Greville Corbet

Professor Greville Corbett

Distinguished Professor of Linguistics
27 AD 02
SMG Administrator Penny Everson



Greville Corbett is a member of the Surrey Morphology Group.

Research interests

My research attempts to bring together the remarkable variation we find across languages with the sense that they are deeply similar. I have three broad areas of interest:

Typology: For some years I have been developing the Canonical Typology framework, which has expanded beyond its original heartland of morphology and syntax to include work in phonology and sign language (see the Canonical Typology bibliography ( Within the ESRC funded project Optimal Categorisation: the origin and nature of gender from a psycholinguistic perspective ( my role is particularly to investigate the typology of nominal classification systems (the disparate phenomena labelled ‘classifiers’ as well as the somewhat more homogeneous gender systems), and the origins of gender. 

Morphosyntactic features: Number, gender, person and case all offer interesting challenges. Case is at the centre of a new project, Declining Case, examining the loss of case in Serbian and Bulgarian dialects, where we can see how case systems contract, using geography as a proxy for history. I have also returned to the associated agreement problems, ‘overhauling’ the Agreement Hierarchy to bring it up to date with recent developments in typology.

Inflectional morphology: I am still publishing results from the completed AHRC funded project Lexical splits ( have recently published a substantial paper on pluralia tantum nouns. The project has provided paradigms of remarkable complexity, and we are presenting these through innovative visualisation techniques. These demonstrate how we can represent inflectional material in a transparent and comprehensible way. I am currently working on lexeme-external splits, and on a typology linking internal and external

For more on my research, publications and presentations please see my page: I am happy to supervise PhD students in the areas listed.

In addition to the collaborations within the Surrey Morphology Group, this research is strengthened through external links: I am a Partner Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (2014-2022), and a Senior core member of the research project ‘A Multilingual Approach to Grammatical Gender (MultiGender): Acquisition, Variation and Change’, 2019-2021, at the Centre for Advanced Study, Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Oslo.



Research interests

Research collaborations

Indicators of esteem

  • Fellow of the British Academy


  • Member of the Academia Europaea

  • Honorary Member of the Linguistic Society of America

  • Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences

  • Member of the International Grammar Commission of the Congress of Slavists

I am a member of the following academic organisations:

Association for Linguistic Typology - Australian Linguistic Society - British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies -  Linguistics Association of Great Britain -  Philological Society -  Societas Linguistica Europaea


Completed postgraduate research projects I have supervised

Postgraduate research supervision


Alexandra Grandison, Michael Franjieh, Lily Greene, Greville G. Corbett (2021)Optimal categorisation: the nature of nominal classification systems, In: Cadernos de Linguística2(1)e393 Abralin

The debate as to whether language influences cognition has been long standing but has yielded conflicting findings across domains such as colour and kinship categories. Fewer studies have investigated systems such as nominal classification (gender, classifiers) across different languages to examine the effects of linguistic categorisation on cognition. Effective categorisation needs to be informative to maximise communicative efficiency but also simple to minimise cognitive load. It therefore seems plausible to suggest that different systems of nominal classification have implications for the way speakers conceptualise relevant entities. A suite of seven experiments was designed to test this; here we focus on our card sorting experiment, which contains two sub-tasks — a free sort and a structured sort. Participants were 119 adults across six Oceanic languages from Vanuatu and New Caledonia, with classifier inventories ranging from two to 23. The results of the card sorting experiment reveal that classifiers appear to provide structure for cognition in tasks where they are explicit and salient. The free sort task did not incite categorisation through classifiers, arguably as it required subjective judgement, rather than explicit instruction. This was evident from our quantitative and qualitative analyses. Furthermore, the languages employing more extreme catego-risation systems displayed smaller variation in comparison to more moderate systems. Thus, systems that are more informative or more rigid appear to be more efficient. The study implies that the influence of language on cognition may vary across languages, and that not all nominal classification systems employ this optimal trade-off between simplicity and informa-tiveness. These novel data provide a new perspective on the origin and nature of nominal classification .

