Dr. Eitan Grossman- "Looking for Universals and Finding Diversity: Linguistic Typology in the 21st Century"

Dr. Eitan Grossman- "Looking for Universals and Finding Diversity: Linguistic Typology in the 21st Century"
Activity Date: 
Monday, May 18, 2015

Different theoretical frameworks in linguistics have different takes on the question of universals of language: some theories expect that universals will be abundant and substantive, while others hold that languages can differ without limit and in unexpected ways. Linguistic typology, as conceived by Joseph Greenberg, developed a methodological framework for the empirical study of universals, using an analytical toolbox taken mostly from the social sciences. This talk sketches the goals and methods of classical Greenbergian linguistic typology, as well as the relatively recent Nichols-Bickel tranform or 'quiet revolution' in linguistic typology, which emphasizes the study of linguistic diversity in its own right, using standard statistical tests across methodologically-sound samples, and communicating with other scientific disciplines. The talk will finish with a brief discussion of some empirical and theoretical importance of linguistic rarities, as well as the role of language change in explaining the synchronic distribution of linguistic structures in the world's languages.