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Review of  Linguistic Typology: Morphology and Syntax

Reviewer: Andrej Malcukov
Book Title: Linguistic Typology: Morphology and Syntax
Book Author: Jae Jung Song
Publisher: Pearson Linguistics
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Issue Number: 12.2068

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Song, Jae Jung (2001) Linguistic Typology: Morphology and Syntax.
Longman, paperback ISBN 0-582-31221-3, xix+406pp, GBP30.99
(Longman Linguistics Library).

Andrej L. Malchukov, Institute for Linguistic Research
(Russian Academy of Sciences), St.Petersburg


The goal of Jae Jung Song's monograph "Linguistic typology:
morphology and syntax" (henceforth LT) is to provide an up-
to-date critical introduction to linguistic typology. As
the author makes it clear in the preface, classical
introductory volumes such as Comrie (1981/89) and Croft
(1990) are in need of updating in the light of recent
typological research. In contrast to the more recent
introduction to linguistic typology Whaley (1997), Song's
monograph is of a somewhat different orientation, since the
author "has opted for depth of discussion in preference to
breadth of coverage".

LT consists of 7 chapters. The 1st chapter serves as a
general introduction, the second addresses word order, the
3rd case making systems, the 4th and the 5th deal relative
clauses and causative constructions, respectively. The two
final chapters are of supplementary nature. The 6th chapter
deals with applications of linguistic typology and the 7th
chapter provides an overview of European schools of
linguistic typology. It should be noted at the outset that
the author is a proponent of the Greenbergian tradition of
linguistic typology, which is quite evident both from his
choice or treatment of particular issues and in his
bibliography (to a partial disadvantage of European

The 1st chapter, "Introducing language typology",
addresses general topics, such as goals of typological
research, research methods, types of data. It also presents
a very detailed discussion of sampling techniques. The
author further comments on the organization of the book,
explaining his motivation for focussing on word order, case
marking, relative clauses and causation. This selective
approach is explained by the author's aim to give an in-
depth description of some of the central issues of
typological research, which should be also conceptually
coherent (e.g., the correlation between word order and case

The 2nd chapter dealing with word order takes a central
place in the structure of the book both in terms of its
size and the depth of analysis. The author describes the
history of research on word order universals starting from
the classical work by Greenberg to the recent studies by
Hawkins, Tomlin, Dryer and Siewierska. He further provides
an insightful discussion and evaluation of the "branching
direction theory" of Dryer and the "early immediate
constituents theory" of Hawkins. Another section deals with
correlations between word order and morpheme order. Here
the author compares alternative explanations of the
suffixing preferences, the one from the "parsing"
perspective as proposed by Hawkins and the other from the
diachronic/grammaticalization perspective as advocated by
Bybee. He also evaluates these hypothesis in the light of
results of a recent study by Siewierska and Bakker (1996).

The 3rd chapter deals with case-marking drawing on the
work by Fillmore, Comrie and especially Blake (for the
typology of case systems) and Dixon (on ergativity and
alignment). Author presents the major alignment systems
(nominative-accusative, ergative/absolutive, tripartite,
AP/S and neutral systems), as well as more complicated and
intermediate cases (split ergative, active/stative,
direct/inverse systems). In the same chapter the author
addresses the question of the function of case marking -
discriminating (to differentiate particular case-roles in a
particular construction) vs. indexing (marking an argument
for semantic role irrespective of configuration). The
author concludes with Mallinson and Blake (1981) that these
approaches are complementary rather than conflicting. In
search of the explanation for distribution and variation in
alignment patterns the author refers to well-known semantic
(Silverstein) and discourse-pragmatic motivations (Du
Bois). Two other issues addressed in this chapter, are both
associated with work of Johanna Nichols: head
marking/dependent-marking of syntactic relations (case-
marking being an instance of depending marking) and
correlations of case-marking and word order patterns, as
established in Nichols (1992) and Siewierska (1996).

