類型論 (typology) は，通言語的にみられる言語普遍性や普遍的傾向を扱う分野である．類型論が研究対象とする分野は多岐にわたるが，同分野の入門書を著わした Whaley (28) は3つの点を指摘している．
The starting point for all typology is the presupposition that there are recurrent structural patterns across languages that are not random or accidental. These patterns can be described in statements called language universals.
Once one grants this simple assumption, myriad questions arise. . . . [T]ypologists explore both absolute properties of language and probabilistic properties. In addition, they are concerned with the connections between two or more properties.
A second key question about universals is "How are they determined?" . . . . For now, it is sufficient to say that this question has become central to typology in the past few decades, and its answer has profound implications, particularly for universals that are based on statistical probability.
The final basic question that concerns modern typology is "How are universals explained?" A protracted debate over issues of explanation has been occurring since the 1950s. The most acrimonious elements of the debate have concerned the relationship between diachrony and synchrony (i.e., to what degree does an explanation require reference to past stages of a language?) and the need to go outside the language system itself in forming satisfying explanations . . . .
ここに挙げられている類型論上の3つの関心は，それぞれ類型論上の特徴に関する What, How, Why の問いととらえてよいだろう．
歴史言語学の立場からは，とりわけ3つめの Why の問題が，通時態が関わってくる点で重要である．類型論と言語変化の関係を巡る問題について，Whaley (25--26) の説明を聞こう．
Another characteristic trait of modern typology that is represented well in Greenberg's work is a focus on the ways that language changes through time . . . . Greenberg's interest in diachrony was in many ways a throwback to the earlier days of typology in which historical-comparative linguistics predominated. The uniqueness of Greenberg's work, however, was in his use of language change as an explanation for language universals. The basic insight is the following: Because the form that a language takes at any given point in time results from alterations that have occurred to a previous stage of the language, one should expect to find some explanations for (or exceptions to) universals by examining the processes of language change. In other words, many currently existing properties of a language can be accounted for in terms of past properties of the language.
・ Whaley, Lindsay J. Introduction to Typology: The Unity and Diversity of Language. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1997.
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