ArticlePDF Available

Comparability and measurement in typological science: The bright future for linguistics


Abstract and Figures

Linguistics, and typology in particular, can have a bright future. We justify this optimism by discussing comparability from two angles. First, we take the opportunity presented by this special issue of Linguistic Typology to pause for a moment and make explicit some of the logical underpinnings of typological sciences, linguistics included, which we believe are worth reminding ourselves of. Second, we give a brief illustration of comparison, and particularly measurement, within modern typology.
This content is subject to copyright. Terms and conditions apply.
Erich R. Round* and Greville G. Corbett
Comparability and measurement in
typological science: The bright future for
Abstract: Linguistics, and typology in particular, can have a bright future. We
justify this optimism by discussing comparability from two angles. First, we take
the opportunity presented by this special issue of Linguistic Typology to pause for a
moment and make explicit some of the logical underpinnings of typological sci-
ences, linguistics included, which we believe are worth reminding ourselves of.
Second, we give a brief illustration of comparison, and particularly measurement,
within modern typology.
Keywords: comparison, measurement, typology, substruction, linguistic descrip-
tion, Canonical Typology, Multivariate Typology, genitive, case, Russian
1 What typological science is like
Linguistic typology is part of a wider intellectual undertaking, in which we can
benefit from the successes of others. In the early twentieth century, typology
was understood across the social and biological sciences as a family of scientific
methods, which had emerged in the preceding decades and could be contrasted
with classification(Greenberg 1974 :1117; Rudner 1966: 3240). Classication,
based on classes, was used in domains of inquiry, typically the hard sciences,
where the categories, units, and scales of measurement to be used had by that
time gained widespread acceptance and condence, as when one refers un-
hesitatingly to carbon and oxygen, two-body and three-body gravitational
systems, or mass and length. Typology, based on types, was for domains where
The authors contributed equally to the paper.
*Corresponding author: Erich R. Round [ɛɹɪkɹæ
ʊnd], University of Queensland, Brisbane,
Australia; Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany; and Surrey
Morphology Group, University of Surrey, Guildford, England, E-mail:
Greville G. Corbett [ɡɹɛvɪlkɔːbɪt], Surrey Morphology Group, University of Surrey, Guildford,
England, E-mail:
Linguistic Typology 2020; 24(3): 489525
Open Access. © 2020 Erich R. Round and Greville G. Corbett, published by De Gruyter. This
work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
the categories, units and scales needed for the description and comparison of
the ultimate object of inquiry were still under contention, and therefore addi-
tional methods were needed in order to build, discover or assess them (Hempel
and Oppenheim 1936; Rudner 1966: 47; Weber [1904]1949).
At its core, then,
the typological method was not inherently about assigning objects to discrete
categories (though this was an often-used technique), but about grappling in a
scientic way with possible dimensions of comparison to use in the study of
some domain of interest: how to discover them, evaluate them, and understand
their contribution to the ultimate scientic goal of understanding the domain of
inquiry. Owing to this history of ideas, since the late 1800s, an immense amount
of philosophical and practical work has been carried out within psychology,
anthropology, sociology, archaeology and biology into methodological
questions which inherently still lie at the heart of linguistic typology today.
Below we draw upon insights gained in other disciplines, when they apply
equally in linguistics.
1.1 Domains, dimensions and debate: Typological sciences use
them all
In practice, linguists study language topic by topic, domain by domain. But how do
we define any given domain that we are studying? Unlike in a classificatory field,
where it is a settled matter what it means to study carbon isotopes, in linguistics as
in any typological field, merely justifying a delineation of a domain of study is itself
a highly non-trivial task. Heated debates may persist for decades over the merits of
competing delineations. As practising scientists, we often find ourselves needing
to refine our own demarcation of the outer limits of a given domain as we better
understand its internal make-up. Consequently, in practice we typically operate
with working definitions, subject to revision (Cartwright and Bradburn 2011: 57).
This is natural in a typological eld. While modern-day chemists may not spill
gallons of ink over the bestdenition of carbon, linguists need to establish the
1Classicationis a term with many senses, including within linguistics. Here we use it strictly in
this rather particular, early twentieth-century sense to help us frame some useful notions about
scientic methodologies and what they are designed to handle. It is not our intention to comment
on other things that have also been termed classication.
2Examples of typesin other elds include personality types in psychology (Gerlach et al. 2018;
Jung 1921), categories of religions in anthropology (Johnson and Grim 2013; Murdock 1967), metrics
such as the Human Development Index in economics (Stanton 2007) and the species concept in
biology (de Queiroz 2005).
490 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
merits of possible categorizations. Debates about proposals (which, among other
guises, can take the form of debates about terminology) are therefore inherently
necessary for progress;
debate and differences of view per se are not signs of
confusion or disarray in a typological discipline. However, it is also true that there
are more productive and less productive debates, and that the proper expectation
even in typological sciences is to move towards greater agreement and certainty in
the long run (Nettle 2018: 231245). In this paper we highlight methods that we and
others before us have advocated for increasing the productivity of the debates that
typological disciplines have to have. In preparation we offer a quick note on the
task of operationalization, and on the general notion of bringing coherence to a
Supposing that as typologists we have in hand a working definition of a
domain, an early task may be to operationalize it, that is, to state procedures which
enable actual phenomena to be divided into those that lie inside and outside the
domain. For example, suppose that in a typological study we were to choose to use
Haspelmaths (2012: 123) denition of rootas a morph that denotes a thing, an
action or a property. For the sake of the argument, suppose also that we can
distinguish morphsunproblematically, and that ultimately every morph truly
either does or does not denote a thing, action or property, such that given sufcient
knowledge of any language there are no true grey areas. To carry out such a study,
we would still require procedures for deciding about individual morphs in practice.
Do we use a dictionary? Or a corpus? And selected according to what criteria?
When available information is potentially incomplete, do we discard data or do we
categorize all of it? If the latter, do we record the level of uncertainty of our
decisions? These are matters of operationalization. In general, multiple oper-
ationalizations are possible and one can compare and contrast how faithfully they
map back onto the original denition, a quality known as validity. Some disci-
plines now have highly mature debates around denitions, operationalizations
and the distinctions between them. See Feest (2005) for the philosophical debate in
psychology over the last century, and Hull (1968) for a classic essay with respect to
the species concept in biology. An accessible, practical overview of operationali-
zation and validity is Ember et al. (1991).
Having selected a domain to study, such as nominalization, suppletion, or
complex codas, we must determine which phenomena lie within the domain
versus outside of it. Our next core task is to relate the phenomena that lie within the
domain to one another, and to relate the variation among them to the overall
3See Lakatos (1976) for a classic discussion of how progress on denitions (in mathematics, as it
happens) is made through debate and fn. 25 regarding a contrary position proposed recently within
Comparability and measurement 491
possibilities that the domain notionally affords. We will want to ask: within the
overall domain, do our observations fill the available space of possibilities
completely, or do they leave pockets unoccupied? Are non-empty regions filled
equally densely or are some sparser than others? To answer these questions well,
we must be capable of coherently locating all the sub-parts of our domain, which in
turn requires a concept of all the directions in which the domain extends, and how
far. For example, what are the distinct dimensions of variation that exist in the
domain? How is each of them divided up, and thus how is the domain as a whole
parceled outinto smaller regions? Do we construe these dimensions as contin-
uous, or divide them into discrete categories? If a dimension consists of discrete
categories, how many categories are there, what are the boundaries, and are the
categories unordered or ordered? If ordered, is the ordering linear or hierarchical,
exhaustive or only partial? If a dimension is continuous, are there inherent limits at
one or both ends, or is its extent (at least notionally) unlimited? Is there a choice
among the scales that we could impose on it, such as linear, logarithmic or others?
Quantitatively speaking, choices about how we divide up our dimensions will
influence the kind of statistics available for analysing results (Stevens 1951 is a
classic discussion). Turning from the internal division of dimensions, to questions
around the selection of dimensions themselves, for each dimension that we are
contemplating using, are there alternatives that do almost the same job like
magnetic north versus true north? If so, what are the edge caseswhere the dif-
ference matters? What makes typology distinctively challenging, is that these very
basic questions about the domains we wish to study often do not yet have settled
answers; the eld is still guring them out. Consequently, we typologists are
tasked with inventing our tape measures, and even dening the very dimensions in
which we are to measure, at the same time as carrying out the empirical mea-
surements of our objects of inquiry.
The notion that we should be engaged in inventing our tape measures at the
same time as measuring our objects of inquiry can be disconcerting. It is worth
recognizing first that this uneasiness is indeed real, then acknowledging why it
comes about. If we accept that it is not only real but also valid, we can then consider
what the appropriate response is. This typological discomfortis a rational reaction
to the fact that changes to tape measures (i.e. to our answers to the questions arrayed
in the previous paragraph) will alter the implied, empirical relationships among our
observations. As we change our answers, old clusters of similarobservations may
split apart and new ones coalesce. What counts as a true generalizationunder one
construal may prove false under another. That ought to provoke discomfort. And
typological discomfort is thus a valid reaction to the nature of our work. But in the
face of it, we must hold our nerve. A faulty response to typological discomfort would
be to capitulate, to believe that we cannot tolerate this burden any longer, and thus to
492 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
settle immediately on an answer, any answer, calling for all domains, dimensions,
categories and scales to be frozen in place. Such a response, however, will not solve
the essential problems that generate the abundance of choice that is provoking our
unease; rather at best, it seeks to remove them from immediate view. Instead, a
scientific, typological response is to seek out productive and critical debates about
the options that currently appear to be open to us, to enable us to gradually discover
which options generatethe greatest insight and appear to map most securely onto the
diversity of the worlds languages.
