Grounding Syntactic Variation: A plea to develop SSWL
Hilda Koopman, Dominique Sportiche
September 2013

(These are slides of a presentation). This presentation takes as point of departure the article by Dunn et al "Evolved structure of language shows lineage-specific trends in word-order universals" (published in Nature in 2011) which uses new methods using phylogenetics that could help answer unresolved questions about language history, or help discriminate among models of present day syntactic structures, allowable syntactic variation, syntactic change and language learnability questions. This presentation criticizes this article: how the methods were carried out, the nature of the data used, and the conclusions. Further, based on what we liked about it - the use of syntactic traits to do historical reconstruction - we describe a research project meant to outline what it would take to redo this study (and others) properly. We formulate theories of possible patterns of variation, possible change, and lay out what kinds of data are necessary to carry this project out. It is clear that the feasibility of such research projects depends on the development of databases that code finely grained data. The SSWL database has some of these data, and we discuss two case studies to test the proposed methods and theories. As SSWL is an open ended, open source, language expert crowd-sourced, community based database, which comes with powerful search, mapping and and download functions, we end with a plea to the general linguistic community to help develop and populate SSWL, and collaborate in constructing such a research tool.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/001917
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Presented at: " Advances in Phylogenetic Linguistics" Workshop , Ragusa July 2013
keywords: syntactic variation, possible and predicted languages, phylogeny, historical change, sswl database, syntax
previous versions: v1 [September 2013]
Downloaded:891 times


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