Greville G. Corbett (2018)Pluralia tantum nouns in the Slavonic languages, In: Proceedings of the XVI International Congress of Slavists University of Surrey

Imenice pluralia tantum su fascinantna pojava, za koju se slavisti interesuju još od Braunove teze (1930), pa i ranije. Za to postoji nekoliko razloga. Prvo, mnoge od ovih imenica su defektne jer, iako su brojive, nemaju jedninu. Drugo, dok defektne imenice obično uključuju sporadične praznine u promeni (kao što je to, po jezičkom osećanju mnogih govornika, slučaj sa genitivom množine ruske imenice *mečt), klase imenica pluralia tantum često su – bar delimično – semantički predvidljive (tj. ove imenice su podložne „uopštavanjima srednje veličine”, Koenig 1999). Međutim, ova predvidljivost je ograničena: up. u ruskom imenicu binokl ‘dvogled’, koja ima standardnu promenu, sa imenicom sani ‘sanke’, koja je imenica plurale tantum. Treće, da bi se mogle upotrebiti kao brojive, imenice pluralia tantum često zahtevaju neko dodatno sredstvo, npr. zbirne brojeve. I u opštoj lingvistici postoji stalno interesovanje za ove imenice (npr. Visnievski 2009). Zato je glavni cilj ovog referata da pokaže poseban značaj podataka iz slovenskih jezika za opštelingvističko ispitivanje imenica pluralia tantum. Taj značaj je dvostruk. Prvo, kod nekih klasa ovih imenica se uočavaju zanimljive razlike u različitim slovenskim jezicima. I drugo, treba preispitati tvrdnju da je, iz semantičkih razloga, prirodno da se predmeti koji se javljaju u paru označavaju imenicama pluralia tantum, s obzirom da se ovakvi predmeti označavaju imenicama pluralia tantum i u jezicima koji imaju dual (kao u slovenačkom i gornjem i donjem lužičkom). Uz to, u ovim jezicima se imenice pluralia tantum mogu koristiti za jedan, dva ili više od dva referenta (kao u donjem lužičkom, Janaš 1976/1984). Dakle, ove imenice zaslužuju našu stalnu pažnju bilo da je reč o razumevanju broja u slovenskim jezicima ili o opštelingvističkim aspektima imenica pluralia tantum. = = = Pluralia tantum nouns are indeed fascinating, and Slavists’ interest in them goes back to Braun’s thesis (1930) and earlier. There are several reasons for this. First, many of these nouns are defective, since they are countable yet they lack a singular. Second, while defectives typically involve sporadic gaps (as with Russian genitive plural *mečt for many speakers), sets of pluralia tantum nouns are often semantically predictable, at least in part (they are subject to ‘middle-size generalizations’, Koenig 1999). This predictability is limited, however: compare Russian binokl ‘binoculars’ (which is a normal noun) with sani ‘sleigh’ a plurale tantum noun. Third they often require some sort of repair (such as the use of collective numerals) so that they can be treated as count nouns. Pluralia tantum nouns are of continued interest in the general linguistic literature (see, for instance, Wisniewski 2009), hence it is timely to consider the particular interest and contribution of the Slavonic data, the focus of this paper. Two aspects stand out. First the Slavonic languages provide semantic classes of these nouns, which vary across the family in interesting ways. And second, the claim for the semantic naturalness of paired objects being pluralia tantum needs reassessing, given that these nouns are pluralia tantum even when the dual is available (as in Slovene and Upper and Lower Sorbian. Moreover, in these languages pluralia tantum nouns can be used for one, two, or more than two referents (as in Lower Sorbian, Janaš 1976/1984). Thus these nouns deserve our continued attention, both for Slavonic internal and for general linguistic reasons.

Greville G. Corbett (2022)Splits, internal and external, as a window into the nature of features, In: Morphology32pp. 45-91 Springer

