (3) Typology & Universal pp. 84-85