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Corpus-based Approaches to the Typology of Iranian Languages

April 22, 2022 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT

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Geoffrey Haig is professor of linguistics in the Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Bamberg. His research is empirically oriented, with a focus on corpus-based approaches to language typology, and language contact in the Western Asian Transition Zone; for both fields he has co-developed online digital resources (see https://multicast.aspra.uni-bamberg. de/ and https://multicast.aspra.uni-bamberg.de/resources/wowa/. He has also published widely on the diachronic syntax of Iranian languages, and been actively involved in language documentation in West Iran.

Traditional language typology has focused on comparing languages on the basis of categorical values assigned to various features, for example, ‘Object-Verb’ versus ‘Verb-Object’ word order. The input to this kind of typology is generally a pre-formulated grammatical analysis (e.g. a published grammar, or similar) for each language. Corpus-Based Tvpology (CBT), on the other hand, is an alternative approach to typology which draws on primary linguistic data as the basis for cross-linguistic comparison. While CBT shares similar research goals to conventional typology, CBT employs quantitative methods and visualization techniques to model the omnipresent gradience of cross-linguistic variation. In this talk, I will outline the rationale behind corpus-based approaches to typology, exemplified with case studies from recent research. We then consider how CBT can be applied to the Iranian languages, drawing on the WOWA data set (Word Order in Western Asia, Hag et al 2021, https://multicast.aspra. uni-bamberg.de/resources/wowa/), containing samples of spoken language from approximately 30 languages. The presentation will focus on word order across Western Iranian languages, and neighbouring languages. Time permitting, we may also consider recent CBT-based findings on the marking of definiteness across a range of Iranian languages (Nourzaci 2021).