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The Role of Paradigmatic Morphology in Historical, Areal and Genealogical Linguistics

Thoughts and Observations in the Margin of Paradigm Change. In the Transeurasian languages and Beyond (Robbeets and Bisang, eds.)

Stefan Georg

Paradigmatic morphology is a central and crucial concept for several branches of comparative linguistics. The observation of shared paradigms in languages which were not suspected of having a common ancestry stands at the cradle of modern genealogical linguistics and dominates the discussion(s) about not firmly established or merely putative language families or phyla to this day, the very different morphological techniques different languages use for the formation of paradigms mark the beginning of language typology, now a major pillar of the language sciences, and the question, to which degree languages—closely, distantly, or not at all related with each other—may borrow morphological paradigms (part or whole) from each other or might have done so in the past (which, if true and not properly detected, might lead to superficially persuasive, but factually erroneous, claims and hypotheses of genealogical relatedness) continues to be an important theoretical and practical issue in comparative linguistics.

The contributions to this volume address, i. a., all of these questions and areas and offer much food for thought about historical morphology, areal linguistics and, above all, language classification—going far beyond the “Altaic hypothesis” , which figures prominently in some of them.

Ahmad Al-Jallad

. Areal linguistics: A closer scrutiny . In Yaron Matras , April McMahon , and Nigel Vincent (eds.), Linguistic Areas: Convergence in Historical and Typological Perspective , 1 – 31 . New York: Palgrave. Borg Alexander . 1985 . Cypriot Arabic: a Historical and Comparative Investigation into

Patrick McCormick and Mathias Jenny

Mon has long been in contact with the dominant Burmese and Thai languages. The documented history of more than a thousand years allows us to trace changes in the language over time. This study looks at the divergent Mon varieties spoken today in Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand respectively, both influenced to different degrees and in different domains by the dominant national languages, Burmese and Thai. The study brings together insights from areal linguistics and history, painting a picture of the development of Mon in the two countries and its changing structure.

Le mon a été depuis longtemps en contact avec les langues dominantes que sont 
le birman et le thai. Une documentation historique de plus d'un millénaire nous permet de suivre l'évolution de cette langue à travers les époques. Cette étude s'intéresse aux variétés divergentes de mon parlées aujourd'hui en Birmanie et en Thaïlande respectivement, toutes deux influencées à des degrés divers et dans des domaines différents par les languges nationales dominantes, le birman et le thaï. Cette étude s'appuie à la fois sur la linguistique aréale et l'histoire afin de brosser un tableau du développement du mon dans ces deux pays et de son évolution structurelle.

Bivalent Verb Classes in the Languages of Europe

A Quantitative Typological Study

Sergey Say

The aims of this study are twofold: to propose methods for measuring (dis)similarities in the organization of valency class systems across languages, and to test them on a sample of European languages in order to reveal areal and genetic patterns. The data were gathered for 29 languages using a questionnaire containing 130 contextualized uses of bivalent predicates. The properties under study include (i) lexical range of transitives, (ii) lexical range of valency frames defined in terms of the “locus” of non-transitivity (whether A or P arguments are encoded by oblique devices), (iii) overall complexity of valency class systems, and (iv) lexical distribution of verbs among valency classes. In case of the simpler properties (i)–(iii), maps with quantified isoglosses and pairwise comparison of languages based on Hamming distance are used. For (iv) these methods are inapplicable (valency classes cannot be equated across languages), and I propose a distance metric based on entropy and pairwise mutual information between distributions. The distance matrices are analyzed using the NeighborNet algorithm as implemented in SplitsTree. I argue that more holistic properties of valency class systems are indicative of large areal effects: e.g., many western European languages (Germanic, Romance, Basque and some Balkan languages) are lexically “most transitive” in Europe. Low-level areal signal is clearly discernible in the data on more subtle aspects of the organization of valency classes. The findings imply that distributions of verbs into valency classes can develop quickly and are transferable in contact situations, despite drastic dissimilarities in argument-coding devices.