In the 3rd chapter dealing with relative clauses (RCs)
the author considers different relativization strategies,
such as the obliteration (gapping) strategy, the pronoun
retention strategy and the relative pronoun strategy. Then
the discussion focuses on the well-known Accessibility
Hierarchy (AH) set up in the work by Keenan and Comrie
(1977). The questions of processing and discourse
underpinnings of AH are addressed with a conclusion that
processing explanations fare better with regard to AH.
Finally, as in the previous chapter, correlations of the
RC-types (prenominal/postnominal) to word order patterns
are discussed, again providing a nice link to the content
of the 1st chapter.

The 4th chapter deals with the syntax and semantics of
causative constructions, elaborating on research by
Nedjalkov and Silnitsky (1969/73), Shibatani (1976) and
Comrie (1975). Much like in the previous chapter the
central issue here is the "case hierarchy" for causee
encoding as proposed by Comrie (to the effect that the
causee will acquire the highest "unemployed" syntactic
role, which would be direct object for causatives of
intransitives, indirect/oblique object for causatives of
transitives etc). The author further discusses the evidence
in favor or at odds with the case hierarchy, such as
constructions with DO doubling (e.g. both causee and
initial object surface as direct objects) as well as
semantic factors (degree of affectedness) responsible for
causee encoding that could override the syntactic
hierarchy. The author further discusses the (iconic)
correlation between causative type
lexical/morphological/syntactic and direct/indirect nature
of causation. It is followed by a presentation of a
cognitive account of causative constructions, as advocated
by Kemmer and Verhagen (1994), roughly to the effect that
the causative of intransitive pattern is modelled on the
clause pattern of nonderived (mono)transitive verbs and
that causative of transitive is based on the ditransitive
clause pattern. In conclusion the author outlines his own
version of typology of causative constructions, based on
his earlier study (Song 1996). Song distinguishes 3 main
types of causative constructions: the COMPACT type for
morphological and lexical causatives, the AND type
(conjunctional/paratactic) and the PURP type (employing
different types of infinitives, subjunctives/irrealis,

The concluding two chapters serve to contextualize the
contents of the previous ones. In the 6th chapter
concerning possible applications of linguistic typology,
Song emphasizes its relevance for historical linguistics
and language acquisition research. In the field of
historical linguistics, typology is shown to be an
important tool for the verification of linguistic
reconstruction, as originally proposed by Roman Jakobson
and Joseph Greenberg. The more novel part is the section
discussing "population typology" as proposed in Nichols
(1992), aiming to reconstruct linguistic prehistory based
on geographic distribution of structural features. In the
subsequent section Song demonstrates the relevance of
typological research for studies of language acquisition
showing, in particular, that (the first and second
language) acquisition of different RC-patterns is in line
with Accessibility Hierarchy set up in typological

In the concluding 7th chapter Song compares the
"Greenbergian" approach to linguistic typology with three
schools of European typology which differ most in their
research programs from the American tradition -- the
Leningrad/St.Petersburg Typology group (LTG), the Cologne
UNITYP Group (CTG) and the Prague School typology (PST).
The discussion is primarily based on contributions to
Shibatani and Bynon (1995). With regard to the LTG research
program the questions of methodology and the role of
classification vs. universals in language typology is
addressed. The status of language universals is also
central in discussion of the CTG approach but rather in a
different perspective: the dividing line here is whether
the universals are characteristic of languages or of
cognition, and whether they are arrived at inductively or
deductively. The PST is shown to stand out from the rest of
the typological schools in that it persistently persues
holistic rather than partial typology, thus retaining a
belief of the classical 19th-century typology in the
possibility to deduce/predict the whole language structure
from a few grammatical properties.

