Two types of syntactic structures are postulated, one of person prominence, which is present in Standard Average European (SAE) languages, following Benjamin L. Whorf's term, and one of relation prominence, which is present in Yucatec Maya. The diverse structural manifestations of the two types and their implications for the organization of grammar are explored within eight mostly unrelated languages, English, German, Korean, Lezgian, Maori, Samoan, Tamil, and
Yucatec Maya. The syntactic organization in different grammatical areas, namely modal and phase operator constructions, possessive constructions, experiential constructions, and benefactive constructions, is investigated and the languages are arranged on a continuum of person and relation prominence.The study is intended for typologists, descriptive linguists and mayanists, but may as well be of interest to philologists of any of the other languages.
Christian Lehmann is professor for general and comparative linguistics at the University of Erfurt. He mainly attends to the study of language typology and the description of Yucatec Maya. Yong-Min Shin is writing his dissertation thesis on 'Possessive and participant relations in German and Korean' at the University of
Bielefeld. Elisabeth Verhoeven is writing her thesis on 'Experiencer constructions in Yucatec Maya' at the same University.