In the remainder of the paper we discuss elements in what we regard as a
toolkit for enumerating and evaluating the options that present themselves to us in
typological research. As a prelude to that discussion, we have emphasized that
much core scientific work in linguistics will consist in proposing and evaluating
multiple conceivable ways of dividing up dimensions of linguistic variation, in
identifying the dimensions themselves and considering their many alternatives,
and in reevaluating the outer limits of domains.
1.2 The productive comparison of scientific proposals
Linguistic studies do not unfold ex nihilo. Consequently, and especially given the
typological nature of the eld, progress will be made when we are best able to
lucidly compare the results of competing typological studies, so as to derive
evaluations of them that can lead to further improvement. Paul F. Lazarsfelds
(1937) Some Remarks on the Typological Procedures in Social Research was a seminal
paper on the typological methodology of doing just this, and we begin with the
central insights it contained.
Beyond describing and bringing order to what has already been observed, a
typology a scientific parcelling out of some domain space should serve us by
accomplishing two things. It should enable new observations to be placed
coherently within it; and it should help us understand not merely the set of
extant data points, but also the broader domain in which those data exist. As a
method for ensuring that a typology, T, meets these desiderata, Lazarsfeld (1937)
proposed a process he termed substruction. Substruction entails taking a ty-
pology, a parcelling of a domain into certain dimensions, and relating its di-
mensions to the underlying attributesofthedomain.Forexample,wemight
4A complementary endeavour will be synthesizing work, that pursues dimensions which seem to
recur across multiple domains (a classic case would be the Animacy Hierarchy, e.g. Corbett 2000:
5488). These recurring dimensions help us relate domains themselves to one another, and
suggest paths to potential integration and unication.
Comparability and measurement 493
have typologized the inherent sonority of phonetic segments in terms of their
overallspectralenergy(Parker 2008). But while overall spectral energy is the
dimension we have chosen, the space of phonetic segments has many more
attributes: articulatory, perceptual, other acoustic attributes, including attri-
butes that are more specic such as spectral energy in the range of 500
5,000 Hz. We may then have divided segments into four classes, ordered by
energy level, whereas the nature of the underlying attribute (spectral energy)
would also have allowed for the use of other discrete divisions, or a continuous
scale, though it would not have lent itself, for example, to the use of four un-
ordered categories. Substruction involves declaring that in parcelling out a
domain into a series of dimensions, a typology T has utilized certain possible
attributes and not others, and has divided them in some fashion, but not others.
For the mundane progress of science, this task can be deeply useful, as it
explicitly illuminates one of the central sets of reasons why two typologies T and
U may differ, even in cases where the demarcation of their domain and their
observational dataset are identical. And, by requiring that dimensions be
related to attributes, substruction not only documents the fact that certain
methodological decisions were made, but assists in articulating their signi-
cance (Lazarsfeld 1937: 133). For example, if three typologies of sonority produce
different results, we would like to know the signicance of the difference.
Substruction may clarify that the rst two differ only in setting different
boundaries for certain acoustic measurements whereas the third also refers to
articulation, thus the rst two typologies appear merely to be operationalized
differently, while typology number three is likely to be examining a different
conceptualization of sonority.
Substruction also involves taking the parcelling out of a domain attribute by
typology T, and relating that to the full, conceivable extent of the attribute. It
asks, do the parcels properly exhaust the conceivable variation in the attribute?
Dotheparcelsoverlap?Iftheparcelling out of the space by typology T is non-
exhaustive, then even if all points in the current dataset are covered, T may find
new data unassignable. Conversely, if categoriesinTareoverlapping,theneven
if all points in the current dataset have been uniquely assigned by it, new data
may fall into a contradictory zone and be ambiguous (Lazarsfeld 1937:133). For
example, in a phonetic typology, suppose we have posited a sonorantcategory,
whose members have prominent periodic harmonic energy, and a fricative
category, whose members have prominent higher-frequency aperiodic energy.
This typology may work awlessly for the rst several hundred languages.
However, critical attention to the underlying acoustic attributes would indicate
that it should also be possible for a segment to have both kinds of energy, and
indeed there are languages, such as Central Lisu (lis, Tabain et al. 2019) with
494 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
contrastive fricative vowels (Ladefoged and Maddieson 1990). Exactly how we
should adjust the typology to categorize them is an open question; but it is the
kind of question that substruction leads us to notice well before we happen upon
a language that dees our categories. For typologists currently crafting a ty-
pology, substruction can thus offer immediate practical assistance by aiding the
identication of such problems pre-emptively.
In scienticdebatesonthe
relative merits of typologies T and U, it can help clarify the substance of the
differences between the typologies, and hence why they give different results
and what those differences tell us. As we remarked above, such scienticde-
bates can appear in the guise of debates over denitions, terminology or inter-
pretation, but essentially they are about typologies. Since these debates make an
essential contribution to the advancement of typological science, we gain no
long-term benet by avoiding them or shutting them off prematurely, but rather
when they are accompanied by meticulous substruction, we may reasonably
expect them to unfold and conclude with more clarity, and more rapidly and
Substruction reveals insights not only about typologies, but about domains
themselves. By demanding that a typology T be related to the underlying attributes
of a domain, the substructive process requires us to state and justify, to ourselves
and scientific peers, our beliefs about what those attributes are and how far they
5A referee asks how it is possible to know pre-emptively whether some typology avoids these
problems. We answer that substruction can aid us to do so but naturally, however hard we try, the
linguistic data may prove yet more interesting than we imagined. If it is, our method can cope with
that. Indeed, if we have used substruction in this way, then it tells us something about how
remarkable the new data is, if it does not t into our typology. For example, Corbett (2015)
establishes a typology of inectional phenomena, in terms of the ways in which lexemes can be
split. Four criteria were justied, each with two possibilities; since the four criteria are orthogonal,
there are in principle 16 possible combinations. The 16-member typology proved remarkably
complete, with evidence for all possibilities occurring. Furthermore, it was suggested that the four
criteria did not just sample the theoretical space but exhausted it, and arguments were given that
could be taken as a substruction (2015: 177178). The typology seemed secure, being complete,
with the logic of its construction spelled out. A version was presented in Canberra, in November
2016. A year later, having heard that account, Don Daniels suggested that he had found data in the
tense system of the Papuan language Soq (mdc), which seemed not to t. This was not a simple gap
in the combinatoric possibilities of the criteria previously established, but an entirely new
dimension of variation. After careful analysis of repartitioning, as evidenced by Soq tense, a new,
extended typology was proposed (Daniels and Corbett 2019: 734742). This typology has several
empty cells, raising again the issue of what is possible. In sum, the original typology seemed
secure, and though substruction was used to check for gaps, the Soq phenomenon did not t, and
is indeed remarkable; prior to observing it we would not have considered it possible. We cannot be
entirely sure pre-emptively that our typologies will be problem-free, but by using a substructive
approach, our typologies should be well suited to bringing such phenomena to light.
Comparability and measurement 495
conceivably extend. Doing so may reveal, for example, that two typologists agree
on the underlying attributes of a domain, but have built the dimensions of their
typologies differently (as in our first two sonority typologies); or it may reveal a
disagreement over the assumptions about the attributes themselves (as in the
example, above, of sonority typology number three versus the other two). Explicit
statements about underlying attributes can also generate useful empirical hy-
potheses about data points that may exist but have not yet been observed. Lacunae
in our current observations may become obvious once we clearly characterize the
attribute space of the domain (Lazarsfeld 1937: 133136). Characterizing the full
conceivable extent of an attribute may suggest that even more extreme data points
could exist beyond what has been observed so far. The upshot is that even in the
absence of an explanatory theory of why we have observed what we have, sub-
struction enables us to clarify our beliefs about the potential empirical context of
those observations, and it reveals testable empirical hypotheses about what is yet
to be observed.
1.3 The conceivable, the possible, and explanatory linguistic
At several points we have mentioned the comparison of typologies and observations
on the one hand, with the conceivable extent of an attribute on the other. A
distinction can be made between the conceivable and the possible.
Take, for
example, a language in which every nominal lexeme has thousands of inected word
forms, every one of which is a bare, suppletive stem; such a language is conceivable,
but probably not possible. A language which has a full expressive capacity, but all of
whose lexemes have just one, shared form /ta/, is not conceivable. The question of
what is conceivable is logically prior to the question of what is actually possible. And
frequently, while it is relatively simple todelineatewhat is conceivable, the question
of what is possible may be one whose answeris unknown; it is likely tobe determined
by any number of complicating factors, many of which are poorly understood.
Nevertheless, possibility is something ofkeen interest: after all, the ultimate question
of linguistic science is not what is a conceivable language?,butwhat is a possible
language, and why?The path toan explanatory theory of possible languages runs in
large part along the empty gap between what is conceivable and what is observed. By
considering what is conceivable yet unattested, we are prompted to formulate test-
able theories that explain the gap. Thus we emphasize the important role of the
6For an extended and instructive discussion see Dennett (1996: 103107); for a generative
perspective on possible and probable languages, see Newmeyer (2005).
496 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
conceivable, and the contribution to scientic knowledge that comes from consid-
ering domain attributes not only in terms of observed traits, but also their conceiv-
able extents. More generally, we have attempted to convey the manner in which
substruction facilitates the path from questions of what are the dimensions of
variation?,towhat is the conceivable variation?,towhat is possible, and why,
while concomitantly providing tools for comparing and evaluating the variety of
answers that our discipline collectively proposes a variety which a typologicaleld
such as linguistics inherently needs.
