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6 - Syntactic typology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 January 2010

Bernard Comrie
Affiliation:
Professor, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Ricardo Mairal
Affiliation:
Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
Juana Gil
Affiliation:
Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
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Summary

General considerations

My aim in this chapter is first to present an overview of my assessment of the state of the art in syntactic typology, and then to illustrate the general points in Section 2 by means of the investigation of one particular phenomenon, namely the syntactic typology of relative clauses, with particular regard to areal characteristics of European languages in comparison with other languages of the world.

What distinguishes the typological approach to syntax, or indeed to grammar as a whole, from other approaches? One feature of typological work, indeed arguably the defining characteristic of such work, is the serious attention paid to cross-linguistic diversity. In order to understand Language, it is essential to understand languages. Although all approaches that consider themselves general-linguistic in orientation at least pay lip-service to the cross-linguistic applicability of their tenets, it is the typological approach that sets out to examine data from as wide a range of languages as possible, in order to ensure that we have the best basis possible for deciding what logical possibilities are actually attested among the languages of the world, and thus for assessing how wide-ranging our characterization of the phenomenon in question must be. It is not sufficient for an approach to handle English but not Japanese, or vice versa. And indeed, in Section 2 of this chapter, I will be taking data from a fair range of languages, backed up by data from far more languages in the overall typological literature on relative clauses, in order to draw certain specific conclusions about the typology of relative clauses.

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Linguistic Universals , pp. 130 - 154
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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  • Syntactic typology
    • By Bernard Comrie, Professor, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
  • Edited by Ricardo Mairal, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid, Juana Gil, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
  • Book: Linguistic Universals
  • Online publication: 08 January 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511618215.007
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  • Syntactic typology
    • By Bernard Comrie, Professor, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
  • Edited by Ricardo Mairal, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid, Juana Gil, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
  • Book: Linguistic Universals
  • Online publication: 08 January 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511618215.007
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Syntactic typology
    • By Bernard Comrie, Professor, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
  • Edited by Ricardo Mairal, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid, Juana Gil, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
  • Book: Linguistic Universals
  • Online publication: 08 January 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511618215.007
Available formats
×