Critical evaluation

As should be clear from the previous discussion, LT is
rather limited in its coverage of topics. Thus the author
does not address such topics as parts-of-speech typology or
a typology of tense-aspect-mood systems, which have figured
prominently in the recent typological research (in
particular European). Further, issues of diachronic
typology are also left unaddressed, which is somewhat
surprising given that they are given much prominence
within the Greenbergian tradition (in particular, in work
by Greenberg himself, Givon and Bybee).

The chapters of LT differ in size and in depth of
analysis. To my mind, the author's major achievement is the
chapter on word order, which constitutes a considerable
progress as compared to other textbooks in typology, being
more up to date than Comrie (1989) and Croft (1990) and
more elaborate than respective sections in Croft (1995) and
Whaley (1997). It provides an insightful discussion and a
critical assessment of different controversial issues in
that field and thus constitutes a contribution to word
order research in its own right. I have also found most
interesting those parts in the other chapters which
demonstrate connections of the other relevant phenomena
(case-marking systems, preference for affix-ordering,
choice of pre-/postnominal RCs, etc) to word order

The chapter on case-marking, albeit less novel in its
critical aspects, is also well-organised, and reaches its
goal in "providing a comprehensive overview of case marking
systems and giving insight into motivations underlying its

On the other hand, the chapters dealing with RC-patterns
and causatives I have found less felicitous. Reading them
sometimes gives an impression that not much progress has
been achieved in this field recently, since they focus on
the hierarchies (the Accessibility Hierarchy and the Case
Hierarchy) established in 1970-s both associated with the
work of Bernard Comrie. The prominence of these issues is
understandable for a time which saw a "boom" of grammatical
relations research (recall the rise of Relational Grammar),
but can hardly do justice to these highly diversified
topics. In that respect the author could have made more use
of the data contained in Lehmann (1984) and Xolodovich
(ed.) (1969), which remain major works on RCs, and
causatives, respectively. (Within the framework of his book
such presentation would have had an additional benefit of
demonstrating CTG and LTG approaches to linguistic typology
at work.) In the chapter on RCs borderline constructions
such as internally headed RC, adjoined RCs, correlative and
absolute constructions, which the author mentions in
passing, deserve more attention, since they relate RCs to
other patterns of intersentential anaphora (see Bickel
1991, Dik 1997, cf. Malchukov 1996). In a similar way the
issues of external links of causative constructions and
their polysemy patterns could be given more prominence
(cf., e.g., Malchukov 1993 on adversity passives as a
semantic bridge between causatives and (valency-decreasing)
passives). The chapter on causatives could have profited
from the more detailed presentation of the author's own
research results.

One somewhat "personal" remark on Song's presentation
and discussion of LTG's approach in the 7th chapter. (It is
personal in that, it represents the "insider's" view of the
LTG's research program, but is not claimed to be
representative of other members of the group). In
particular, Song criticizes LTG for its lack of interest
for formulation of language universals as well as for issue
of their explanation. I agree that the explicit formulation
of typological generalization is methodologically
advisable. However, in my opinion, the reason why
universals play a more prominent role within the
Greenbergian tradition in contrast to LTG, is that the
former approach does not consider the collection of the
primary data as one of the main goals of a typological
research (cf. the use of questionnaires as the major
research tool within the LTG approach). Therefore the value
of a cross-linguistic research which is exclusively based
on secondary sources and does not result in universals is
questionable. As regards the explanation of universals, it
should be recalled that explanation is not really a problem
for linguistics, provided that some (functional)
motivations for attested patterns are usually not hard to
find. A real challenge for contemporary linguistics is
rather how to rule out on principled grounds other
competing motivations. To cite an example of a functional
explanation from Song's textbook: the fact that discourse
factors may determine case-alignment (arguably they
underlie the ergative pattern) but have no bearing on the
accessibility hierarchy calls for explanation. (This is not
a specific fault of a functional-typological paradigm since
it pertains, albeit in a different guise, to the generative
paradigm as well: it is much easier to assign a well-formed
syntactic representation to an attested construction (which
amounts to explanation in that theory) than to show why all
the other possible derivations which produce ungrammatical
structures are ruled out). In general however, the
discussion of LTG and other European schools of typology is
fair and the author succeeds in demonstrating both the
diversity and the unity of the contemporary linguistic

