LSA 134: Understanding typological distributions

Balthasar Bickel | session 1 | MW 3:30 – 5:15, 370 Dwinelle Hall

Typological distributions — i.e. distributions of structural features among the languages of the world — typically reveal non-accidental skewings. While in the past century, the tools used in explaining such skewings were mostly limited to preference laws in the nature of synchronic grammar, recent research has greatly expanded the typologist's toolbox and has at the same time turned typology into a historical discipline. This course introduces some of the key methodological and theoretical aspects of these developments. We will begin by discussing how modern typology can cope with language-particular details and variation within languages. We will then examine statistical methods that can be used to analyze historically grown distributions, separating the various factors that determine these distributions (language contact, inheritance, processing preferences etc.). The last part of the course will be devoted to recent case studies on universal trends and on areal relationships.

Reading: Selected materials available online.

Prerequisites: Students should have basic (lower B.A. level) knowledge of descriptive and historical linguistics.

Areas of linguistics: Areal and historical linguistics

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