Lexemes may be split internally, by phenomena such as suppletion, periphrasis, heteroclisis and deponency. Generalizing over these phenomena, which split a lexeme’s paradigm, we can establish a typology of the possible internal splits. There are also lexemes whose external requirements are split: they induce different agreement, for instance. Again, a typology of these splits has been proposed. The next logical step is to attempt a typology of the possible relations between internal and external splits. This is not straightforward, since we need to avoid spurious linkages. Four lines of argument are offered: (i) general plausibility: the internal-external linkage is compelling, and so other accounts require a degree of coincidence which is unlikely; (ii) overabundance: alternative inflectional forms link to different external requirements; (iii) variation in time and space: splits in inflection and in external requirements vary, while maintaining their linkage; (iv) pluralia tantum nouns: the different types of these nouns provide intriguing confirming evidence. Case studies include Asia Minor Greek, Polish, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Sɛlɛɛ, Serbo-Croat (BCMS), Slovenian, Latin and Old Frisian. The clear instances which emerge, where an external split is demonstrably linked to an internal one, prove both surprising and significant. We discover that in split paradigms, besides overt overabundance, there may also be covertly overabundant cells. Furthermore, when external splits involve individual cells, these will not induce simple (consistent) agreement. This makes good sense, demonstrating that featural information is associated with lexemes in a natural default manner: at the lexeme level by default, unless overridden at the sub-paradigm level, unless in turn overridden at the level of individual cells. Some lexical items show remarkable properties: they may lack internal consistency, they may be externally inconsistent and – in a fascinating minority – these two characteristics may be linked. This last type is rare, but it deserves special attention for what it tells us about the nature of lexical information and the way this is stored. I first review briefly the typology of lexeme-internal splits; these reflect phenomena such as suppletion, periphrasis, heteroclisis and deponency, and they reveal higher-level patterns. Then I summarize the types of external splits (notably different case and agreement requirements), and the conditions on such splits. This outline of internal and external splits forms the essential basis for analysing the unusual instances where internal and external splits are linked. Demonstrating that the splits are linked is not straightforward, and so I give four types of argument to establish that particular splits are indeed linked. The examples, from a range of languages, show subtle variations, and these differences allow us to see clearly the hierarchy of ways in which featural information is associated with lexemes.

Greville G. Corbett (2023)Interview with Bernard Comrie, In: SKASE journal of theoretical linguistics20(2)pp. 187-197 Slovak Assoc Study English-Skase
Michael Franjieh, Alexandra Grandison, Anne-Laure Dotte, Greville G. Corbett (2022)Implementing free-listing: possessive classifiers in Oceanic, In: Semantic Fieldwork Methods Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia

We evaluate the design and implementation of the free-list experiment, which is a relatively easy method for exploring the membership of semantic categories (Weller & Romney 1988). Different factors that could affect the replicability and validity of the experiment are explored, and these are balanced with the need to work sensitively with speakers of endangered and minority language communities. By including aspects of a Participatory Research approach (van der Riet & Boettiger 2009), such as building rapport and respecting participants' knowledge, the experimenter can extend the free-list experiment to include wider discussions around the linguistic categories under study. We include a case study from our research on Oceanic possessive classifiers to show that a free-list experiment results in a wealth of data, and offers up opportunities for discussing and valorising different speakers' understanding of linguistic categories.

Greville G. Corbett, D Brown, M Baerman (2002)The Surrey Syncretisms Database University of Surrey
O Fedden, T Feist, Matthew Baerman, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett, G Senft (2015)Mian and Kilivila Collection The University of Surrey

The Mian and Kilivila Collection contains information pertaining to the nominal classification systems of two indigenous languages of Papua New Guinea, Mian and Kilivila. Kilivila has a single system of classifiers, with a great number of distinctions, while Mian has a dual system, which combines four genders and six classifiers. The Digital Collection on this website permits users to gain a greater understanding of these systems by exploring images of Mian and Kilivila objects and people. Users are also able to test what they have learnt about the classifications systems of these two languages by taking the online Quiz.

Greville G. Corbett, Sebastian Fedden (2018)New approaches to the typology of gender, In: Sebastian Fedden, Jenny Audring, Greville G. Corbett (eds.), Non-Canonical Gender Systemspp. 9-35 Oxford University Press
M Chumakina, O Bond, Greville G. Corbett (2016)Essentials of Archi grammar, In: O Bond, Greville G. Corbett, M Chumakina, D Brown (eds.), Archi: Complexities of agreement in cross-theoretical perspective(2)pp. 17-42 Oxford University Press
Greville G. Corbett (2012)Canonical morphosyntactic features., In: D Brown, M Chumakina, Greville G. Corbett (eds.), Canonical morphology and syntax Oxford University Press
Matthew Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2009)Morphological Complexity: a typological perspective
Matthew Baerman, Greville G. Corbett (2010)A typology of inflectional class interaction.
Greville G. Corbett (2011)The Unique Challenge of the Archi Paradigm, In: C Cathcart, S Kang, CS Sandy, (eds.), Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics. Special Session on Languages of the Caucasuspp. 52-67

The verbal paradigms of the Daghestanian language Archi are justly famous for their impressive size. I argue, however, that there is a more difficult problem lodged within a small and apparently simple part of the paradigm. It concerns the expression of gender and number, in their interaction with person. I present information on the large scale of the paradigm briefly, and then outline the problem of person. The need, or lack of it, for a person feature in Archi has been discussed elsewhere, so that here I can simply summarize the argument.If the need for a person feature is accepted, it follows that the paradigm has an unusual shape. This paradigm is genuinely difficult, as I demonstrate in the main part of the paper."

