Linguistics Notes 2

Categorisation and Structure

Morphology: The study of the internal structures of words.
Syntax: The study of sentence structure.
Morphemes: A minimal unit of grammar.

Morphological Typology classifies world languages into broadly three groupings.

Isolating Languages: A language where each word consists of a single morpheme.
Agglutinating Languages: A word may consist of multiple phonemes, but is always possible to segment the morphemes.
Fusional Languages: The morphemes that must be distinguished grammatically may be fused into a single phonologically unanalysable formative. **

Most typology involves correlations between different parts of a language’s structure, for example, almost without exception languages that have verb-first clausal word order also have prepositions. In extreme cases scholars attempt to classify almost the whole structure of a language under a single set of correlations, this is is holistic typology, the most influential in the late 80’s was Klimov’s with a trichotomy of nominative, ergative, and active languages.

There are three bases for which we might classify languages:
a) The two languages may be descended from a single ancestor.
b) The two languages have been in contact and now share features.
c) Two languages may share a property conferred by general characteristics of human language.

We’re left with three distinct forms of language classification Areal Classification, Genetic Classification, and Linguistic Typology.

Although many linguists (at least in the 80’s) had very diffuse opinions and schools Greenberg’s paper on work order universals was a major impetus for North American scholars, the paper revealed four word order types dominate the world:

  1. subject-object-verb, possessor-noun, adjective-noun, noun-postposition
  2. like (1) but with noun-adjective
  3. verb-subject-object, noun-possessor, noun-adjective, preposition-noun
  4. like (3) but with subject-verb-object

Vennemann reinterpreted Greenberg’s order types into dependent-head versus head-dependent languages. The former are characterised by the orders object-verb, possessor-noun, adjective-noun, noun-postposition; while the later are characterised by the orders verb-object, noun-possessor, noun-adjective, preposition-noun. Though later work has generaly rejected this extreme proposal.