1.4 Grammar writing as a typological undertaking
Analysing the grammar of a single language, just like doing cross-linguistic ty-
pology, demands a typological method, in the sense we introduced at the start of
Section 1, not a classicational one. Dimensions of variation are generally not self-
evident but need to be identied, while a selection needs to be made among
competing possible characterizations. Unlike cross-linguistic typology, the data-
base for a single grammar is dominated by just one language, though in reality,
considerations from nearby and related languages frequently play a role, as will
broader cross-linguistic generalizations (see Evans and Dench 2006). The result is that
language-particular categories theparcelling-outofthespaceofvariationinone
languages forms and functions can be highly language-specic.Atthesametime,
the attributes that underlie that space are often shared across languages. Conse-
quently, the variation found in the grammar of one language can often be related
meaningfully to cross-linguistic typologies, especially when the comparison is framed
in relation to underlying attributes, of the kind that are identied during substruction.
1.5 Comparison
As in any science, one of the greatest sources of knowledge in linguistics is
comparison. Through comparisons we find similarities and differences, and pat-
terns among them that suggest explanatory forces that shape language. Earlier we
mentioned the dimensions of typologies and attributes of a domain. A first step
toward discovering possible dimensions and attributes is to compare two objects
in a domain and ask in what manners they differ. Each manner, or axis, of vari-
ation may suggest a dimension or attribute. To find patterns, we compare com-
parisons. Doing so is aided by having a set of typological dimensions at hand.
However, if our research is still at the early point of teasing out typological di-
mensions, then a useful stand-in is a point of reference. Points of reference are
Comparability and measurement 497
tools of scientific inquiry used in both typological and classificational fields. They
enable all other objects in a domain to be compared back to the same origin.
Gaining an overview of how all those objects compare against the point of refer-
ence is a specially powerful resource in typological fields when the task underway
still involves sorting out dimensions and attributes. Consequently, it makes sense
to ask what kinds of points of reference are available, and what their affordances
and limitations are. Here we briefly distinguish between three classic kinds of
point of reference: standards, sample summaries, and idealizations. We then add
one additional concept, a canon.
Standards are real-world properties or objects within a domain (Lazarsfeld
1937: 122126). For example, one hundred degrees Celsius is a standard, dened as
the temperature at which water boils; and for over a century, one metre was the
length of a specic bar of platinum housed in the Archives nationales in Paris.
Other properties and objects can then be compared to these real-world standards.
Standards are useful for the task of comparison, but they have drawbacks. Two
main drawbacks of standards arise due to the inevitable complexity of the real
world from which any standard is drawn. First, a real-world standard may vary
according to its context. One hundred Celsius is dened not only as the temperature at
which water boils, but specically water at an atmospheric pressure of one Standard
Atmosphere and with the isotopic composition of Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water.
Due to the potential for real-world contexts to vary, the successful denition of one
standardmayrelyonitscontexthavingpreviously been pinned down by the successful
denition of yet other standards, making the initial establishment of standards
potentially difcult. Second, real-world standards will have very many properties
which are irrelevant to their status as a standard. A piece of string is compared to the
platinum bar in the Archives nationales not in terms of its colour, stiffness, cost, smell
or weight, but in terms of its length. Length, though, is a well-recognized and under-
stood attribute, so at least we can be fairly certain what characteristic we want to
compare. In typological elds, it can be much harder to prescribe precisely which traits
of a real-world standard are intended to be relevant.
Standards, therefore, come with
the attendant ambiguities and difculties of ostensive denitions.
Sample summaries are abstractions over many real-world objects. They
include averages, but also more complex notions like prototypes and stereotypes.
7For example, a classic case of measurement based on standards is Mohs scale of mineral
hardness, which employs no fewer than 10 standards, such as talc, quartz and diamond. To place a
mineral on the scale, one scratches it against the standard minerals, and the harder one of the two
scratches the softer. This is feasible for minerals in large part because it is uncontentious what
talc,quartzand diamondare; they are not changing over time; and both the performance and
interpretation of the scratch test are easy and clear. In most typological domains however, such
ease and clarity are lacking, and for that reason the use of standards is more fraught.
498 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
While everyday human cognition may make signicant use of prototypes and
stereotypes (Levinson 2000; Rosch 1978), their utility as scientic points of refer-
ence is hampered by their instability.
The properties of sample summaries derive
from properties of a particular empirical sample. If the empirical sample changes,
for example, as we acquire a more complete understanding of linguistic diversity,
then the summaries will change also. Naturally, one might freeze the sample, in
effect creating a standard out of it, but this returns us to the problems of standards.
Idealizations have a long history of utility in science, from the frictionless plane, to
absolute zero temperature, to the rational economic actor. The utility of idealizations in
typological elds was rst emphasized in detail a century ago by Max Weber ([1904]
1949). Idealizations avoid the messiness of the real world, while retaining the ability to
be compared to real-world objects. One type of idealization is the logical extreme. A
commonly encountered logical extreme is the complete absence of a property, such as
friction in physics, or voicing in linguistics. Whether or not such an absence is actually
instantiated in any real-world objects is immaterial; the utility of logical extremes is that
they mark a xed, hard limit to the conceivable variation in some attribute. This is not to
say that idealizations are easily come by, or that all imaginable idealizations are equally
useful (Rudner 1966: 5463). The extreme idealization of absolute zero received
acceptance only after centuries of related progress in thermodynamics (Wisniak 2005).
And while a hyperspace drive is also an idealization, it is an idealization whose utility to
science is unclear at best. Useful idealizations need not be extremes, but can also build
exactly one argument, or a morphosyntactic property with exactly one phonological
exponent (see further in Section 2.3). These notions may in fact be instantiated in the real
world, but they are not standards: their denition does not hinge upon which specic
electron, or verb or morphosyntactic property is being referred to, but upon the fact that
there is precisely one of them. It would be mistaken to claim that idealizations are a
8A reviewer comments that surely the most useful aspect of picking out a point of reference is to
measure typicality, which raises the crucial distinction between the establishment of a measure
and the subsequent use of it. If we were establishing a measure to describe the average height of
adult women, it would be a poor choice to set the zeroreference point as equal to the average itself
and then measure individuals relative to that. Why? Because zerowould then move as the
population itself changes (zeroin 1960 would not equal zerotoday), or even as our information
about the same population changed. Instead, a general measure of height is established relative to
the logical extreme point of 0 cm. Having established it there, we can then use it to characterize the
height of individuals, and if we choose, to summarize those measurements into statements about
typicality (see also fn.23). (One might counter, that IQ is dened in terms of the populations mean
performance on a certain test, and so is exactly like our example of mean womens height, but in
measurement theory IQ is criticised for having precisely that property: [t]his form of character-
ization makes knowledge accumulation difcult, since by denition no other procedure can be
used to measure the same quantity(Cartwright and Bradburn 2011: 56)).
Comparability and measurement 499
panaceacometocureallofthedifculties of comparison, or that ndinggoodideali-
zations is without its challenges. For example, the extent to which a unit-idealization is
useful may depend on the clarity of the denition of the unit. However, idealizations
bring with them certain inherent advantages over standards and sample summaries.
In our discussion of points of reference, we have now considered standards,
summaries and idealizations. We conclude this section of the paper with the
additional notion of a canon.
Canons are composites of multiple points of reference. For instance, the canon for
an agreement system would make reference to agreement controllers, targets, and so
on. Because a single canon contains multiple points of reference, each associated with
an axis of variation, it enables us to compare objects within our domain along multiple
dimensions at once. In Section 2 we provide an example of how canons can be used in
practice. One might wonder why canons are necessary, over and above the individual
reference points they subsume. The reason is that in linguistics most of the objects of
interest to us are multidimensional. They vary along multiple axes, all of which we
would ideally like to measure. Canons help us do that by gathering together a coherent
set of dimensions and reference points that are relevant for a domain of interest. By
design, canons are not created to replace existing concepts in linguistic typology.
Instead, they enable one to relate existing knowledge, or disputes,
to a set of di-
mensions that facilitates unambiguous empirical comparison; canons thus promote
thekindofproductivedebateoverimportanttypological matters which substruction
enables. Accordingly, a canon will typically correspond to a set of dimensions that the
eld has discussed previously, while standing ready for revision and expansion as
required (Evans et al. 2018a, 2018b, especially 2018b). Canons therefore enable a quick,
coherent entry into the kind of rigorous typologizing advocated above, and they
facilitate productive engagement with existing debates in the eld. Typological do-
mains which have been successfully examined in this way include agreement, nega-
tion, quotation, reality status, niteness, tone, stress and phonaesthemes.
9As Nikolaeva (2013: 100) emphasizes, [t]he canonical approach breaks down complex concepts
in a way that claries where disagreements may lie between different linguists and theoretical
frameworks; see also Kwon and Round (2015).
10 Sources include, just as examples: agreement (Corbett 2006), tone and stress (Hyman 2012),
negation (Bond 2013), quotation (Evans 2013), niteness (Nikolaeva 2013), reality status (Michael
2014), inection (Corbett 2015), phonaesthemes (Kwon and Round 2015), gender (Corbett and
Fedden 2016), morphological complexity (Stump 2017), concurrent feature systems (Round and
Corbett 2017; Fedden and Corbett 2017), overabundance (Thornton 2019), compounding (Spencer
2019). Canons prove useful in the analysis of signed languages too (Cormier et al. 2013). For a
recent overview, concentrating on morphology, see Bond (2019), and for further examples of the
value of canons see the bibliography at:
500 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
make reference to the conceivable extents of dimensions; this means that when ob-
servations from the real world are compared to them the results are capable of readily
suggesting empirical hypotheses about as-yet unobserved linguistic systems. A char-
acteristic of existing work in canonical typology is the following up of these leads, to
more fully reveal the extent of observable typological variation (Aronoff 2019: 138;
Nichols 2019).
