In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Typology and universals by William Croft
  • Marian Sloboda
Typology and universals. 2nd edn. By William Croft. (Cambridge textbooks in linguistics.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. xxv, 341. ISBN 0521004993. $27.99.

William Croft’s Typology and universals (TU) has been a classic textbook in linguistics ever since it was first published in 1990. Its second edition, almost completely rewritten, both maintains and exceeds the already acknowledged high level of the first edition. According to the author, ‘the most important innovation is systematic employment of the semantic map model’ (xv). Although TU is intended and published as a textbook, its text is at times abstruse. This is not, however, due to C’s style—on the contrary, he formulates his ideas simply and clearly—but rather to the level of abstractness of argumentation and explanation. The book is not recommended for beginners in the field of general and structural linguistics, but is instead for students who already have a background in this discipline.

C considers TU not as an alternative to other books on linguistic typology, but as a textbook that particularly complements books dealing with typology issues by topic area (e.g. grammatical relations, word order, subject, case marking), such as Bernard Comrie’s Language universals and linguistic typology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989). C, however, arranges his book by theoretical concepts, and also describes methods of linguistic typology. TU teaches the student reader how to think and work like a linguist-typologist.

Chs. 1 and 2 introduce the reader to the concepts of linguistic typology and universals, discuss the problem of crosslinguistic comparison, and provide advice on language sampling for typological research. The next several chapters explain the relevant typological concepts needed to organize data used for crosslinguistic comparison: unrestricted and implicational universals, harmony, dominance (Ch. 3); typological markedness, structural coding, behavioral potential (of linguistic elements), and so on (Ch. 4); grammatical hierarchies, the semantic map model (Ch. 5); and prototypes, interaction of typological patterns (Ch. 6). Ch. 7 addresses the issue of syntactic argumentation and structure, and Ch. 8 deals with diachronic typology, in particular with grammaticalization. In addition to the above-mentioned concepts, C also introduces and discusses concepts considered to be competing motivations to (i) structurally encode concepts (functions) that languages express and (ii) allow for the interaction (coexistence) of these concepts (functions) in a language. Among these motivations are: linguistic economy, iconicity, token frequency, diachrony, semantic relations, cultural salience, speech processing, and so forth. The concepts of linguistic typology presented are demonstrated through examples from a number of different languages. At several points, C compares linguistic [End Page 519] typology to other approaches to language (e.g. the generative-grammar approach). Ch. 9, the last chapter of the book, contextualizes linguistic typology as a discipline and as a method of linguistic research. TU also includes a geographic map locating the languages cited in the text, and indices of authors, languages, and subjects. The book is supplemented by a 60-page list of typology problem sets on C’s website (, on which the book’s errata can also be found.

Marian Sloboda
Charles University, Prague


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 519-520
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.