Language vs individuals in cross-linguistic corpus typology

Date
2021
Authors
Barth, Danielle
Evans, Nicholas
Arka, I Wayan
Bergqvist, Henrik
Forker, Diana
Gipper, Sonja
Hodge, Gabrielle
Kashima, Eri
Kasuga, Yuki
Kawakami, Carine
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
University of Hawai'i Press
Abstract
There is a long tradition in linguistics of seeing each language as a powerful factor setting out predetermining grooves in how people express themselves. But how strong is this effect? We know that despite the forces of linguistic habit people nonetheless enjoy some freedom in formulating their thoughts. Can we measure the relative contributions of language structures and individual variation to how people formulate statements about the world? Do accounts of typological differences need to take individual variation into account, and is such variation more prevalent in some kinds of linguistic domains than others? In this paper, we deploy a parallax corpus across thirteen languages from around the world and explore four case studies of linguistic choice, two grammatical and two semantic. We assess whether differences are accounted adequately just by individual participant variation, just by language information, or whether taking into account both helps account for the patterns we see. We do this through comparisons of statistical models. Our results make it clear that participants using the same language do not always behave similarly and this is especially true of our semantic variables. We take this to be a strong caution that the behaviour of individual participants should be considered when making typological generalisations, but also as an exciting outcome that corpus typology as a field can help us account for intra- and inter-language variation.
Description
Keywords
social cognition, corpus-based typology, Family Problems picture task, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, model comparison
Citation
Barth, Danielle & Evans, Nicholas & Arka, I Wayan & Bergqvist, Henrik & Forker, Diana & Gipper, Sonja & Hodge, Gabrielle & Kashima, Eri & Kasuga, Yuki & Kawakami, Carine & Kimoto, Yukinori & Knuchel, Dominique & Kogura, Norikazu & Kurabe, Keita & Mansfield, John & Narrog, Heiko & Pratiwi, Desak Putu Eka & van Putten, Saskia & Senge, Chikako & Tykhostup, Olena. 2021. Language vs. individuals in cross-linguistic corpus typology. In Haig, Geoffrey & Schnell, Stefan & Seifart, Frank (eds.), Doing corpus-based typology with spoken language data: State of the art, 179–232. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press.
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