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Most of the world's languages have indefinite pronouns, that is, expressions such as 'someone', 'anything', and 'nowhere'. Martin Haspelmath presents the first comprehensive and encyclopaedic investigation of indefinite pronouns in the languages of the world, mapping out the range of variation in their functional and formal properties. He shows that cross-linguistic diversity is severely constrained by a set of implicational universals and by a number of unrestricted universals. The author treats his subject matter broadly within the Humboldt-Greenberg tradition of language typology, but also considers the contribution of other theoretical approaches to an understanding of the functional and formal properties of indefinite pronouns. The book is organized into four logically ordered steps: selection of a part of grammar-indefinite pronouns-that can be identified across languages by formal and functional criteria; investigation of the properties of indefinite pronouns in a world-wide sample of forty languages; formulation of generalizations that emerge from the data, summarized in the form of an implicational map; and theoretically-informed explanations of the generalizations, which go beyond system-internal statements, appealing to cognitive semantics, functional pressures, and universals of language change (especially grammaticalization).

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780198299639
ISBN-10: 019829963X
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 156mm x 20mm)
Pages: 380
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publish Date: 8-Feb-2001
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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Author Biography - Martin Haspelmath

Martin Haspelmath is a member of the scientific staff at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liepzig. Previous positions have included Wissenschaftlicher Assistent in the Department of English at the Free University of Berlin, and Programme Assistant to the ESF-sponsored Programme in Language Typology (EUROTYP). He is the author of 'A Grammar of Lezgian' (1993), and co-editor (with Ekkehard Konig) of 'Converbs in Cross-Linguistic Perspective' (1995).

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