Linguistic typology and the study of language (reprint of the 2010 hardcover edition)
The aim of this chapter is to provide a typological perspective on the study of language; to situate the typological knowledge about human language among other types of linguistic knowledge; and to discuss the assumptions and limitations of the approach, including types of available data. Section 2 defines the object of linguistic typology as cross-linguistic variation and language diversity. Section 3 contrasts linguistic typology with another influential approach to cross-linguistic variation: generative grammar (see Polinsky, this volume). Section 4 investigates the dual—relational vs. referential—nature of linguistic signs and the problems this creates for cross-linguistic comparison (see Stassen, this volume, for more focus on practical methodology). Section 5 introduces various ways of reducing linguistic diversity to a system: taxonomies, universals, etc. (see various contributions to this volume, especially those by Cristofaro and Moravcsik). Section 6 describes typological approaches to language change, and discusses issues of language evolution. Section 7 introduces typological sampling (see Bakker, this volume) and discusses some problems of large-sample typology together with two relatively recent methodological alternatives. Section 8 is an overview of the range of data typologists may choose from (see Epps, this volume, on language documentation); section 9 follows as a conclusion.