Crosslinguistic categories in morphosyntactic typology: Problems and prospects

Jan Rijkhoff 1
  • 1 Lingvistik, Institut for kommunikation og kultur, Aarhus Universitet, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 2, Nobelparken, bygning 1485-621, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Jan Rijkhoff


This article offers a new, transparent method to construe morphosyntactic categories for crosslinguistic research. It avoids the problem of categorial confusion attested in major post-Greenbergian studies in morphosyntactic typology, in particular in probabilistic typological investigations, which tend to mix up semantic and formal criteria and marginalize “statistically insignificant” morphosyntactic variants. These and other problems are avoided by using functional criteria as the starting point in identifying comparable forms and constructions in different languages. Subsequently formal and semantic criteria are employed to arrive at a morphosyntactic category whose members are sufficiently similar in terms of function, form, and meaning.

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Linguistic Typology publishes research on linguistic diversity and unity. It welcomes articles that report empirical findings about crosslinguistic variation, advance our understanding of the patterns of diversity, or refine typological methodology.