What is phonological typology?


In this contribution I raise the question of what phonological typology is, can, or should be. I start by asking what linguistic typology is and then turn to the problem: Despite the intellectual overlap, there is rare cross-communication in the study of sound systems by phonologists vs. typologists. Despite earlier contributions by Trubetzkoy, Jakobson, Martinet, Greenberg and others, and its inclusion in even earlier efforts towards “holistic” typology, phonological typology is often underrepresented or even excluded in typology textbooks. At the same time, many, if not most phonologists do not see a difference between phonological typology and cross-linguistic (formal) phonology. As a result, they often address issues of comparison without awareness of the field of typology and with little involvement in the foundational and methodological questions/controversies peppering the pages of Linguistic Typology, e.g. its concern with distributions, whether pre-established categories exist etc. I argue for a properties-based approach to typology, showing that phonology has always been—and should remain—basically typological in it concerns.

Publication date: 
January 1, 2018
Publication type: 
Recent Publication
Hyman, L. M. (2018). What is phonological typology? In L. M. Hyman & F. Plank (eds), Phonological typology, pp.1-20. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.