Jason D. Haugen and Michael Everdell

Previous research has noted that verbal suppletion for ergative number agreement (i.e. agreement with the subjects of intransitives and the objects of transitives) is widespread throughout the Uto-Aztecan language family and is therefore reconstructable to Proto-Uto-Aztecan (PUA) (Langacker, 1977). However, no previous works have systematically surveyed the attested forms of suppletion in these languages nor posited specific proposals for reconstructions of particular suppletive morphs back to PUA. We redress this lacuna by surveying the suppletive verbs in the various subgroups of Uto-Aztecan and assessing which of those are sufficiently widespread to reconstruct to PUA. We argue for specific PUA reconstructions for two verbal domains: die and kill, arguing that there were three distinct suppletive verb stems for marking these functions: *muku, *ko(i), and *mɨɁa The plural form of kill in PUA was derived by adding a causative suffix *-ya to the plural stem for die, yielding *ko-ya. Other suppletive verbs in the family are not as easily reconstructable to PUA due to variation in attested forms, although some semantic functions seem to be widespread enough to be reconstructable. The PUA forms serving those functions would have been altered in different ways at different times by a lexical replacement process endemic to cases of strong suppletion, i.e. incursion (Juge, 2000). We also consider the issue of potential areal contact involving suppletion patterns in the areas where Uto-Aztecan languages are spoken, finding limited but suggestive evidence for possible areal effects involving suppletion for verbal number agreement.


Edited by Johanson Lars and Martine Robbeets

Genealogical linguistics and areal linguistics are rarely treated from an integrated perspective even if they are twin faces of diachronic linguistics. In Copies versus Cognates in Bound Morphology Lars Johanson and Martine Robbeets take up this challenge. The result is a wealth of empirical facts and different theoretical approaches, advanced by internationally renowned specialists and young scholars whose research is highly pertinent to the topic.

Copies versus Cognates in Bound Morphology puts genealogical and areal explanation for shared morphology in a balanced perspective and works out criteria to distinguish between morphological cognates and copies. Lars Johanson and Martine Robbeets provide nothing less than the foundations for a new perspective on diachronic linguistics between genealogical and areal linguistics.

Contributors include: Alexandra Aikhenvald, Ad Backus, Dik Bakker, Peter Bakker, Éva Csató, Stig Eliasson, Victor Friedman, Francesco Gardani, Anthony Grant, Salomé Gutiérrez-Morales, Tooru Hayasi, Ewald Hekking, Juha Janhunen, Lars Johanson, Brian Joseph, Folke Josephson, Judith Josephson, Johanna Nichols, Martine Robbeets, Marshall Unger, Nikki van de Pol, Anna Verschik, Lindsay Whaley

A Grammar of Kharia

A South Munda Language


John Peterson

Kharia, spoken in central-eastern India, is a member of the southern branch of the Munda family, which forms the western branch of the Austro-Asiatic phylum, stretching from central India to Vietnam. The present study provides the most extensive description of Kharia to date and covers all major areas of the grammar. Of particular interest in the variety of Kharia described here, is that there is no evidence for assuming the existence of parts-of-speech, such as noun, adjective and verb. Rather functions such as reference, modification and predication are expressed by one of two syntactic structures, referred to here as 'syntagmas'. The volume will be of equal interest to general linguists from the fields of typology, linguistic theory, areal linguistics, Munda linguistics as well as South Asianists in general.

The Genesis of Sri Lanka Malay

A Case of Extreme Language Contact


Edited by Sebastian Nordhoff

In The Genesis of Sri Lanka Malay: A Case of Extreme Language Contact, the synchrony and diachrony of Sri Lanka Malay are investigated from a variety of angles: Experts on South Asia, South East Asia, Creole Studies, Areal Linguistics, Typology, and Sociolinguistics all contribute their share to a truly global analysis of one of the most extreme cases of language contact, where the Malays changed the whole morphosyntax of their language in as little as just over three centuries.
The genesis of Sri Lanka Malay informs theories of language contact, language change, and 'creolization', as well as sociolinguistics, language policy and planning and a critical analysis of the 'endangered language' discourse.


Anvita Abbi

Winner of the 2015 Kenneth L. Hale Award!
A Grammar of the Great Andamanese Language is the first-ever detailed and exhaustive account of Great Andamanese, a moribund language spoken on the Andamanese Islands belonging to India in the Bay of Bengal. This important documentation covers all major areas of the grammar of Great Andamanese and gives us a first detailed look at this unique language, which is on the verge of extinction. Of particular interest here is the discussion of the body division class markers which play an important role throughout much of the grammar and which are documented in this volume for the first time. The volume will be of interest for general linguists from the fields of linguistic typology and areal linguistics as well as those interested in South Asian languages in general.


Edited by Dicky Gilbers, John Nerbonne and Jos Schaeken

The present volume includes papers that were presented at the conference Languages in Contact at the University of Groningen (25-26 November 1999). The conference was held to celebrate the University of St. Petersburg’s award of an honorary doctorate to Tjeerd de Graaf of Groningen. In general, the issues discussed in the articles involve pidgins and creoles, minorities and their languages, Diaspora situations, Sprachbund phenomena, extralinguistic correlates of variety in contact situations, problems of endangered languages and the typology of these languages. Special attention is paid to contact phenomena between languages of the Russian Empire / USSR / Russian Federation, their survival and the influence of Russian.