A number of students of language have pointed out that the way meanings are expressed in the language analyzed by them is exactly the same as that found in some neighboring language or languages, even though the forms used in these expressions are entirely different, and in spite of the fact that the languages concerned are genetically only remotely related or even unrelated. The main goal of this book is, first, to show that such observations are far from being coincidental; rather, that such cross-linguistic similarities are more common than is widely believed. Second, we will argue that there is a principled way to account for such similarities and, third, that these similarities are the result of processes of conceptualization that are the same across cultures.
The book has benefited greatly from discussions with and comments from many colleagues, in particular the following: Sasha Aikhenvald, Peter Bakker, Walter Bisang, Kate Burridge, Bernard Comrie, Andrii Danylenko, Gerrit Dimmendaal, Bob Dixon, Carola Emkow, Nick Evans, Zygmunt Frajzyngier, Victor Friedman, Jost Gippert, Tom Güldemann, John Haiman, Martin Haspelmath, Lars Johanson, Christa Kilian-Hatz, Christa König, Hiroyuki Miyashita, Salikoko Mufwene, Ulrich Obst, Thomas Stolz, Elmar Ternes, Elvira Veselinović, Debra Ziegeler, and many others. We also wish to thank Monika Feinen for the maps presented, Meike Pfaff and Barbara Sevenich for their typographical work, and Ulrike Claudi and two anonymous reviewers for many critical comments.