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Chapter 7 first considers some general issues regarding the classification of languages, such as the contrast between language and dialect. The chapter then explores how languages can be grouped into families based on their historical relationships and what types of evidence are needed to prove such family relationships among languages. It looks at how ancestral languages such as Proto-Indo-European can be reconstructed on the basis of their present-day descendants. In subsequent sections, typological classifications are discussed. Since languages vary in many different ways on several levels—by the sounds they employ, word-structure patterns, word orders, and the ways certain meanings are expressed—numerous typological classifications can be devised. Throughout the chapter, three such classifications are examined, one based on morphological structures, another based on the syntactic factors such as word order, and one based on semantic properties of the languages being classified. Readers will explore how language classifications can change over time and how the two types of classifications—familial and typological—correspond.
This chapter focuses of languages of Northern Eurasia. In particular, Finno-Ugric, Samoyedic, Turkic, Tungusic, and Mongolic languages are discussed, along with other, unrelated languages of Siberia. Their geographical distribution, historical relatedness and linguistic peculiarities (such as vowel harmony and agglutinative morphology) are outlined and illustrated. The final section illuminates one linguistic feature common to many languages of the region: the so-called evidential markers, which indicate the source of evidence for the speaker’s assertion.
The focus of this chapter is the languages of Iran and South Asia. Two main language families are covered: Indo-European (esp. its Indo-Iranian branch) and Dravidian. Linguistic properties of these languages such as SOV word order are discussed. A special section is dedicated to non-Indo-European and non-Dravidian languages spoken in this region. The final section delves into the controversial issue of language universals and outlines the parametric theory of language typology. The so-called headedness parameter is used to illustrate how a number of co-occurring linguistic properties can be explained without recourse to common descent.
This chapter is dedicated to languages of the Americas, with the three main sections covering indigenous languages in North America, Meso-America, and South America. A brief outline of the major language families in the region is given, with the focus on the better-established language families. The last section discusses the issue surrounding Pirahã, a language controversially claimed to lack such basic grammatical mechanisms as recursion.
The focus of this chapter is on languages of eastern Asia. Languages from several languages families are discussed and their linguistic peculiarities are illustrated, including Sino-Tibetan languages, Austro-Asiatic languages, Tai-Kadai languages, as well as Japanese and Korean. The final section describes the phenomenon of isolating morphology in more detail and delves into the processes that change the morphological framework of a given language over time, from isolating to agglutinative, from agglutinative to fusional, and from fusional back into isolating.
This last chapter deals with three remaining issues, each with a dedicated section: macro families, sign languages, and constructed languages. Several major proposals that combine well-established language families into larger macro families are outlined, including the famous Nostratic hypothesis, as well as some lesser-known hypotheses such as the Dene-Yeniseian and Ural-Altaic hypotheses. The second section discusses sign languages and argues that they are like oral languages in that they have grammatical patterns of their own. The final section gives a brief overview of artificially constructed languages and how they differ from natural human languages, to which the majority of this book is dedicated.
This chapter describes languages of the South Sea Islands (in other words, Southeast Asia and Oceania). The main language family in the region is the Austronesian family. Its discovery and the controversy about its homeland are discussed. Moreover, the internal classification and linguistic peculiarities of this language family are outlined. The final section illuminates the puzzle of Malagasy, an Austronesian language spoken far away from its relatives, off the east coast of Africa on the island of Madagascar.
Are you curious to know what all human languages have in common and in what ways they differ? Do you want to find out how language can be used to trace different peoples and their past? Then this book is for you! Now in its third edition, it guides beginners through the rich diversity of the world's languages. It presupposes no background in linguistics, and introduces the reader to linguistic concepts with the help of problem sets, end of chapter exercises and an extensive bibliography. Charts of language families provide geographical and genealogical information, and engaging sidebars with demographic, social, historical and geographical facts help to contextualise and bring languages to life. This edition includes a fully updated glossary of all linguistic terms used, new problem sets, and a new chapter on cartography. Supplementary online materials include links to all websites mentioned, and answers to the exercises for instructors.
This chapter describes aboriginal languages of New Guinea and Australia, with the focus on both language classification into families and the linguistic peculiarities of the regions’ languages. Some special attention is given to Tok Pisin, a creole that serves as a national language in Papua New Guinea. The last section addresses the question of whether the languages of so-called “primitive peoples” are linguistically primitive. (Spoiler: the answer is no.)
This chapter covers languages of sub-Saharan Africa. Three language families receive special attention in this chapter: Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo and Khoisan languages. Linguistic peculiarities of languages in this region, such as unusual consonant sounds and noun classes, are described and illustrated. The final section deals with the issue of multilingualism on the social level and considers the concepts of official languages, trade languages, and creole languages, which are widespread in the region.