1.6 Canons, typologies and explanatory theories
The core points of Section 1 can be summarized by contrasting the notion of a
canon (Section 1.5) with two other pillars of linguistic methodology: typologies
and explanatory theories. A canon is not a typology. Inherently, it is not even a
category in a typology (though a multidimensional typology under some cir-
cumstances may end up containing a category that matches the canon, just as a
unidimensional typology may contain a point that matches a single reference
point). Rather, a canon is a methodological device. It is a set of reference
points, which aids us in making multidimensional comparisons; this helps us
to uncover the underlying attributes of a domain space, and can assist us in
selecting dimensions for a typology. A canon can serve as an aid to sub-
struction, by requiring the typologist to identify multiple attributes, and to nd
reference points such as idealized extremes. A canon can be formulated so as to
stand in correspondence to existing knowledge, and thus ensure our typolo-
gizing engages with it. A canon is not an explanatory theory. It does not
attempt to explain why languages are the way they are, rather it is an aid for a
rigorous mode of comparing and organizing empirical data, which can lead
to empirical hypotheses and if it employs idealizations as its reference
points to the identication of gaps between what is conceivable and what is
observed. Appreciation of those gaps provides the basis that can lead us from
observation to explanation.
1.7 A note on standardization
Standardization is the collective sociological agreement within a community of
practitioners to use methods and terminology similarly. By assisting a commu-
nity to all pull in the same direction, standardization can improve the effec-
tiveness of communication and the transparency of scientific results. In this
way, linguists can now profit from several sets of standardized abbreviations,
Comparability and measurement 501
symbols and data formats.
However, the benets of all pulling in the same
direction depend upon the direction one is pulling in. Whereas abbreviations
and formatting are well suited to effective standardization, the standardization
of typological domains and dimensions raises a raft of challenges.
Here we
focus on one. A deliberate emphasis of this paper is that typically in linguistics
we are still attempting to understand the very nature of the phenomena we are
investigating, and are routinely discovering new ways in which they vary (Evans
and Levinson 2009). In terms of domains and dimensions, every new research
project is likely to turn up new directions in which we collectively might decide
to pull. In such circumstances, barring extremely good luck, it is reasonable to
expect that most standardized denitions and metrics, if they were agreed upon,
would soon become obsolete for most purposes. Standardization offers rigidity,
which in the right circumstances can be helpful, but at the current stage of
linguistic research, for most tasks we need agility. Accordingly, here we have
chosen to concentrate on how linguists can best harness that agility to meet the
challenge of understanding linguistic diversity.
2 Measurement for comparison, within and
across languages
Let us now apply the ideas of Section 1, and also narrow our focus from the general
notion of comparison to the specic role of measurement. In Section 2, we illustrate
what measurement can look like in linguistics, and examine how it works and what
it does for us. Given one recent debate in typology (Haspelmath 2010; Newmeyer
2010), it is notable that our approach to measurement allows one to conduct
comparisons equally well within languages and between them, and even to
compare within-language variation directly to cross-linguistic variation. This fol-
lows from an approach in which we measure the variability, say, of the length of
11 The Leipzig glossing rules provide a list of standardized abbreviations (though not denitions)
for widely-used concepts in morphosyntax (Comrie et al. 2008). ISO 639-3 (
code_tables/639/data) and Glottolog (Hammarström et al. 2019) provide distinct codes for lan-
guages. Corbett (2013) provides conventions for setting out morphological paradigms. A move
towards the harmonization of journal stylesheets can be found at
lingua/pdf/GenericStyleRules.pdf. And Forkel et al. (2018) is a proposal for standardized linguistic
datasets in digital form.
12 See also Simpson (1999) for problems that can arise for typology when a standardized menu of
labels (the International Phonetic Alphabet (International Phonetic Association 1999)), is mis-
construed as a cross-linguistic standardization of the diverse, language-specic labelled objects
themselves (i.e. phonemes).
502 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
vowels, or the range of the genitive case value, using carefully dened criteria
(Corbett 2012), a notion which corresponds directly to the dimensionsmentioned
in Section 1. We employ these criteria similarly when comparing the idiolects of
two Russian speakers, when comparing older speakers with younger speakers,
Russian speakers with Polish speakers, and Polish speakers with Archi or Bezhta
speakers. The reason why this is even feasible is that the underlying attributes,
which permit variation both within and across languages, are the same, and our
criteria (or dimensions) have been constructed carefully so as to reect those
shared attributes. Now, one could construct language-internal dimensions in such
a way that they fail to generalize cross-linguistically, but it would be a logical error
to conclude from this fact, that all dimensions which function within one language
will necessarily fail to generalize cross-linguistically. Below we illustrate several
dimensions that generalize perfectly well. For linguistic typologists, this is
heartening news, since it indicates that multi-purpose typological dimensions can
indeed be established without insurmountable difculties, provided we under-
stand that this is what we want to aim for.
The second point we emphasize in Section 2 is the value of setting up mea-
surements so as to operate along a scale. To use an analogy with the measurement
of temperature, once we carefully establish scales of measurement, which corre-
spond to the extents of our typological dimensions, then we are no longer conned
to labelling our objects of study as just hot thingsor cold things(as if the world
were that simple); rather we can explore their ner-grained nature, compare it
accurately, and report it in detail to our peers. Desirable consequences follow.
Variability and empirical uncertainty become easier to characterize, and so can be
incorporated into our analyses, rather than factored out of them (see Round 2017
for discussion). And as we measure more carefully, additional analytical tools
become available to us, as we participate increasingly fully in mainstream (social)
science (Bickel 2015). Thus, in our view linguistics is similar enough to allied elds
that in order to make comparisons we do not need exceptional devices, but we
do need to measure.
2.1 Why measure and how
A great name in measurement is Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (16861736); he tends to
be remembered for a quaint temperature scale, yet his real achievement was truly
significant. He stunned the world by making a pair of thermometers that both
gave the same reading(Lienhard 2000: 162, and see Grigull 1986 for an assess-
ment of Fahrenheits stature). Before Fahrenheit, two researchers could not know
they had comparable readings in terms of temperature. So Fahrenheit should be
Comparability and measurement 503
remembered for making measurement possible in a particular domain. To compare
we need to be able to measure different things, even when they are not in the same
place, the same laboratory or indeed the same language. And crucially we need to
get the same results.
At the same time, we should note issues with Fahrenheits scale, which also
prove instructive here. Fahrenheit based his scale on the temperature of freezing
brine (his zero), freezing water and the human body (not quite accurately at 96
degrees), but since objects can and do reach temperatures even colder than
freezing brine, the effect is to place zeroat an artificial, non-extreme centre. The
scale then extends outwards on both sides of zero, with positive and negative
values. In typology we sometimes make the same mistake, giving undue signifi-
cance to particular, salient points, by placing them at the centre of our scale and
measuring on both sides. Instead, for reasons discussed in Section 1.5, we would
do best to anchor our scales at idealized extremes, as Kelvin notably did with his
temperature scale anchored at the lowest possible thermodynamic temperature,
absolute zero.
2.2 Measuring the Russian genitive
What could we measure in the few pages allowed here? We will use measurement
to answer (in small part only) two searching questions due to Andrey Kolmo-
What exactly do we mean when we say that two words are in the same case?
How many cases does the Russian language possess?
These are great questions, put to linguists in 1956, by a mathematician (he is
famous for Kolmogorov complexity).
Let us take one of the easier parts,
13 Some may think we should not measure, but should stick with our intuitions. Other disciplines
have faced similar challenges, and the result has been that: Gradually, however, each such
objection has fallen to the inexorable march of measurement. The defeats have not come about
through careful arguments convincing the doubters, but simply because of what could be achieved
through measurement.(Hand 2016: 115)
14 They were keynote questions put to a seminar on mathematical methods in linguistics, which
began in September 1956 at the Philological Faculty of Moscow University; Kolmogorov was not
himself present. See van Helden (1993: 138) for an account and an analysis of the signicance of the
Set-theoretical School, which resulted from the seminar. Various researchers have attempted to
answer Kolmogorovs questions; see Corbett (2012: 200222) for sources and a new attempt; the
answer to the second question lies between 6 and 10 and is probably not a whole number.
504 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
concerning the case values of Russian. It is regularly stated that Russian has a
genitive, one which ts typical denitions.
