The classification of languages
Introduction to Linguistics 2
Defining language

Dialect and language

Defining criteria
 If
two speeches are mutually intelligible, they
are dialects.
Fuzzy boundaries

Claimed to be one language, but there
are a variety of mutually unintelligible
‘dialects’.

Chinese
 Taiwanese,
Wu…

Cantonese, Mandarin/ Putonhua,
Claimed to be two independent
languages, but they are actually
mutually intelligible.

Serbian and Croatian
Approaches to language
classification
Genetic classification
 Linguistic typology

Genetic Classification
Genetic classification
Languages with related historical
decent are said to be genetically
related.
 ‘language families’

Language families
Case Study:
The Indo-European language family
Linguistic Typology
Linguistic typology

Languages are grouped together
according to the similarities of their
linguistic features.
Linguistic Universals

The common linguistic features that are
found in all or most languages.
How to describe linguistic universals
Absolute universals vs. universal
tendencies
 Implicational universals
 Markedness theory

Absolute universals vs.
universal tendencies

Absolute universals


The linguistic features that occur in ALL
languages
Universal tendencies

The linguistic features that occur in MOST
languages
Implicational universals
The presence of one linguistic feature
in one language must indicate the
occurrence of another.
 If A is found in language L, B must be
also present in language L.
 The implication is one-way.
 Example:


If one language has fricative phonemes, it
will also have stop phonemes
Implicational universals:
Example
The implication is one-way.
 Example:

If one language has fricative phonemes
(/s/, /z/), it will also have stop phonemes
(/p/, /t/).
 But not vice versa.

Markedness theory
The most common/default features are
unmarked.
 The less common features are marked.

Markedness theory:
example

Gender in nouns
Which is marked? Masculine or feminine?
 Prince-princess; actor-actress
 Doctor-female doctor; nurse-male nurse


萬綠叢中一點紅

Which is marked?
Typological classification by
Phonology
 Morphology
 Syntax

Typology: phonology
Vowel systems
 Consonant systems
 Suprasegmental systems
 Syllable structure

Typology: phonology: vowel

Universals

The most common vowel system
5

vowels /a/-/i/-/u/-/e/-/o/
The most common phonemes
 /a/-/i/-/u/
Front vowel phonemes are generally
unrounded.
 Low vowels are generally unrounded.

Typology: phonology: Consonant

Universals
All languages have stops
 /p, t, k/
 The most common fricative phoneme is /s/
 Most of languages have at least one nasal.


Implicational universals
Fricatives -> stops
 Voiced obstruents -> voiceless obstruents
 Affricates -> stops and fricatives

Typology: phonology: suprasemental

Types

Tone languages
 Languages
that use pitch to make semantic
distinctions of words
 Mandarin Chinese

Stress languages
 Fixed
stress
 Free stress

Syllable structure

CV, V
Typology: morphology
The isolating type
 The polysynthetic type
 The synthetic type

The agglutinating type
 The fusional type

Typology: morphology:
The isolating/analytic type

One word represents one single
morpheme.


No affixes
Mandarin Chinese
Typology: morphology:
The polysynthetic type
One single word with a long string of
roots and affixes
 The semantic equivalent of one
sentence in other languages.


Qasu-iir-sar-vig-ssar-si-ngit-luunar-nar-puq
‘some one did not find a completely
suitable resting place.’ (Inuktitut)
Typology: morphology:
The agglutinating type

An agglutinating words
Contains several morphemes
 The root and affixes in the words can be
semantically identified.

Swahili
Tu –ta –wa -on- esha
we-fut.-them-see-cause
'we will show them'
An aggluinating example:
Antidisestablishmentarianism

establish (9)


dis-establish (12)




ending the established status of a body, in particular a church,
given such status by law, such as the Church of England
disestablish-ment (16)


to set up, put in place, or institute (originally from the Latin stare,
to stand)
the separation of church and state (specifically in this context it is
the political movement of the 1860s in Britain)
anti-disestablishment (20)

opposition to disestablishment

an advocate of opposition to disestablishment

the movement or ideology that opposes disestablishment
antidisestablishment-arian (25)
Antidisestablishmentarian-ism (28)
Typology: morphology:
The fusional/inflectional type

A fusional/inflectional word contains several
morphemes which indicate grammatical
categories.

Ein kleiner Hamster "a little hamster" (nominative
case)

Der kleine Hamster "the little hamster"
(nominative case)


Ich sah den kleinen Hamster "I saw the little
hamster" (accusative case)
Mit kleinem Hamster "with little hamster" (dative
case).
Typology: syntax

Word order universals
SVO
 SOV
 VSO

Word order: SVO

John loves Mary.
word order: SOV
私
は 箱 を 開けます。
 watashi-wa-hako-o-akemasu.
I
box
open
 ‘I open the box.’

word order: OSV
Sentence
Words
Parts
Translation
‫قرأ المدرس الكتاب‬
‫الكتاب‬
‫المدرس‬
‫قرأ‬
al-kitāba
al-mudarrisu
Qara'a
Read.
the teacher
the book
Object
Subject
Verb
The teacher read the book.
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Introduction to Linguistics 2