To conclude: although LT by design does not present a
systematic overview of typology, the author should be
given credit for "providing the reader with a good
understanding of important theoretical issues in current
linguistic typology", thus keeping the promise made in the
preface. Therefore, the book by Song is a useful and a
welcome contribution to the (introductory literature on)
linguistic typology, which is even indispensable for
readers interested in word-order typology and related
issues. However, in its choice of topics it is too
selective to replace William Croft's "Typology and
universals" (1990) as a standard textbook on linguistic

Bickel, B.1991.Typologische Grundlagen der Satzverkettung.
Arbeiten der Seminars fuer allgemeine Sprachwissenshaft, 9.

Comrie, B. 1975. Causatives and universal grammar.
Transactions of the Philological Society (1974), 1-32.

Comrie (1981/89). Language universals and linguistic
typology. Oxford : Blackwell.

Croft, W. (1990). Typology and universals. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Croft, W.1995. Modern syntactic typology. In M. Shibatani
and T. Bynon (1995).

Dik, S. 1997. The theory of functional grammar, vol. 2.
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Keenan E. and B. Comrie.1977. Noun phrase accessibility and
universal grammar. Linguistic Inquiry, 8: 63-99.

Kemmer S. and A. Verhagen. 1994. The grammar of causatives
and the conceptual structure of events. Cognitive
Linguistics 5: 115-156.

Lehmann, C.1984. Der Relativsatz: Typologie seiner
Strukturen, Theorie seiner Funktionen, Kompendium seiner
Grammatik. Gunther Narr: Tuebingen.

Mallinson, G.and B. Blake. 1981. Language typology: cross-
linguistic studies in syntax. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

Malchukov, A. 1993. Adversative Constructions in Even in
Relation to Passive and Permissive. B. Comrie & M.
Polinsky (ed.): Causatives and Transitivity. Amsterdam:
John Benjamins.

Malchukov, A. 1996. "Internal relative clauses in Tungusic
languages in a synchronic and a diachronic
perspectives.". Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung,
1996, Nr. 4:358-382

Nedjalkov, V. & G. Silnitsky (1969/73). Tipologija
kauzativnyx konstrukcij. A. A. Xolodovich (ed.) (1969).

Nichols, J.1992. Linguistic diversity in space and time.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Shibatani, M.1976. The grammar of causative constructions:
a conspectus. Shibatani, M. (ed.) The grammar of causative
constructions. (Syntax and semantics 6). New York :
Academic Press.

Shibatani, M. and T. Bynon (eds.). 1995. Approaches to
language typology. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Siewierska, A. (1996). Word order type and alignment type.
Sprachtypologie and Universalienforschung 49: 149-176.

Siewierska, A. and D. Bakker (1996). The distribution of
subject and object agreement and word order type. Studies
in Language 20, 115-61.

Song, J.J. 1996. Causatives and causation: a universal-
typological perspective. London: Longman.

Whaley, L. 1997. Introduction to typology: the unity and
diversity of language. London: Sage Publications.

Xolodovich, A. (ed.) 1969. Tipologija kauzativnyx
konstrukcij: morfologicheskij kauzativ. Leningrad: Nauka.

Andrej Malchukov is affiliated to the St. Petersburg
Institute for Linguistic research (Russian Academy of
Sciences). On the descriptive side is specializing in the
grammar of Tungusic languages (Ph.D. (1990) on the syntax
of Even). Participates in research projects of the
Leningrad/St.Petersburg Typology Group. His research
interests concern issues of syntactic typology. Currently
engaged in research concerning a typology of category
changing operations (nominalizations, etc.).