Examples of the Russian genitive are
easy to nd:
(1) knig-a otc-a
book-SG.NOM father-SG.GEN
fathers book
What is there to measure here? Our simple example already shows that given an -a
inection, we do not know that we have a genitive. Although -a is indeed a genitive
marker, it is not uniquely genitive: see the rst noun kniga book, where the -a
signals something else (a nominative). Moreover, the genitive is not always real-
ized as -a:
(2) knig-a mater-i
book-SG.NOM mother-SG.GEN
mothers book
Even given a noun that does realize the genitive with -a, this -a may not be uniquely
(3) Ja viž-u otc-a
1SG see-1SG father-SG.ACC
I see father
From these observations, we might hypothesize that in Russian the genitive and
accusative are not distinct. But this is quickly dispelled, since for other nouns the
genitive and accusative are distinct (compare (4) with (2) above):
(4) Ja viž-u mat´
1SG see-1SG mother[SG.ACC]
I see mother
15 First, a general denition: Case whose basic role is to mark nouns or noun phrases which are
dependents of another noun(Matthews 1997: 144). And in a grammar of Russian: Possessors that
are nouns are expressed in the genitive, and are placed after the possessed noun (Timberlake
2004: 205). Timberlake expands this with: As has long been observed, possession should be
understood very broadly, .(2004: 206). For recent discussion of the denition of genitive see
Lander (2009); for other adnominal case values, notably the proprietive, see Dench and Evans
(1988); and for helpful discussion of the terminology of case more widely see Haspelmath (2009).
Comparability and measurement 505
Already it appears that we have a genitive, as the tradition has it. However, when
we recall Kolmogorovs first question and apply it to the genitive (asking what it
means to say that different words are in the genitive), we find there are in fact many
factors in play, all at once. This situation arises often in linguistics and other
typological disciplines and so it is valuable to have an approach that allows us to
proceed methodically.
2.3 A dimension of comparison, and an extreme point of
There is indeed something to be investigated here, and most likely something
multidimensional, so what dimension should we measure first? And what would
be our zero, the extreme end point of the dimension, from which we measure? In
Section 1.1 we mentioned that the attributes that underlie typological dimensions
are sometimes shared by multiple domains, noting that in instances where they
are, it may be possible to synthesize typological results across those domains.
Conversely though, shared attributes can also give us a head start when looking at
new domains. So, is there a canonical domain, previously investigated, from which
we might borrow a dimension to assist us in measuring the genitive? There is. A
useful canon is the canon for inectional feature values (Corbett 2015: 149158;
Stump 2017). In the extreme, idealized, canonical world, a case value (indeed any
feature value) shows a unique mapping, from form to (grammatical) meaning and
from meaning to form. Specically:
one form one meaning: -a (or whatever) realizes genitive only
one meaning one form: genitive is realized by -a only
We are not saying that the real world should match the canonical idealization,
any more than that objects shouldhave zero length and be at 0 K. We are
establishing points to measure from. As Stump nicely describes it, an inectional
paradigm that is canonical is like the winter solstice a well-dened seasonal
extreme relative to which a years 364 other days can be calendrically compared,
but by no means the most common or the most typical of days(2016: 103). What
we are saying is that we establish a canon to measure from, which is preferable to
measuring arbitrarily and ambiguously from the situation in Standard Average
506 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
European, or from a prototype established in an individual language or set of
How does the Russian genitive measure up against this canon? Let us look at
the fuller picture in Table 1.
Table 1 illustrates the inectional behaviour of three different classes of
Russian nouns. We see that neither otec fathernor mat´ motherhas a unique
genitive form. However, there are nouns like žurnal magazine, which have
forms unique to the genitive both in the singular and the plural. Consider now
Table :Russian nouns illustrating the inectional status of the genitive.
NOMINATIVE otec otcy mat´ materi žurnal žurnaly
ACCUSATIVE otca otcov mat´ materej žurnal žurnaly
GENITIVE otca otcov materi materej žurnala žurnalov
DATIVE otcu otcam materi materjam žurnalu žurnalam
INSTRUMENTAL otcom otcami mater´ju materjami žurnalom žurnalami
LOCATIVE otce otcax materi materjax žurnale žurnalax
16 Mel´čuk has pressed for conceptual and terminological clarity. We have learnt from his work,
but we part company over his orientation towards prototypical cases(2006: 175177). This move
is intended to maintain sensible use of terms. However, while prototypes may be appropriate for
speakers, they are less good for analysts; they encourage us to see less prototypical instances in
terms of the prototype (as we suggested in Section 1.5).
As an example, consider inectional classes. We might consider Latin, Spanish or Russian as
providing the prototype here. Indeed, discussion in the literature has focussed on such proto-
typical systems, with their familiar clustering of properties. Contrast that with a canonical de-
nition which takes the essential characteristics of inectional classes to their logical end point.
There are two principles: rst distinctiveness:Canonical inectional classes are fully comparable
and are distinguished as clearly as is possible; and second independence:The distribution of
lexical items over canonical inectional classes is synchronically unmotivated. The principles are
spelled out in a set of more specic criteria. One might reasonably assume, as we did, that no clear
case of canonical inectional classes would exist; rather they would remain an unrealized
idealization. The next stage would be to look for reasons why such systems cannot exist.
But it turns out that they can. Burmeso (bzu, Donohue 2001, discussed in Corbett 2009) is an
almost perfect example of canonical inectional classes. For instance, Burmeso verbs have two
inectional classes and absolutely no forms are shared between them. Thus our approach leads to
better results: we do not see Burmeso through the lens of prototypical Latin inectional classes. We
start from a more abstract measure. We recognize the special interest of Burmeso. And we can ask
why such systems are rarer than that of Latin.
Comparability and measurement 507
what this means for the question of whether or not any two given nouns in
Russian are in the same case (and in particular, whether or not they are both in
the genitive). We might propose, looking at just the forms in Table 1, that only
certain Russian nouns, like žurnal, truly have a genitive at all, while otec father
and mat´ mothersimply lack one. The claim would be, that in the syntactic
situations where žurnal appears in the genitive, otec and mat´ appear in some
other case. However, the serious problems caused by this kind of analysis are
well established and we will not rehearse them here (see Zaliznjak 1973 or Blake
1994: 2023 for the arguments). Rather, following the denition of our domain,
we wish to analyse syntactically equivalent dependents of another nounas
standing in the equivalent case to one another (the genitive); this holds even
when their morphology is ambiguous. All nouns have a genitive, irrespective of
morphological differences such as those between otec,mat´ and žurnal. Even so,
while the statement that all Russian nouns have a genitive is true, this is not the
whole picture. Many nouns do not have a unique genitive form. And whether
they do or do not is something we can measure, noun by noun. Given Zalizn-
jaks (1977) grammatical dictionary of Russian, we nd that of the 37,678 nouns
included, as many as 24% lack a unique genitive form, even when stress al-
ternations as well as segmental phonology are taken into account (thanks to
Dunstan Brown for this calculation). This is perhaps not what the reader ex-
pects, having learnt previously from grammatical descriptions that Russian has
a genitiveamong its case values; this new characterization, thanks to mea-
surement, is more precise.
We now present these initial data graphically (Figure 1). In this instance, it
makes sense to express our measure numerically as a proportion, with values
between zero and one. As a convention, we place the canonical value at zero,
which in this instance means that maximally non-canonical corresponds to 1. (This
Figure 1: Formally unique genitive: measuring within Russian. Zero is canonical. Here,
maximally non-canonical is 1.
508 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
will not always be the case. Other measures could equally well extend outwards
from zero with no upper limit, while yet others could be categorical, for example
splitting observations simply into canonicalversus noncanonical: see Figures 4
and 6 below.)
In Figure 1, the result would be the canonical zero if every Russian noun
were like žurnal magazine, in having a unique genitive; it would be non-
canonical 1, if all were like otec father,andmat´ motherin lacking a unique
genitive. Counting across the noun lexicon shows that some 24% do not have a
unique genitive, that is, we are .24 of the way from canonical towards non-
2.4 Comparison by measuring relative to the canon, both
cross-linguistically and internally
Now let us contrast Russian with the noun paradigm of the Dagestanian language
Archi (aqc) in Table 2; we omit the many spatial case values (see Chumakina et al.
2007: vi, and sources there).
Table :Archi cases (non-spatial).
ABSOLUTIVE baˤkbaˤk-ur
ERGATIVE beˤk-iri baˤk-ur-čaj
GENITIVE beˤk-iri-n baˤk-ur-če-n
DATIVE beˤk-iri-s baˤk-ur-če-s
COMITATIVE beˤk-iri-ɬːubaˤk-ur-če-ɬːu
SIMILATIVE beˤk-iri-qˤdi baˤk-ur-če-qˤdi
CAUSAL beˤk-iri-šːibaˤk-ur-če-šːi
COMPARATIVE beˤk-iri-χur baˤk-ur-če-χur
PARTITIVE beˤk-iri-qˤišbaˤk-ur-če-qˤiš
SUBSTITUTIVE beˤk-iri-kɬena baˤk-ur-če-kɬena
17 We have restricted the measure here to canonical (unique) versus non-canonical (not unique),
and then measured across the noun lexicon. But the method offers a ner-grained measure. As
Table 1 indicates, there is a further distinction that can be drawn between otec fatherand mat´
mother: the genitive of the former is syncretic with one other case value only (the accusative),
while the genitive of mat´ mothershows further syncretism, and so is less distinct. For simplicity,
we have stayed with the basic measure.
Comparability and measurement 509
First, -n is the marker of the genitive for every noun in Archi. This allows a clear
contrast with Russian (See Figure 2).
While we have concentrated on nouns, we should mention pronouns too. The
Archi pronouns also have unique forms for the genitive, but they are not identical
(that is, each pronoun has a distinct genitive form, but the marker is not
segmentally the same for all pronouns). We should compare the Russian pronouns
(See Table 3).
We see, perhaps surprisingly, that in Russian none of the personal pronouns
has a unique genitive form. Nevertheless, the distributional argument given above
means that we still recognize a genitive here. Returning to comparison, note that
Figure 2: Formally unique genitive: measuring Russian and Archi nouns.
Table :Russian personal pronouns.
