Intransitive Predication

Intransitive Predication

Intransitive Predication

Intransitive Predication

Synopsis

Intransitive Predication constitutes a major contribution to the study of typological linguistics and theoretical linguistics in general. Basing his analysis on a sample of 410 languages, Leon Stassen investigates cross-linguistic variation in one of the core domains of all natural languages. The author views this domain as a `cognitive space', the topography of which is the same for all languages. It is assumed to consist of four subdomains, which correspond to a four-way distinction between the semantic classes of event predicates, property predicates, class predicates, and locational predicates. Leon Stassen offers a typology of the structural manifestations of this domain, in terms of the nature and number of the formal strategies used in its encoding. He discusses a number of abstract principles which can be employed in explaining the cross-linguistic variation embodied by the typology. In the final chapter, he brings together the research results in a universally applicable model, which can be read as a `flow chart' for the encoding of intransitive predications in different language types.

Excerpt

There are many reasons why one should want to do linguistic typology, and there are many ways in which a typological research project can be conducted. In my case, the intention has been to contribute to our knowledge of the phenomenon of human language in general, by tracking down the linguistic encoding of a specific semantic/cognitive domain in an extensive set of languages. Thus, the primary aim of my research project has been theoretical and universal in nature, but it is evident that it relies heavily on the descriptive work done by specialists on singular languages or language groups. In this way, the project tries to bridge a major sociological gap in present-day linguistics, which divides the field into THEORISTS and DESCRIPTIVISTS. As is always the case with go-betweens, this puts typologists in a somewhat uncomfortable position, in which one runs the risk of being shot at from both sides. Therefore, I have thought it useful to stipulate in advance a few features of the approach adopted in this book, so that the exposition will not be marred from the outset by unnecessary misunderstandings.

A major aspect in which my approach differs from the work done in most of today's theoretical linguistics is its deliberate MODEL-NEUTRALITY. That is, I have refrained from affiliating myself with one of the theoretical schools or frameworks currently on the market, be they 'formalist' or 'functionalist' (Croft 1995) in orientation. Moreover, I have taken care to state my findings in terms which are largely uncontroversial, and which belong to the common stock of traditional grammatical theory. In doing so, I do of course not wish to belittle the theoretical progress made in any of these 'model-oriented' frameworks. It is just that I have set myself a different goal: what I want to do is to establish some characteristics of the examined constructions which must be incorporated into any theory of grammatical structure, no matter what its signature may be. Furthermore, it is not always appreciated that typological research fulfils (or, at least, should fulfil) an important role in the methodology of linguistic theory formation. In particular, the results of broad cross-linguistic projects can often be employed as an EVALUATION MEASURE for the universal principles which are proposed on the basis of 'narrow' investigation. Sometimes the results of typological projects can even be employed to dispel what one might call 'linguistic myths'--that is, generalizations which sound so attractive and plausible that they are never put to the test of empiry. A case in which such a myth is debunked will be presented in Chapter 3.

As for my descriptivist colleagues, it is quite possible that some of them may not be happy with the way I have handled or presented the data of the languages in which they specialize. Throughout the book I have followed the three-line presentation which has become standard practice for the citation of non-English material.

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