A Krasovitsky, Matthew Baerman, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett, P Williams (2010)Morphosyntactic Change in Russian: A Corpus-based Approach, In: B Hansen, J Grković-Major (eds.), Diachronic Slavic syntax: Gradual changes in focus74pp. 109-119 Verlag Otto Sagner
Matthew Baerman, Dunstan Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2017)Morphological Complexity Cambridge University Press

Inflectional morphology plays a paradoxical role in language. On the one hand it tells us useful things, for example that a noun is plural or a verb is in the past tense. On the other hand many languages get along perfectly well without it, so the baroquely ornamented forms we sometimes find come across as a gratuitous over-elaboration. This is especially apparent where the morphological structures operate at cross purposes to the general systems of meaning and function that govern a language, yielding inflection classes and arbitrarily configured paradigms. This is what we call morphological complexity. Manipulating the forms of words requires learning a whole new system of structures and relationships. This book confronts the typological challenge of characterising the wildly diverse sorts of morphological complexity we find in the languages of the world, offering both a unified descriptive framework and quantitative measures that can be applied to such heterogeneous systems.

Matthew Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2002)Case syncretism in and out of Indo-European, In: M Andronis, C Ball, H Elston, S Neuvel (eds.), Papers from the 37th Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society1pp. 15-28 Chicago Linguistic Society
Greville G. Corbett, Wayles Browne (2018)Serbo-Croat: Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian, In: Bernard Comrie (eds.), The World’s Major Languagespp. 339-356 Routledge

This revised edition includes updated bibliographies for each chapter and up-to-date census figures. The featured languages have been chosen based on the number of speakers, their role as official languages and their cultural and historical importance. Each language is looked at in depth, and the chapters provide information on both grammatical features and on salient features of the language's history and cultural role.

Greville G. Corbett (2009)Universals and features., In: S Scalise, E Magni, A Bisetto (eds.), Universals of Language Todaypp. 129-143 Springer

Greenberg’s paper on universals (1963) contains an interesting set of generalizations relating to features. It is a good time to review the issues involved in establishing universals of features. These verge on the philosophical at one extreme, while at the other they concern the practical question of how we present and gloss examples. Various initiatives concerned with standardization, taken broadly, are under way, and it is important that they should be fully informed by the linguistic issues. There are two main areas to discuss: the Analysis problem and the Correspondence problem. The Analysis problem: for a given language, we need to be able to justify the postulation of any feature (such as number or case). Equally, for each feature in the language we need to be able to justify the set of values postulated (for example: singular, dual, paucal and plural; nominative, accusative and genitive). For some languages the analysis is trivially simple, in others it is exceptionally complex (for some there have been long-running debates). In this context, it is worth reviewing the work of the Set-theoretical School, given its undoubted relevance for typology. The difficulties posed by hybrids will be discussed; this leads naturally to typological hierarchies and the ‘Canonical’ approach in modern typology. The Correspondence problem: as typologists we need to be able to justify treating features and their values as comparable across languages. This is not straightforward, and yet a good deal of typology, including enterprises such as the World Atlas of Language Structures, depends upon it. The problem has a second, more subtle version. Even within a single language, features and their values do not necessarily line up consistently. In Bayso, the number system of nouns and verbs interact in a complex way. In Romanian, the genders of nouns and adjectives differ, and there are many more such examples. Here a typological perspective can inform the analysis of a single language and, of course, a typology which ignored these languages would be considerably impoverished. Features are an area where the concerns of the typologist meet those of computational linguists, formal linguists, fieldworkers, in fact linguists in many different guises. As we put increasing theoretical weight on features, it is important to review our assumptions and check our progress in understanding them.

(2018)Non-canonical gender systems Oxford University Press.

The first book to examine these unusual gender systems in the canonical framework. Explores new data from a range of typologically diverse languages. Adopts a clear methodological approach in each chapter. Includes work from international experts in the field.

