Typology as a method - not an area of study

I feel like this Sunday deserves a good quote for some additional food-for-thought before the next week sets in. This time it's an quite old quote by Dahl, as he's talking about quirks of Standard Average European he first declares something that I find to be very true:

I have regarded typology as a method rather than as an area of study in its own right: it is one of several ways to find out about the nature of human language [free PDF of paper here]

As we're prusuing knowledge about what human languages are, can be and what limitations there are of that design space, we can ask many questions that can be answered by different methods - one of them is systematic cross-linguistic comparison - typology. Other questions are more suitable to be dealt with by studying the acquisition of language, or the mapping of language use and the brain, or the history of languages etc.

Dahl, Östen (1990) Standard Average European as an exotic language. In Toward a typology of European languages, ed. by Johannes Bechert, Giuliano Bernini and Claude Buridant, 3-8. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. [free PDF here]


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