NOMINATIVE ja my ty vy on ona ono oni
ACCUSATIVE menja nas tebja vas ego ee ego ix
GENITIVE menja nas tebja vas ego ee ego ix
DATIVE mne nam tebe vam emu ej emu im
INSTRUMENTAL mnoj nami toboj vami im ej/eju im imi
LOCATIVE mne nas tebe vas nemanej nem nix
aWhen directly governed by a preposition, third person pronouns take a prothetic n-. The locative is found only
when governed by a preposition, hence we include the n- for the locative.
510 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
we compare nouns and pronouns within Russian exactly as we compare between
Russian and Archi (See Figure 3).
2.5 Additional dimensions and their canonical extremes
Let us now bring in a second typological dimension along which we can measure
and compare the genitive. If we return to the Archi paradigm in Table 2, we see that
Archi marks the genitive uniformly across number: it is the same in the singular
and the plural. In Russian this is not the case. Thus, when viewed across the values
of orthogonal features (i.e. singular and plural number), the form-meaning map-
ping is clearly closer to unique in Archi than in Russian. In Figure 4 we show this in
Figure 3: Formally unique genitive: measuring Russian and Archi nouns and pronouns.
Figure 4: Formally unique genitive across features: measuring Russian and Archi nouns and
18 For recent instances of using canons for language-internal analysis see Kwon (2017) and
Menzel (2018).
Comparability and measurement 511
terms of a simple, categorical measure. It would also be possible to operationalize
the notion of unique across featuresin more ne-grained terms, but for reasons of
space, we will not do that here.
There is more to be measured. Let us switch from fathers book(as in (1)
above) to Dads book:
(5) knig-a pap-y (genitive)
book-SG.NOM Dad-SG.GEN
Dads book
(6) pap-in-a knig-a (possessive adjective)
Dads book
We see that in Russian, alongside the normal genitive in (5), there is an alternative:
in (6) we have a possessive adjective (which agrees in gender and number with the
head noun). This is another way in which the genitive of a language may be unique
or not. The noun papa Dadhas a competitor for the genitive slot, in the form of the
derived possessive adjective (Corbett 1995).
In other languages we are used to
seeing such competition, but more usually with pronouns. Thus for the dependent
of another noun, we are used to English my rather than of me, and similarly in
Russian we have: moja kniga my book, not *kniga menja book of me. But in (6)
we see that competition extends to nouns too (though it is limited as to where it can
occur; for instance, it is not readily available with all nouns, and it is restricted to
the singular of the possessor).
This competition reveals a distinct way in which the Russian genitive is not
unique. Thinking typologically, it suggests another distinct dimension along
which we can attempt to observe variation and a corresponding, distinct type of
measurement. This is fine; physicists do not use only temperature after all. In order
to measure this second kind of uniqueness along a scale, we can count the ex-
amples of possessive adjectives in use, as opposed to the genitive. Fortunately
there are statistics both for Russian, and for some of the related Slavonic lan-
guages, allowing us to relate to a limited cross-linguistic typology (Section 1.4).
These statistics are not as detailed as we might hope, but they show something of
the range of variation. Ivanova (1976: 910) gives gures based on contemporary
literature, criticism and journalism. For each language investigated she examined
19 A rich and extensive survey of the strategies of adnominal possession in the languages of
Europe is provided by Koptjevskaja-Tamm (2003), Nikolaeva and Spencer (2013), and Spencer
(2013: 348356) offer a recent insightful discussion of possession and modication, laying out the
possibilities in a typologically diverse range of languages.
512 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
1,000 pages (counting 2,000 characters as a page). She gives the approximate
frequencies of use of the possessive adjective,
expressed as a percentage of the
total instances of the possessive adjective and of the genitive (without preposition)
in the rst column of Table 4. These gures furnish us with measurements that
illustrate the difference in the balance of the competition between genitive and
possessive adjective in related languages (bear in mind that in some instances the
possessive adjective would be excluded by the restrictions discussed above).
Looking first at the Russian figure of 10% we see that overall the normal
genitive (as in (5) above) is much more frequent than the possessive adjective (6).
However, there is considerable variation within the family, with the South Slavonic
languages favouring the possessive adjective. Ivanova (1975: 151) provides more
useful gures, in that she counted just those instances where the use of the pos-
sessive adjective is theoretically possible (for a singular referent, with no modier
in the corresponding genitive phrase,
and not expressed by an adjectival
noun which could not form a possessive adjective). These data are given in
column 2 of Table 4. Naturally, the possessive adjective achieves a higher fre-
quency under these conditions, but the differences between the languages
investigated are equally clear. They are summarized in Figure 5, where the ca-
nonical situation for the genitive is that it is the unique possibility.
Table :Frequency of use of the possessive adjective.
Overall In situations of choice only
East Slavonic
Russian (rus) %%
Belarusian (bel) %%
Ukrainian (ukr) %%
South Slavonic
Slovene (slv) %%
Serbo-Croat (hbs) %%
West Slavonic
Polish (pol) %%
Czech (ces) %%
Slovak (slk) %%
20 The number of actual instances is not given by Ivanova; we have rounded her gures to whole
21 This restriction does not apply fully to Slovak, but Ivanova does not specify how she handled
Comparability and measurement 513
There is a further way in which the genitive may not be unique. In Russian, the
genitive is used for the dependent of another noun (as in Matthewsdefinition)
irrespective of the case of the head. But this is not the only possibility, as these data
from the Dagestanian language Bezhta (kap) demonstrate (Kibrik 1995: 220, van
den Berg 2005: 261; further examples in Boguslavskaja 1995: 233234):
(7) abo-s is
fathers brother
(8) abo-la is-ti-l
to fathers brother
Example (7) has a genitive as expected. However, this genitive is available only if
the head is in the absolutive case. In all other instances, a different case form (here
labelled genitive oblique) is used, as in (8). All our previous examples were more
canonical that those of Bezhta, in that they involved a genitive, that is unique in the
sense that it was not differentially conditioned by the case of the head (see
Figure 6).
Figure 5: Unique genitive (compared with competing form).
514 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
2.6 What canonical analysis can reveal
Having established several typological dimensions for characterizing variation
within our domain (though by no means having exhausted all possibilities), we
can now present the overall picture gained from our multiple measurements in
Figure 7, and make a few, selected remarks.
Seeing the measurements side by side, partial though they are, already
prompts interesting typological conclusions.
For instance, differences within a
language can be greater than those across languages (thus the rst scale in
Figure 7 shows that Russian nouns in general are closer in behaviour, in one
respect, to Archi nouns and pronouns than they are to Russian pronouns). And
more generally, a language may show canonical behaviour in one respect and
highly non-canonical behaviour in another.
This way of characterizing the
Figure 6: Unique genitive (syntactically).
22 And recall that we have tackled just one of the easier parts of Kolmogorovs questions.
Moreover, in addition to Kolmogorovs concerns, and so properly outside our topic here, there is
much more that could be said about the Russian genitive. First there is its competition with the
receding second genitive (Corbett 2012: 203206). There are interesting questions about the
available range of meanings for the adnominal genitive (extensive in Russian). Then there is its
prominent role in quantied expressions, a role which has called forth a veritable tidal wave of ink.
And then, the signicant fact that it is not restricted to adnominal use, but it also operates at clause
level: it is used for the object of certain transitive verbs (such as bojat´sja fear), and most notably
as a case for negated transitive verbs (in competition with the accusative). There are numerous
conditions on the accusative/genitive choice; for sources, and an online searchable database see
Krasovitsky et al. (2009). These additional dimensions for understanding the genitive are all
amenable to a canonical approach; the issue of the accusative/genitive choice in particular has
been subject to careful measurement in corpora, for example in Mustajoki and Heino (1991).
Comparability and measurement 515
data, in a multidimensional fashion, is more informative and more specic than
reducing all variation down to a single value (Cartwright and Bradburn 2011:
63), for example by collapsing rich and complex distinctions into a simple,
monolithic cline, such as by measuring a one-dimensional distanceof a lan-
guage from a prototype.
3 Conclusion: Linguistic typology, a typological
science in good company
The science of language is uniquely interesting and highly challenging. Yet there are
pioneers in other disciplines who have tackled phenomena of similar complexity for
which the categories, units, and scales of measurement are also far from settled and
uncontentious. We should take advantage of their experiences and methods, since the
daunting challenges they face are essentially the same as ours. Progress is made by
Figure 7: The Russian genitive in typological context.
23 An analogy may prove helpful here. Suppose we measure a set of objects in terms of temper-
ature (from 0 K) and length (from 0 m). There is nothing in the two scales which implies that there
should be any correlation between the two; measuring in this way does not imply that larger
objects will be hotter; and smaller objects colder. We might have reasons to suggest a connection,
but that is a matter of observation, analysis and theorizing.
24 More sophisticated analyses that can be protably applied to multidimensional data include
factor analysis (advocated for typological sciences already by Winch 1947), principal component
analysis, and related methods, though ideally with careful attention to matters of phylogenetic
non-independence (Bromham, this issue).
516 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
examining complex phenomena along multiple typological dimensions, a viewpoint
shared by Canonical Typology and Multivariate Typology (see further in Appendix). In
Canonical Typology, we measure along these multiple dimensions, and where possible
dene scales of measurement relative to idealized extremes, such as zero. We do this in
linguistics for the same reason as in other disciplines: because points of reference are
fundamental tools for establishing measurements, and because idealized extremes
avoid inherent problems associated with alternative points of reference (such as pro-
totypes and standards). The results that we obtain with their help are of interest whether
or not any real-world instances actually meet these idealized extremes. Idealized ex-
tremes, including multi-dimensional canons, are not data or explanatory theories; they
are a non-arbitrary, low-ambiguity means of measuring what is observed and
comparingittowhatisconceivable,anessential step towards explaining what is
In any typological science, progress is hard-won. Often, it is less rapid than
we desire. Such is life, but we have grounds for optimism in linguistic typol-
ogy. For over a century, often in the form of independent, parallel discoveries,
leading thinkers in typological fields have emphasized the same core set of
methodological techniques whose utility we have emphasized here. All typo-
logical proposals require debate that leads to refinement, and the productivity
of debate can be enhanced with substruction. By relating our typological di-
mensions to the underlying attributes of a domain (whatever we take those
attributes to be, and however murky they currently are), we can explain to
ourselves and our peers the motivation for our choices. The same goes for
operationalization and the parcelling out of dimensions. By doing this we sow
the seeds of more lucid and productive debate, thus more thorough evaluation
of competing proposals, which means progress.
Comparison can be carried out similarly within and across languages. To
compare across Russian, Polish, Archi, and Bezhta we can use exactly the same
measures as for comparing within Russian or between different individual
speakers. This has significant implications for our discipline. Namely, we should
be careful of erecting a methodological framework based on the notion that
somehow language-internal and language-external comparisons are inherently
different (pace Haspelmath 2010).
Linguistics faces the same core challenges that
25 Haspelmaths diagnosis of what linguists can hope to know about language is the subject of an
extended analytic examination by Spike (this issue), who reveals it to be rooted in a rather singular
philosophical understanding of science. We nd Spikes analysis enlightening, since it pinpoints
where we and Haspelmath ultimately diverge in our views; and in some senses a relief, since it
Comparability and measurement 517
characterize any typological eld. By eschewing radical responses that would
paint linguistics as somehow unique, we can ensure that comparison in linguistics
continues to be conducted as in other typological sciences, of which there are
many. Doing so enables us to remain within the scientic mainstream (Bickel
2015), where we can reasonably expect to continue to prot from and contribute to
allied elds. This is much more promising than isolation.
To conclude: Typologists have been obtaining exciting results for decades, by
applying similar measures to language-internal and cross-linguistic comparison.
This is the right course. Here we have provided reasons to stay on it, and have
detailed how best to do so.
reassures us that we are most likely on the right side of the argument. Simplifying greatly (and we
urge readers to see Spike for the full analysis), Haspelmath would appear to assume that what we
have treated as real-world attributes of linguistic phenomena attributes which cross-
linguistically are exploited by languages in many varied ways, and which can be employed by
typologists to build dimensions of comparison within and across languages are, for
philosophical reasons, simply not accessible to linguistic science and perhaps do not even
exist. Consequently, to compare across languages linguists must create an alternative to the
ineluctably intractable real world by inventing their own, purely instrumental categories, termed
comparative concepts. If this is true, then it would be something of a grim world in which to
conduct linguistic typology. Substruction could not exist, since without an accessible, external
real world to appeal to, linguists have nothing concrete against which to assess their proposed
dimensions. Debate over categories perhaps could persist, at best as an intellectual exercise and at
worst as a power struggle for arbitrary conceptual hegemony, but being untethered to an external
reality, there is nothing out therethat typologists could collectively appeal to or even aspire to
discovering. Thus, Haspelmaths programme seeks to define concepts by fiat, thereby ending
debate over them, and to wall off language-particular analysis from cross-linguistic research. And
yet we find it conspicuous that other typological disciplines with longer and richer histories of
philosophical introspection have not arrived at the same conclusion (see Spike on why this is so).
Our own position, and we suspect the position of most linguistic typologists, is consistent with a
more mainstream understanding of the ways and possibilities of science in general. We regard
linguistics to be among the typological disciplines. Its task is discovery and refinement through
productive debate. Language-internal and cross-linguistic research can be mutually informative.
Accordingly, there is no need for radically ungrounded comparative concepts sensu Haspelmath,
nor for the separation of linguistic typology from linguistic description. Such curesfor typology
are unnecessary. They are responses to an illusory malady, that only appears to exist under one
peculiar and, we believe, ultimately erroneous epistemological outlook. Returning to concrete
matters, since these cures demand a near complete re-building of our discipline; and the hard
isolation of it from much prior research and related, fascinating enterprises within and beyond
linguistics, they come with a weighty opportunity cost. Quite simply, in our view, there are more
protable goals for the discipline to pursue; we are in good health, so lets get on with research. The
discovery-based, substructive methodology outlined here and employed equally by other sciences
facing similar challenges to our own, is the most promising, practical, and optimistic choice for the
518 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
Acknowledgement: We are thankful to the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of
Language for bringing Corbett to the ALT special session in Canberra and
facilitating our ongoing collaboration. The support of the AHRC (UK), grant AH/
N006887/1: Lexical splits: a novel perspective on the structure of words, the British
Academy Visiting Fellowships Programme under the UK Governments Rutherford
Fund, grant VF1_101602, and the ARC (Australia), DECRA award DE150101024, is
gratefully acknowledged. We thank Nick Evans, our co-contributors Lindell
Bromham and Matthew Spike, together with Sebastian Fedden, Tim Feist, Steven
Kaye and Terje Lohndal, for detailed constructive comments on various drafts, and
Balthasar Bickel, Olivier Bonami, Martin Haspelmath and Andrew Spencer for
helpful discussion at different times. All responsibility for the views and argu-
ments herein remains our own.
Appendix: Canonical typology and multivariate
While a thorough comparison would take us beyond the scope of this paper,
we have been asked to compare briefly Canonical Typology (CT) with Multi-
two approaches to typology both arose in the early 21st century. They share an
essential outlook, which is that linguistic variation is fundamentally multi-
dimensional, and possesses a level of nontrivial detail that far surpasses what
previous generations of typology sought to examine. Both approaches regard a
core task of linguistic typology to be the careful characterization and discovery
of these dimensions of variation, and view them as processes that operate
hand in hand with wide-ranging comparison of real-world phenomena. As we
see it, there is also a cluster of mutually related differences. In practice,
research in MT has focussed on attested data points, and for the most part has
not set out to establish the conceivable extents of dimensions. In CT, idealized
reference points and conceivable extents have a privileged place in the
methodology. A corollary is that empirical research in CT tends to employ
directed searches for specic linguistic properties, as one attempt to conrm
empirical hypotheses about as-yet unobserved phenomena that have been
postulated on the basis of the conceivable. As a result, CT tends to contribute
particularly to the expansion of the outer bounds of conrmed linguistic di-
versity. Relatedly, CT is associated with the creation of databases whose
languages are sampled with the aim of showcasing the range of possible
variation within a domain. MT on the other hand has been employed partic-
ularly in building numerically larger databases that reect the distribution of
Comparability and measurement 519
attested variation within some sample of languages, chosen according to prior
criteria. Correspondingly, MT contributes particularly to our understanding of
the relative frequencies of typological phenomena and their correlations with
genealogy and extra-linguistic matters such as geography and demography.
The fact that the two research programs have been distinct appears to us more
an accident of history and a matter of different ranking of research priorities,
rather than any underlying incompatibility or contradictions in the aspirations
of the ultimate research program. See also Forker (2016) for a fuller compar-
ison of CT and MT.
Aronoff, Mark. 2019. Canonical syncretism and Chomskys S. In Matthew Baerman, Oliver Bond &
Andrew Hippisley (eds.), Morphological perspectives, 138147. Edinburgh: Edinburgh
University Press.
Bickel, Balthasar. 2007. Typology in the 21st century: Major current developments. Linguistic
Typology 11. 239251.
Bickel, Balthasar. 2015. Distributional typology: Statistical inquiries into the dynamics of
linguistic diversity. In Bernd Heine & Heiko Narrog (eds.), The Oxford handbook of linguistic
analysis, 2nd edn., 901923. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Blake, Barry J. 1994. Case. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Boguslavskaja, Ol´ga Ju. 1995. Genitives and adjectives as attributes in Daghestanian. In Frans
Plank (ed.), Double case: Agreement by Sufxaufnahme, 230239. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Bond, Oliver. 2013. A base for canonical negation. In Dunstan Brown, Marina Chumakina & Greville
G. Corbett (eds.), Canonical morphology and syntax,2047. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bond, Oliver. 2019. Canonical typology. In Jenny Audring & Francesca Masini (eds.), The Oxford
handbook of morphological theory, 409431. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cartwright, Nancy & Norm Bradburn. 2011. A theory of measurement. In Rose Maria Li (ed.), The
importance of common metrics for advancing social science theory and research,5370.
Washington DC: National Academies Press.
Chumakina, Marina, Dunstan Brown, Harley Quilliam & Greville G. Corbett. 2007. Slovar´
arčinskogo jazyka (arčinsko-russko-anglijskij) [A dictionary of Archi: Archi-Russian-English].
Makhachkala: Delovoj Mir.
Comrie, Bernard, Martin Haspelmath & Balthasar Bickel. 2008. The Leipzig glossing rules:
Conventions for interlinear morpheme-by-morpheme glosses. Leipzig: Department of
Linguistics of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology & the Department of
Linguistics of the University of Leipzig.
Corbett, Greville G. 1995. Slavonics closest approach to Sufx Copying: The possessive adjective.