Matthew Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown (2010)Defective Paradigms: missing forms and what they tell us163 Oxford University Press

An important design feature of language is the use of productive patterns in inflection. In English, we have pairs such as 'enjoy' ~ 'enjoyed', 'agree' ~ 'agreed', and many others. On the basis of this productive pattern, if we meet a new verb 'transduce' we know that there will be the form 'transduced'. Even if the pattern is not fully regular, there will be a form available, as in 'understand' ~ 'understood'. Surprisingly, this principle is sometimes violated, a phenomenon known as defectiveness, which means there is a gap in a word's set of forms: for example, given the verb 'forego', many if not most people are unwilling to produce a past tense. Although such gaps have been known to us since the days of Classical grammarians, they remain poorly understood. Defectiveness contradicts basic assumptions about the way inflectional rules operate, because it seems to require that speakers know that for certain words, not only should one not employ the expected rule, one should not employ any rule at all. This is a serious problem, since it is probably safe to say that all reigning models of grammar were designed as if defectiveness did not exist, and would lose a considerable amount of their elegance if it were properly factored in. This volume addressed these issues from a number of analytical approaches - historical, statistical and theoretical - and by using studies from a range of languages.

Matthew Baerman, Greville G. Corbett (2013)Person by other means, In: D Bakker, M Haspelmath (eds.), Languages Across Boundaries: Studies in Memory of Anna Siewierskapp. 1-14 De Gruyter

Person is required in an account of the syntax and the morphology of many languages, while others lack it. Between these two types are languages where person lacks unique morphological exponents (suggesting it is not a morphosyntactic feature) but interacts systematically with the expression of other features (suggesting it is a feature). In particular in a range of languages, notably in the Nakh-Daghestanian and Tucanoan families, the expression of gender and person are intertwined. The recurring pattern is that a default form in the gender system (inanimate or neuter) also serves for first and second person. After careful examination, possible analyses without a person feature become less attractive. While these genuinely difficult systems may still lead us to posit a morphosyntactic person feature, we must recognize that its status is intriguingly different from that which is normally found.

Greville G. Corbett, Matthew Baerman, DP Brown, S Collier (2010)Morphological Complexity: introduction. .
Greville G. Corbett (2007)Gradience in morphosyntactic features, In: M Elliott (eds.), CLS 43: The Main Session. Papers from the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Societypp. 47-60

As Einstein nicely put it: ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’ It would be good to have a simple typology of the morphosyntactic features. And if Zwicky (1986: 988-989) is right in suggesting that there is a fixed list of available features and values, then a simple typology is an attainable goal. However, when we examine how features and their values can be established for given languages, gradience appears to be a major challenge. One common response to this challenge is to propose additional feature values; as we shall see, this response would rule out a simple typology. I argue that this approach fails: additional values cannot account for gradience. This means that we can still work towards the ideal of a simple typology. Thus for this paper, gradience looms large as a possible obstacle to a different goal. Gradience is an obstacle, which might suggest that we were heading for the ‘simpler’ situation, the one that fails to recognize the true complexity of the problem. I will show that this apparent obstacle is not directly relevant, allowing us still to work towards a typology which is indeed ‘as simple as possible’

Greville G. Corbett, Matthew Baerman, D Brown (2002)Domains of syncretism: a demonstration of the autonomy of morphology, In: M Andronis, C Ball, H Elston, S Neuvel (eds.), CLS 37: The Panels: 2001: Proceedings from the Parasessions of the 37th Meeting of the Chicago linguistics Society. Vol 37-2, 385-398 Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society
Greville G. Corbett, Matthew Baerman, D Brown (2001)Case syncretism in and out of Indo-European. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society

CLS37: The Panels. Papers from the 37th Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 15-28

Matthew Baerman, Greville G. Corbett (2012)Stem alternations and multiple exponence, In: Word Structure5(1)pp. 52-68

In a canonical inflectional paradigm, inflectional affixes mark distinctions in morphosyntactic value, while the lexical stem remains invariant. But stems are known to alternate too, constituting a system of inflectional marking operating according to parameters which typically differ from those of the affixal system, and so represent a distinct object of inquiry. Cross-linguistically, we still lack a comprehensive picture of what patterns of stem alternation are found, and hence the theoretical status of stem alternations remains unclear. We propose a typological framework for classifying stem alternations, basing it on the paradigm-internal relationship between the features marked by stem alternations versus those marked by affixes. Stem alternations may mark completely different features from the affixes (§2), or the same features (§3). Within the latter, the values may match (§3.1) – a rare situation – or be conflated (§3.2). Conflation in turn may involve natural semantic/morphosyntactic classes (§3.2.1), or phonological conditioning (§3.2.2), or be morphologically stipulated (§3.2.3). These patterns typically reveal stems’ continued allegiance to lexical as opposed to inflectional organizing principles.

