Typology

As part of my research on pseudocoordination for my dissertation, I am also investigating Serial Verb Constructions, Associated Motion, and several other related phenomena. In general, I enjoy looking at the languages of the world broadly and working with research topics in comparative linguistics and typology.

My current research is based on a typologically-balanced set of 325 languages, in order to determine the distribution of several linguistic features with the help of undergraduate research assistants Ryan Grunow, Kelsey Lac, George Jabbour and Jack Dempsey. Specifically, we have gone through descriptive grammars of these languages to look for instances of Serial Verb Constructions (sort of like “Come eat with us!” in English), as well as the distribution of Associated Motion and other motion-related morphology that some languages have that indicates direction or location of the action of the main verb. Many languages that do not have Associated Motion morphology use Serial Verbs instead, or other constructions such as pseudocoordination and converbs.

Serial Verb Constructions are found often in West Africa, Oceania, Southeast Asia, but are also found elsewhere. More specifically, the goal of the project is to look at correlations to other morphosyntactic properties described on WALS (The World Atlas of Language Structures), especially properties of coordination and morphological type. Another important question is whether Serial Verb Constructions are themselves a specific cross-linguistic type or if they are part of a broader type of multi-verb constructions in general including also, for example, pseudocoordination. A preliminary map with the results is shown below (generated by a tool from WALS).

The red languages have at least one kind of Serial Verb Construction. The blue languages do not as far as we can identify in the grammatical descriptions available. Based on the current definitions in the literature, our working definition of Serial Verb Construction is as follows (see Ross et al. 2015):

  • two or more juxtaposed verbs
  • with no marker of dependency or linking element
  • expressing a single event in a single clause
  • with shared Tense-Aspect-Modality and negation
  • and shared arguments (subject and/or object)
  • which may encode various semantic functions

Associated Motion is not an uncommon feature of languages. In fact, it seems to appear in over 1/3 of the world’s languages with a very broad geographic distribution, and there are some areas where it is more common. Various terms have been used to describe this phenomenon such as “associated motion” (originating in Australia), “translocative” and “cislocative” (in the North American tradition) and the more general terms “itive/andative” and “ventive/venitive” used in Africa and elsewhere. And confusingly, the distinction between direction (for an existing motion predicate) and Associated Motion is not consistently made in the literature. My research combines descriptions of similar phenomena from different regions and compiles the first large-scale typological study of which languages have Associated Motion and related properties. A preliminary map of the results is presented below.

The languages in black have motion-related morphology of some sort, while those in white do not (see Ross 2015, 2016).

 

References

Ross, D., Grunow, R., Lac, K., Jabbour, G. and Dempsey, J. (2015). Serial Verb Constructions: a distributional and typological perspective. Presented at Illinois Language and Linguistics Society (ILLS) 7 at UIUC.

Ross, Daniel. (2015) Locating Associated Motion: an underdescribed morphological category. Presented at the Sixth Biennial Meeting of the Rice Linguistics Society, Rice University, Houston, Texas.

Ross, Daniel. (2016). Going to Surprise: the grammaticalization of itive as mirative. In J. Woźny (Ed.), Online proceedings of Cognitive Linguistics in Wrocław Web Conference 2016 (17 pages). Wrocław: Polish Cognitive Linguistics Association & University of Wrocław. https://sites.google.com/site/coglingwroc2