A map of Feature 22A: Inflectional Synthesis of the Verb, from wals.infoUCSB linguists understand linguistic typology as the systematic study of cross-linguistic variation and seek to come to terms with the full scope of typological differences among the world’s languages. While acknowledging the role of language universals—recurrent tendencies in structure and function—research in linguistic typology at UCSB concentrates on the ways in which languages differ from one another, because this tremendous diversity helps us to understand the full range of what language can be.

The study of typology at UCSB pays especially keen attention to skewed distributions of cross-linguistic variation (e.g. why far more languages place the agent/subject before the patient/object in their basic word order than the other way round), recognizing that such typological generalizations may undergird functional explanations for linguistic structure. In their approach to developing such explanations, UCSB researchers ground their theories in various aspects of linguistic function, drawing connections to information management, cognitive processing, discourse structure, pragmatic and interactional functions, and other domains of language use.

Linguistic typology at UCSB participates in a strong two-way relationship with language documentation. Typologists recognize that they need a reliable empirical database built on solid descriptive work on the world's languages,and field linguists recognize that a broad knowledge of typology provides an invaluable guide to the array of structures they may expect to encounter as they venture into new linguistic territory in the field.

Core Faculty

Matthew Gordon, Marianne Mithun


Linguistics 208: Introduction to Morphology
Linguistics 215: Introduction to Historical/Comparative Linguistics
Linguistics 222: Typology and Universals
Linguistics 223: Languages in Contact
Linguistics 234: Advanced Syntax
Linguistics 236: Advanced Language Change
Linguistics 252A-B: Seminar in Morphology and Syntax
Linguistics 255A-B: Seminar in Language Change
Linguistics 256A-B: Seminar in Typology and Universals


World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS)