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Why we need a token-based typology: A case study of analytic and lexical causatives in fifteen European languages

Natalia Levshina
From the journal Folia Linguistica


This paper investigates variation of lexical and analytic causatives in 15 European languages from the Germanic, Romance, and Slavic genera based on a multilingual parallel corpus of film subtitles. Using typological parameters of variation of causatives from the literature, this study tests which parameters are relevant for the choice between analytic and lexical causatives in the sample of languages. The main research question is whether the variation is constrained by one semantic dimension, namely, the conceptual integration of the causing and caused events, as suggested by previous research on iconicity in language, or whether several different semantic and syntactic factors are at play. To answer this question, I use an exploratory multivariate technique for categorical data (Multiple Correspondence Analysis with supplementary points) and conditional random forests, a nonparametric regression and classification method. The study demonstrates the importance of corpus data in testing typological hypotheses.


The author is very grateful to Hubert Cuyckens, Karolina Krawczak, Michael Cysouw, and an anonymous reviewer for their invaluable criticisms and suggestions, as well as to Jose Garcia Miguel and Björn Wiemer for their consultations on some tricky language-specific constructions. I am also indebted to my ex-colleagues from the Catholic University of Louvain, Ludivine Cribble and Samantha Laporte, who helped me to obtain the measures of interrater agreement. The main part of this research was funded by a postdoctoral grant received from the Belgian research foundation F.R.S.-FNRS. All usual disclaimers apply.



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Received: 2015-5-25
Revised: 2015-11-17
Revised: 2016-2-9
Accepted: 2016-5-31
Published Online: 2016-11-8
Published in Print: 2016-11-1

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton

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