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Typology and the history of languages Bernd Heine Lyon, 12 May 2008.

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1 Typology and the history of languages Bernd Heine Lyon, 12 May 2008

2 Typology and the history of African languages A gloomy past The history of African linguistics, at least up until the 1960s, suggests that linguistic typology has played a role in reconstructing language history that was not really beneficial. Consider a few selected examples: (1) Morphological typology was used to justify not only genetic classifications but also language evolution.

3 Typology and the history of languages (a)Carl Meinhof imposed the 19th century typology on African languages: Isolating languages = “Sudansprachen” Agglutinating languages = “Bantusprachen” Inflectional languages = “Hamitensprachen” Meinhof, Carl Die moderne Sprachforschung in Afrika. Berlin.

4 Westermann’s (1935) notion “Sudansprachen” ALabial-velars (kp, gb) BLexical tone CStructure CV in word stems DLack of morphology, reliance on syntax EPreposed objects (SOV), preposed genitive, postpositions FDative expressed by ‘give’ GWidespread S – V – O word order HNominal plural formed by third person plural pronoun, also by reduplication ILack of grammatical gender, animate vs. inanimate instead JLack of passives KUse of plural-forming pronouns i and a LUse of a- to form de-verbal nouns. Westermann, Diedrich Charakter und Einteilung der Sudansprachen. Africa 8, 2:

5 Meinhof’s hypothesis was adopted by subsequent generations of Africanists, but he himself went even one step further: He proposed an evolutionary scenario according to which Africa’s isolating languages constitute the first stage of linguistic evolution, followed by the agglutinating stage, and the peak of linguistic evolution was reached when people were blessed enough to “invent” inflection – in Africa and elsewhere. Meinhof, Carl Die moderne Sprachforschung in Afrika. Berlin Die Sprachen der Hamiten. Hamburg.

6 (b) A. N. Tucker’s classification of the Kuliak languages (Ik) as being related to Ancient Egyptian rested on the basis of typological similarities in the paradigm of personal pronouns. Tucker, A. N Erythraic elements and patternings: Some East African findings. African Language Review 6:

7 (2) Presence vs. absence of a sex-based gender system has been taken to suggest questionable genetic classifications, such as following: (a)Carl Meinhof’s (1912) classification of “Hamitic” languages, where the presence of a gender system was taken as criterial for membership in this “family”. Meinhof, Carl Die Sprachen der Hamiten. Hamburg.

8 (b) Bernhard Struck and Diedrich Westermann’s distinction between “Niloto-Sudanic” and “Hamito-Sudanic”, and subsequently the split by Tucker and Bryan (1956; 1966) between “Nilotic” (= Western Nilotic) and “Paranilotic” (= Eastern and Southern Nilotic). Westermann, Diedrich Die Sprachen Afrikas. In H. Baumann, R. Thurnwald & D. Westermann 1940, Völkerkunde Afrikas. Essen. Pp Tucker, A. N., Margaret Bryan & W. Leslau Linguistic analyses. Handbook of African Languages: Oxford University Press.

9 (c) The genetic division between “Chado-Hamitic” and “Chadic” languages by Johannes Lukas was motivated to quite some extent by the fact that the former have, while the latter lack a gender system. Lukas, Johannes Die Verbreitung der Hamiten in Afrika. Scientia 33:

10 A brighter future? What then is the present role of language typology in reconstructing Africa’s linguistic history? One major innovation: We are now able to distinguish between two historical factors: genetic and areal relationship.

11 We have a fairly good overview of the genetic relationship patterns among the languages of Africa. But what about areal relationship? Greenberg, J. H The languages of Africa. The Hague: Mouton.

12 Previous work (Greenberg 1959; 1983; Larochette 1959; Welmers 1974; Gregersen 1977; Meeussen 1975) was characterized by a search for what – following Meeussen (1975) – we call Africanisms (Heine & Leyew 2008). With this term we are referring to properties that satisfy the following set of criteria: African areal properties according to Greenberg (1983: 3) are "those which are either exclusive to Africa, though not found everywhere within it, or those which are especially common in Africa although not confined to that continent.“ Joseph Greenberg Greenberg, Joseph H Africa as a linguistic area. In: Bascom and Herskovits (eds.) Pp

13 The questions one may ask relate on the one hand to a comparison of different kinds of linguistic relationship: Typology as a diagnostic: -Does typology reflect genetic relationship? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. -Does typology reflect areal relationship? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

14 Typology as a methodological tool: -Can typology be of help in discovering genetic relationship? The answer is flatly: no – typology is more of an obstacle than a useful tool for genetic reconstruction. -Can typology be of help in discovering areal relationship? Yes, it is the most important tool for the reconstruction of areal relationship. BUT: There is no one-to-one relationship between typological and areal structuring.

