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Linguistic Typology

Founded by Plank, Frans

Editor-in-Chief: Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria

3 Issues per year

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Volume 13, Issue 1


WALS in the university classroom: A review

Kristine A. Hildebrandt / Oliver Bond
Published Online: 2009-05-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LITY.2009.010


The world atlas of language structures (WALS) originally appealed to the linguistics community as a resource for research. However, the relevance of the feature chapters to teaching environments and the user-friendly nature of the Interactive Reference Tool also make it suitable for university classrooms. Based on our experiences using WALS in two typology courses at the University of Manchester and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), we provide a review of WALS as a teaching and learning tool, including both its successes and frustrations. We note some methodological and technical issues with using WALS in the university classroom, including problems of over- and under-sampling, and a lack of coverage on typological rarities. However, we have also found that WALS has much to offer instructors and students in terms of its breadth of topic coverage, the linkage of the feature chapters with course reading assignments, the wealth of genealogical, geographical, and bibliographic information on individual languages, and the hands-on experience that the Interactive Reference Tool offers students.

Keywords:: linguistic atlas; methodology; teaching

About the article

Correspondence address: Department of English Language and Literature, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 2227 Peck Hall, Edwardsville IL 62026, U.S.A.; e-mail:

Correspondence address: Department of Linguistics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG, United Kingdom; e-mail:

Received: 2008-06-20

Revised: 2009-01-05

Published Online: 2009-05-20

Published in Print: 2009-05-01

Citation Information: Linguistic Typology, Volume 13, Issue 1, Pages 183–193, ISSN (Online) 1613-415X, ISSN (Print) 1430-0532, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LITY.2009.010.

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