Research in Typology and Universals

Drs. Jürgen Bohnemeyer, Matthew Dryer, Robert Van Valin

Typology is a very active research area of the Department of Linguistics at the University at Buffalo and underlies the theoretical research on syntax of Profs. Dryer and Van Valin and on semantics of Prof. Bohnemeyer.

Prof. Dryer has been working on a large typological database project since 1983. The database contains data on a variety of typological features for a set of currently over 1500 languages. This project has produced many publications, including 27 maps and chapters in the World Atlas of Language Structures (of which Prof. Dryer was one of the four editors), which was published by Oxford University Press in 2005. Click here for a sample of one of his chapters (warning: the downloaded document is large, over 4MB). His typological research focuses on word order, grammatical relations, and methodological and foundational issues.

Prof. Bohnemeyer specializes in semantic typology, the study of crosslinguistic variation and universals in the constraints languages impose on semantic representations. Semantic typology is a nascent field of inquiry that has grown out of the pioneering work by the cognitive anthropologists on color and kinship terminologies, ethnobiological classifications, and the expression of spatial concepts. At the center of Prof. Bohnemeyer's research are constraints on the encoding of complex events.

Prof. Van Valin's work has concentrated on the typology of grammatical systems, looking at phenomena like the distribution and function of different types of voice oppositions and the interaction of focus structure and syntax in grammatical systems. This is related to his theoretical work in Role and Reference Grammar.