15 Typology and areal classification

16 Characterization of a linguistic area (sprachbund) aThere are a number of languages spoken in one and the same general area. bThe languages share a set of linguistic features whose presence can be explained with reference to neither genetic relationship, drift, universal constraints on language structure or language development, nor to chance. cThis set of features is not found in languages outside the area. dOn account of (b), the presence of these features must be the result of language contact. Heine, Bernd and Derek Nurse (eds.) A linguistic geography of Africa. Cambridge: Cambidge University Press.

17 Widely recognized sprachbund-like units: - the Balkans (for convenient summaries, see e.g. Joseph 1992; Feuillet 2001), -Meso-America (Campbell et al. 1986), - Ethiopia (Ferguson 1976; for a critical review, see Tosco 2000), -South Asia (Masica 1976; Emeneau 1980; Ebert 2001), -the East Arnhem Land (Heath 1978; 1981), -the Amerindian Pacific Northwest Coast (Jacobs 1954; Sherzer 1976; Beck 2000), -the Vaupés basin of northwest Amazonia (Aikhenvald 1996; 2002; 2003), -Standard Average European (Haspelmath 1998; 2001), -and the Daly River area of Australia (Dixon 2002: 674-9).

18 Linguistic areas in Africa?

19 Phonological zones in Africa (Clements & Rialland 2008)

20 The Macro-Sudan Belt: labial-velar consonants (Güldemann 2008)

21 The marked-nominative languages of Africa (König 2008)

22 The Tanzanian Rift Valley area (Kießling, Mous and Nurse 2008)

23 Problems notoriously associated with sprachbunds: The isoglosses that make up sprachbunds do not all coincide. Which isoglosses should be included or excluded is a matter of much dispute. Sprachbunds are hypothesized to be the product of events in the past. Unlike genetic groupings, however, their potential for reconstructing history is limited; hardly any one of them has contributed significantly to a better understanding of the history of the area concerned. Their contribution to synchronic linguistics has also been moderate.

24 Metatypy An ideal linguistic area would be one having in particular the following characteristics: (a) The languages making up the area share the same organization of semantic structure. (b) They also share the same patterns in which morphemes are concatenated to form sentences, phrases, and words. (c) The grammatical constructions are equivalent across the languages of the area.

25 (d) What distinguishes the languages is that each uses different forms but, on account of (a) and (b), each form has an exact structural and semantic equivalent in the other languages. (e) Accordingly, the languages are intertranslatable to the extent that the task of the translator or language learner is simply confined to inserting the appropriate lexical and grammatical forms to move from one language of the area to another. (f) The linguistic area is the result of language contact, that is, of a clearly definable historical process of linguistic assimilation.

26 Linguistic communities that are said to have undergone metatypy (Ross 1997: 146): The Indian village Kupwar (Gumperz & Wilson 1971) Northwestern New Britain, New Guinea (Thurston 1987; 1982) The Gangou dialect of Chinese and the Mongolic language Minhe Monguor (Yongzhong, Chuluu, Slater, & Stuart 1997) Arvanítika, the Albanian dialects spoken in central Greece, and Greek (Sasse 1985) The Oceanic language Takia and the Papuan language Waskia of Papua New Guinea (Ross 1996; 2001).

27 Metatypy situations compared to sprachbunds: (1) Metatypic situations are characterized by a much more pervasive degree of structural isomorphism. (2) They usually consist of a severely limited number of languages, sometimes no more than two (even though there is no theoretical limit as to how many languages are required). (3) There usually is fairly detailed information on the sociolinguistic and historical factors that contributed to the rise of metatypy. (4) While directionality in linguistic diffusion is frequently a controversial issue in the case of sprachbunds, in most cases of metatypy there is solid information on the patterns and directionality of linguistic transfer across languages.

28 Resumé: Many situations in Africa are suggestive of metatypy but, to my knowledge, no clear case has been documented so far.

29 Any questions?


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