Languages of the world

Veranstaltungsart: Proseminar
Zeit: Tuesday 2-4 p.m.
Raum: SfS, room 1.13

Gerhard Jäger
office: SfS, room 1.20
secretary: 1.22 (Christine Clauder)

Course description

The course gives an introduction into the diversity of the languages of the world, the reasons for their differentiation, their geographical distribution, genetical relationships, and their typological similarities and differences. The goal of the course is to give a general impression of the linguistic diversity across the world, but also to discuss approaches to classify languages according to their historical relationships or their grammatical similarity. Last but not least we will focus on recurrent grammatical patterns, so-called typological universals.


date topic literature homework*
genetic language classification I
Ethnologue Homework 1
genetic language classification II Baxter & Manaster Ramer 2000 Homework 2
morphological typology
Whaley, chapters 7 and 8 Homework 3
Typology of color terms
Homework 4

intermediate test

Greenbergs Universals, Word Order Typology
Whaley, chapters 5 and 6 Homework 5
case marking systems
Whaley, chapters 9 and 10
Homework 6
case marking systems (cont.)

tense and aspect
Homework 7
head marking and dependent marking, vowel systems
Whaley, chapter 8
Homework 8
Homework 9
clause types, relative clauses
Homework 10
ditransitive constructions, diathesis

Homework 11
final test

*The homeworks will not be graded, and they need not be turned in. You are advised to do the exercises nevertheless because they are a good preparation for the written tests.

The final tests are graded. If your result does not show up in Campus, you can inquire it at the secretary's office.


  • Baxter, William H. and Alexis Manaster Ramer. 2000. Beyond lumping and splitting: Probabilistic issues in historical linguistics. In Colin Renfrew, April McMahon, and Larry Trask, editors, Time Depth in Historical Linguistics. The McDonald Institute for Archeological Research, Cambridge, UK, pages 167--188
  • Whaley, L. J. (1997), Introduction to Typology. The Unity and Diversity of Language. [A copy of the relevant chapters can be found on the shelf next to room 1.13 at the SfS.]