A Krasovitsky, Matthew Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2011)Changing semantic factors in case selection: Russian evidence from the last two centuries, In: Morphology21(3)pp. 573-592

We present a corpus-based study of variation in case assignment of the direct object of negated verbs in Russian over the past 200 years. Superficially the system of case forms available over this relatively short period has remained largely the same, but the way in which certain cases are used has been radically altered. This is particularly apparent in the treatment of the direct object of negated verbs. We argue that various semantic factors have been involved in bringing about this change, and that the role and significance of these factors has been changing over the period under investigation. This has implications for our understanding of the role of semantics in case assignment.

Greville G. Corbett (1993)The head of Russian numeral expressions, In: Greville G. Corbett, Norman M. Fraser, Scott McGlashan (eds.), Heads in Grammatical Theorypp. 11-35 Cambridge University Press

Contemporary linguistic theories distinguish the principal element of a phrase - the ‘head’ - from the subordinate elements it dominates. This pervasive grammatical concept has been used to describe and account for linguistic phenomena ranging from agreement and government to word order universals, but opinions differ widely on its precise definition. A key question is whether the head is not already identified by some other, more basic notion or interacting set of notions in linguistics. Heads in Grammatical Theory is the first book devoted to the subject. Providing a clear view of current research on heads, some of the foremost linguists in the field tackle the problems set by the assumptions of particular grammatical theories and offer insights which have relevance across theories. Questions considered include whether there is a theory-neutral definition of head, whether heads have cognitive reality, how to identify the head of a phrase, and whether there are any universal correlations between headedness and deletability.

Greville G. Corbett (2015)Morphosyntactic complexity: A typology of lexical splits, In: Language (Baltimore)91(1)pp. 145-193 Linguistic Society of America
Marcel Schlechtweg, Greville G. Corbett (2021)The duration of word-final s in English: A comparison of regular-plural and pluralia-tantum nouns, In: Morphology Springer

The alveolar fricative occurs in word-final position in English in different grammatical functions. Nominal suffixes may indicate plurality (e.g. cars), genitive case (e.g. car’s) or plurality and genitive case in cumulation (e.g. cars’). Further, there are the third person singular verbal suffix (e.g. she fears) and the cliticized forms of the third person singular forms of have and be (e.g. she’s been lucky; she’s friendly). There is also non-affixal s (e.g. freeze (noun)). Against the standard view that all these types are homophonous, several empirical studies have shown that at least some of the fricatives listed can actually be differentiated in their duration. The present article expands this line of research and considers a further case, which has not been included in previous analyses: pluralia-tantum nouns (e.g. goggles). We report on a carefully controlled reading study in which native speakers of British English produced pluralia-tantum and comparable regular-plural nouns (e.g. toggles). The duration of the word-final fricative was measured, and it was found that the two do not systematically differ in this acoustic parameter. The new data are interpreted in comparison to relevant previous studies, and against the background of the similarities of pluralia-tantum and regular-plural nouns.

Greville G. Corbett, Erich Round (2020)Comparability and measurement in typological science: The bright future for linguistics, In: Linguistic typology24(3)pp. 489-525 De Gruyter

Linguistics, and typology in particular, can have a bright future. We justify this optimism by discussing comparability from two angles. First, we take the opportunity presented by this special issue of to pause for a moment and make explicit some of the logical underpinnings of typological sciences, linguistics included, which we believe are worth reminding ourselves of. Second, we give a brief illustration of comparison, and particularly measurement, within modern typology.

Greville G. Corbett (2021)Feature-based competition: A thousand years of Slavonic possessives, In: All Things Morphology - Its independence and its interfaces John Benjamins

Competition takes many forms. A newly identified type of competition involves the featural specification of one of the competitors as a key factor. In the particular instance treated here, whether a given item has a competitor depends on its number (and sometimes its person). We focus on the use of the genitive case versus adjective-like forms in possessive expressions (broadly understood). The data come primarily from the Slavonic languages, where a surprising original system of possessive pronouns competing with personal pronouns has played out rather differently through the family. We find a variety of outcomes, from conservative to highly innovative, with some instances of competitors settling into different niches.