In Frans Plank (ed.), Double case: Agreement by Sufxaufnahme, 265282. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Corbett, Greville G. 2000. Number. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
520 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
Corbett, Greville G. 2006. Agreement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Corbett, Greville G. 2009. Canonical inectional classes. In Fabio Montermini, Gilles Boy ´
e & Jesse
Tseng (eds.), Selected proceedings of the 6th D´
ecembrettes: Morphology in Bordeaux,111.
Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.
Corbett, Greville G. 2012. Features. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Corbett, Greville G. 2013. Paradigm conventions. Paper presented at the 46th annual meeting of
the Societas Linguistica Europaea, Split, 1821 September 2013. https://www.academia.
Corbett, Greville G. 2015. Morphosyntactic complexity: A typology of lexical splits. Language 91.
Corbett, Greville G. & Sebastian Fedden. 2016. Canonical gender. Journal of Linguistics 52. 495
Cormier, Kearsy, Adam Schembri & Bencie Woll. 2013. Pronouns and pointing in sign languages.
Lingua 137. 230247.
Daniels, Don & Greville G. Corbett. 2019. Repartitioning. Language 95. 711750.
De Queiroz, Kevin. 2005. Different species problems and their resolution. BioEssays 27. 1263
Dench, Alan C. & Nicholas Evans. 1988. Multiple case-marking in Australian languages. Australian
Journal of Linguistics 8. 147.
Dennett, Daniel C. 1996. Darwins dangerous idea: Evolution and the meanings of life. London:
Donohue, Mark. 2001. Animacy, class and gender in Burmeso. In Andrew Pawley, Malcolm Ross &
Darrell Tryon (eds.), The boy from Bundaberg: Studies in Melanesian linguistics in honour of
Tom Dutton (Pacic Linguistics 514),97115. Canberra: Pacic Linguistics.
Ember, Carol R., Marc Howard Ross, Michael L. Burton & Candice Bradley. 1991. Problems of
measurement in cross-cultural research using secondary data. Behavior Science Research
25. 187216.
Evans, Nicholas. 2013. Some problems in the typology of quotation: A canonical approach. In
Dunstan Brown, Marina Chumakina & Greville G. Corbett (eds.), Canonical morphology and
syntax,6698. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Evans, Nicholas, Henrik Bergqvist & Lila San Roque. 2018a. The grammar of engagement I:
Framework and initial exemplication. Language and Cognition 10. 111140. https://doi.
org/10.1017/langcog.2017.21 [open access].
Evans, Nicholas, Henrik Bergqvist & Lila San Roque. 2018b. The grammar of engagement II:
Typology and diachrony. Language and Cognition 10. 141170.
langcog.2017.22 [open access].
Evans, Nicholas & Alan Dench. 2006. Introduction: Catching language. In Felix K. Ameka, Alan
Dench & Nicholas Evans (eds.), Catching language: The standing challenge of grammar
writing,139. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Evans, Nicholas & Stephen C. Levinson. 2009. The myth of language universals: Language
diversity and its importance for cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32. 429
Fedden, Sebastian & Greville G. Corbett. 2017. Gender and classiers in concurrent systems:
Rening the typology of nominal classication. Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics 2(1),
34. 147.
Comparability and measurement 521
Feest, Uljana. 2005. Operationism in psychology: What the debate is about, what the debate
should be about. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 41. 131149.
Forkel, Robert, Johann-Mattis List, Simon J. Greenhill, Christoph Rzymski, Sebastian Bank,
Michael Cysouw, Harald Hammarström, Martin Haspelmath, Gereon A. Kaiping & Russell D.
Gray. 2018. Cross-linguistic data formats, advancing data sharing and re-use in comparative
linguistics. Scientic Data 5. 180205.
Forker, Diana. 2016. Conceptualization in current approaches of language typology. Acta
Linguistica Hafniensia 48. 7084.
Gerlach, Martin, Beatrice Farb, William Revelle & Luís A. Nunes Amaral. 2018. A robust data-driven
approach identies four personality types across four large data sets. Nature Human
Behaviour 2. 735742.
Greenberg, Joseph. 1974. Language typology: A historical and analytic overview. The Hague:
Grigull, Ulrich. 1986. Fahrenheit a pioneer of exact thermometry .Heat Transfer 198 6: Proceedings
of the eighth international heat transfer conference, San Francisco, USA, I,918.
Washington: Hemisphere.
Hammarström, Harald, Robert Forkel & Martin Haspelmath. 2019. Glottolog 4.0. Jena. https://
Hand, David J. 2016. Measurement: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Haspelmath, Martin. 2009. Terminology of case. In Andrej Malchukov & Andrew Spencer (eds.),
The Oxford handbook of case, 506517. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Haspelmath, Martin. 2010. Comparative concepts and descriptive categories in crosslinguistic
studies. Language 86. 663687.
Haspelmath, Martin. 2012. How to compare major word-classes across the worlds languages. In
Thomas Graf, Denis Paperno, Anna Szabolcsi & Jos Tellings (eds.), Theories of everything: In
honor of Edward Keenan (UCLA Working Papers in Linguistics 17), 109130. Los Angeles:
Hempel, Carl G. & Paul Oppenheim. 1936. Der Typusbegriff im Lichte der neuen Logik. Leiden:
Hull, David L. 1968. The operational imperative: Sense and nonsense in operationism. Systematic
Biology 17. 438457.
Hyman, Larry M. 2012. In defense of prosodic typology: A response to Beckman & Venditti.
Linguistic Typology 16(3). 341385.
International Phonetic Association. 1999. Handbook of the international phonetic association: A
guide to the use of the international phonetic alphabet. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Ivanova, T. A. 1975. Nekotorye aspekty sopostavitel´nogo analiza posessivnyx konstrukcij (Na
materiale sovremennyx slavjanskix literaturnyx jazykov) [Aspects of the comparative
analysis of possessive constructions (based on contemporary Slavonic literary languages)].
Slavjanskaja lologija 3. 148152. (Leningrad).
Ivanova, T. A. 1976. K voprosu o sootnošenii upotrebljaemosti posessivnyx konstrukcij v
sovremennyx slavjanskix jazykax [The relative frequency of use of possessive constructions
in different contemporary Slavonic languages]. Voprosy lologii 5. 310. (Izdatel´stvo
Leningradskogo universiteta).
Johnson, Todd M. & Brian J. Grim. 2013. The worlds religions in gures: An introduction to
international religious demography. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
522 E.R. Round and G.G. Corbett
Jung, Carl Gustav. 1921. Psychologische typen. Zurich: Rascher.
Kibrik, Aleksandr E. 1995. Direct-oblique agreement of attributes in Daghestanian. In Frans Plank
(ed.), Double case: Agreement by Sufxaufnahme, 216229. New York: Oxford University
Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria. 2003. Possessive noun phrases in the languages of Europe. In Frans
Plank (ed.), Noun phrase structure in the languages of Europe, 621722. Berlin: Mouton de
Krasovitsky, Alexander, Dunstan Brown, Greville G. Corbett, Matthew Baerman, Alison Long &
Harley Quilliam. 2009. Surrey database of short term morphosyntactic change: Case
assignment on direct objects of negated transitive verbs. Surrey: University of Surrey. http://
Kwon, Nahyun. 2017. Total reduplication in Japanese ideophones: An exercise in localized
canonical typology. Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics 2(1), 40. 131.
Kwon, Nahyun & Erich R. Round. 2015. Phonaesthemes in morphological theory. Morphology 25.
Ladefoged, Peter & Ian Maddieson. 1990. Vowels of the worlds languages. Journal of Phonetics
18. 93122.
Lakatos, Imre. 1976. Proofs and refutations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lander, Yury A. 2009. Varieties of genitive. In Andrej Malchukov & Andrew Spencer (eds.), The
Oxford handbook of case, 581592. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lazarsfeld, Paul F. 1937. Some remarks on the typological procedures in social research.
Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 6. 119139.
Levinson, Stephen C. 2000. Presumptive meanings: The theory of generalized conversational
implicature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lienhard, John H. 2000. The engines of our ingenuity: An engineer looks at technology and culture.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Matthews, P. H. 1997. The concise Oxford dictionary of linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mel´čuk, Igor´. 2006. Calculus of possibilities as a technique in linguistic typology. In Felix Ameka,
Alan Dench & Nicholas Evans (eds.), Catching language: The standing challenge of grammar
writing, 171205. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Menzel, Thomas. 2018. Kanonische morphologische Komplexität im Sorbischen. Lětopis
Sorbisches Institut e.V. Bautzen 65(2). 81106.
Michael, Lev. 2014. The Nanti reality status system: Implications for the typological validity of the
realis/irrealis contrast. Linguistic Typology 18. 251288.
Murdock, George P. 1967. Ethnographic atlas. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Mustajoki, Arto & Hannes Heino. 1991. Case selection for the direct object in Russian negative
clauses: II: Report on a statistical analysis (Slavica Helsingiensia 9). Helsinki: Department of
Slavonic Languages, University of Helsinki.
Nettle, Daniel. 2018. Hanging on to the edges. Essays on science, society, and the academic life.
Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers.
Newmeyer, Frederick J. 2005. Possible and probable languages: A generative perspective on
linguistic typology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Newmeyer, Frederick J. 2010. On comparative concepts and descriptive categories: A reply to
Haspelmath. Language 86. 688695.
Nichols, Johanna. 2019. Canonical tough cases. In Matthew Baerman, Oliver Bond & Andrew
Hippisley (eds.), Morphological perspectives, 148168. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University
Comparability and measurement 523
Nikolaeva, Irina. 2013. Unpacking niteness. In Dunstan Brown, Marina Chumakina & Greville G.
Corbett (eds.),