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Article

On the right of being a comparative concept

Linguistic Typology. 2016. Vol. 20. No. 2. P. 403-416.
Lander Yu., Arkadiev P.

We provide a critical review of the distinction between “comparative concepts” and “descriptive categories”, showing that in current typological practice the former are usually dependent on the latter and are often vague, being organized around prototypes rather than having sharp boundaries. We also propose a classification of comparative concepts, arguing that their definitions can be based on similarities between languages, on differences between languages, as well as admittedly be “blind” to language-particilar facts. We conclude that, first, comparative concepts and descriptive categories are not so sharply ontologically distinct as some typologists would like to have it, and, second, that attempts at a “non-aprioristic” approach to linguistic description and language typology are more an illusion than reality or even desideratum.