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Edward L. Keenan (University of California Los Angeles – USA) »Syntactic Typology »

Lecture 1: Word Order Correlates

VF (Verb Final): OV (Object+Verb) in pragmatically neutral simplex sentences. Most common type: SOV, rare OVS. Such Ls contrast with VI (Verb Initial): Most common type VSO but some VOS. Correlates: Pre-/Post- position (joy-with vs with joy), Possessum/Possessor (father of this boy vs this boy’s father); suffixal/prefixal verbal morphology (verb / Tense/Aspect/Mood). Main V /Modal (able)/Aspect (begin)/Intent (try)/Desire (want). Correlates with case marking systems, position of subordinate and coordinate conjunctions, resumptive pronouns, verb second.


  1. Keenan/Keenan & Kalin: The Verb Final Typology

  2. Keenan/Keenan & Kalin: The Verb Initial Typology

  3. Munro, Pamela. 2013. Word order. In The Bloomsbury Companion to Syntax Pp 118 – 142.

  4. Dryer, Matthew. 2007. Word order. In Language Typology and Syntactic Description. Vol 1, 2nd edition. Tim Shopen (ed) CUP.

Lecture 2: Voice Marking and Case Marking Systems

The syntactic role of rich voice systems (Philippines, Malagasy, Kwakwala), anti-passive in ergative languages (Mayan; Djirbal) and applicatives (in e.g. Bantu). Voice marking, in both nominative and ergative languages may function to make verbal arguments accessible to relative clause formation (usually head initial; in one case we know of head final; no head internal to our knowledge). Advancement of obliques to object feeds passive which feeds relative clause formation.


  1. Keenan, E.L. and M.S. Dryer. 2007. Passive in the world’s languages. In Language Typology and Syntactic Description. Vol 1, 2nd edition. Tim Shopen (ed) CUP. Pp. 325 – 361

  2. Keenan, E.L. 2013. Passives and Antipassives. In The Bloomsbury Companion to Syntax. Pp. 240 – 260.

  3. Polinsky, Maria. 2018. Syntactic Ergativity. The Companion to Syntax 2nd edition. Martin Everaert and Henk van Riemsdijk. John Wiley & Sons. 2017.

Lecture 3: Quantification across languages

Quantifiers play an important role in studies of natural language semantics, but have only recently been subject to extensive cross language sampling. The most thorough and recent (30 plus languages, 2000 pages) is by myself and Denis Paperno, Handbook of Quantifiers in Natural Languages. Matthewson (2008) is also an excellent earlier source, and Bach et al 1995. We contrast nominal vs adverbial quantifiers and within each consider (generalized) existential, universal, proportional and definite quantifiers, offering 15 new generalizations re the distribution and interpretation of quantifiers cross linguistically, e.g. all Ls have an all and an only, not all have a some distinct from the number one.


  1. Paperno, Denis and E.L. Keenan. 2017. Handbook of Quantifiers in Natural Language. Springer. Questionnaire and summary

  2. Matthewson, Lisa (ed). 2008. Quantification: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective. Emerald, North Holland linguistic Series.

  3. Bach, E., E. Jelinek, A. Kratzer, B.Partee. 1995. Quantification in Natural Languages, Kluwer.

Lecture 4: Reciprocals in the World’s Languages

This lecture is based on on-going research. I provide a survey of the attested means of expressing reciprocal situations and then look some detail at verbal affix reciprocals, focusing especially on Malagasy (Austronesian, Madagascar).


  1. Dimitriadis, Alexis. 2008. Irreducible symmetry in reciprocal constructions. In Ekkehard Koenig and Volker Gast (eds). Reciprocals and Reflexives: Theoretical and Typological Explorations. Mouton de Gruyter

  2. Keenan, E.L. Reciprocals in the World’s Languages. Ms UCLA

  3. Maslova, Elena and Nedjalkov, Vladimir P. 2011. Reciprocal constructions in WALS (World Atlas of Language Structures) On line. Http://

  4. Nedjalkov, Vladimir. (2010) Reciprocal Constructions 5 vols. John Benjamins Pub. Co.

1 Comment

What is the role of anti-passive constructions in ergative languages such as Mayan and Djirbal, and how do they affect syntactic processes?

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