Typological Linguistics

Typological Linguistics



A branch of linguistics which studies the structural similarities between languages, regardless of their history, as part of an attempt to establish a satisfactory classification, or typology, of languages. Typological comparison is thus distinguished from the historical comparison of languages - the province of comparative philology and historical linguistics - and its groupings may not coincide with those set up by the historical method. For example, in respect of the paucity of inflectional endings, English is closer to Chinese than it is to Latin. One typological classification, proposed by the German linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt (1768-1835) in the early nineteenth century, established three main groups of languages on structural grounds: isolating, agglutinative and fusional; a fourth category, polysynthetic, has sometimes been suggested. The morphological orientation of this approach is, however, only one aspect of typological analysis, which can operate at all linguistic levels (e.g. a phonological typology in terms of consonant / vowel inventories or systems, syllable structure, or suprasegmental patterns - as illustrated in such notions as ‘tone language’ or ‘click language’). When one considers the many possible criteria of typological comparison, it is plain that no simple classification is likely to emerge, and that differences between languages are not clear-cut, but matters of degree.


语言学的一个分支,研究语言之间的结构相似性,不管其历史如何,总的目的是建立各种语言的合适的分类法或类型学。类型比较因此区别于语言的历史比较—比较语文学和历史语言学的任务;类型比较的分类结果也不一定跟用历史方法作出的分类相一致。例如,从缺乏屈折形态变化这个角度看,英语在类型上更接近于汉语而不是拉丁语。19世纪初德国语言学家W. 冯·洪堡特(1768-1835)提出的一种类型分类,按结构标准将语言分为三大类:孤立语、粘着语、溶合语;有时还增加一类多式综合语。但是这种分类的形态学取向只是类型分析的一个方面,实际上类型分析可以在语言学的各个方面上进行(例如音系类型学,按辅音/元音总结和系统、音节结构、超音段型式等进行分类,如“声调语言”、“吸气音语言”这种名称所示)。一旦考虑到类型比较可以有多种标准,那就不可能只有一种简单的分类法,而且语言之间的差异并不是十分明确的,而只是程度有别而已。