Thursday, May 22, 2008

the rise and fall of the genitive case

On Bremer Sprachblog, Anatol Stefanowitsch has an interesting post on the aspects of language that interest scholars, in particular the way grammatical structures offer points of comparison between languages - AND an amazing atlas of languages which presents this highly complex subject visually, now available online at the World Atlas of Language Structures:

What is WALS?

WALS is a large database of structural (phonological, grammatical, lexical) properties of languages gathered from descriptive materials (such as reference grammars) by a team of more than 40 authors (many of them the leading authorities on the subject).

WALS consists of 141 maps with accompanying texts on diverse features (such as vowel inventory size, noun-genitive order, passive constructions, and "hand"/"arm" polysemy), each of which is the responsibility of a single author (or team of authors). Each map shows between 120 and 1110 languages, each language being represented by a symbol, and different symbols showing different values of the feature. Altogether 2,650 languages are shown on the maps, and more than 58,000 datapoints give information on features in particular languages.

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