Michael Franjieh, Greville G. Corbett, Alexandra M Grandison (2021)Uncovering variation in classifier assignment in Oceanic, In: ExLing 2021: Proceedings of 12th International Conference of Experimental Linguistics, 11-13 October 2021, Athens, Greecepp. 81-84 xLing Society

We discuss the results of a video vignettes experiment that uncovers the variation of noun-classifier assignment in the possessive classifier system of six Oceanic languages. The results show that languages vary in their noun-classifier assignment, with some languages displaying relatively fixed assignment, similar to a grammatical gender system.

Greville G. Corbett (2023)The typology of external splits, In: Language (Baltimore)99(1)pp. 108-153 Linguistic Society of America

The lexicon divides into parts of speech (or lexical categories), and there are cross-cutting regularities(features). These two dimensions of analysis take us a long way, but several phenomenaelude us. For these the term ‘split’ is used extensively (‘case split’, ‘split agreement’, and more),but in confusingly different ways. Yet there is a unifying notion here. I show that a split is an additionalpartition, whether in the part-of-speech inventory or in the feature system. On thisbase an elegant typology can be constructed, using minimal machinery. The typology starts fromfour external relations (government, agreement, selection, and anti-government), and it specifiesfour types of split within each (sixteen possibilities in all). This typology (i) highlights less familiarsplits, from diverse languages, and fits them into the larger picture; (ii) introduces a new relation,anti-government, and documents it; (iii) elucidates the complexities of multiple splits; and(iv) clarifies what exactly is split, which leads to a sharpening of our analyses and applies acrossdifferent traditions.*

Marcel Schlechtweg, Greville G. Corbett (2022)Is morphosyntactic agreement reflected in acoustic detail? The s duration of English regular plural nouns, In: English language and linguistics27(1)pp. 67-92 Cambridge University Press

Studies have challenged the assumption that different types of word-final s in English are homophonous. On the one hand, affixal (e.g. laps) and non-affixal s (e.g. lapse) differ in their duration; on the other hand, variation exists across several types of affixal s (e.g. between the plural (cars) and genitive plural (cars')). This line of research was recently expanded in a study in which an interesting side effect appeared: the s was longer if followed by a past tense verb (e.g. The pods/odds eventually dropped), in comparison to a following present tense verb (e.g. The old screens/jeans obviously need replacing.). Put differently, the s became longer in the absence of overt morphosyntactic agreement, where it was mostly the sole plurality marker in the sentence. The objective of the present article is to examine whether this effect can be replicated in a more controlled setting. Having considered a large number of potential confounding variables in a reading experiment, we found an effect in the expected direction, one that is compatible with the literature on the impact that predictability has on duration. We interpret this finding against the background of the role of fine acoustic detail in language.

Greville G. Corbett (2023)The Agreement Hierarchy and (generalized) semantic agreement, In: Glossa: a journal of general linguistics8(1)pp. 1-39

Agreement systems often allow alternatives: This family has / have lost everything. Therefore typology requires a means for generalizing over them. Instances like plural have are frequently termed " semantic agreement " (vs. " syntactic agreement " for singular has), but this notion has proved difficult. The challenge is to encompass the full typological range of alternative agreements. These include the core instances: (i) hybrid nouns like family; and (ii) constructional mismatches, such as conjoined nominal phrases, but also less obvious phenomena: (iii) split hybrids where neither alternative is straightforwardly semantic, both appear related to form, and (iv) examples like Scandinavian " pancake sentences " , which stretch semantic agreement towards pragmatics. These different types are comparable in that (i) the alternatives are realized by the normal agreement forms; and (ii) they are subject to the Agreement Hierarchy. Hence they demand a common treatment. To achieve this, I first unpack the Agreement Hierarchy constraint into the agreement target positions and the directionality implied by " semantic agreement ". I show how the latter arises from mismatches between the agreement information available from different sources. Typically, in the core instances, the information from one source is more evidently semantic than from the second. But in other instances, this is less clear.

Greville G. Corbett (2022)The Agreement Hierarchy revisited: The typology of controllers, In: Word structure15(3)181pp. 181-225 Edinburgh University Press

The Agreement Hierarchy consists of four principal target positions: attributive, predicate, relative pronoun and anaphoric personal pronoun. It constrains the distribution of alternative agreements, in that the likelihood of agreement with greater semantic justification increases monotonically as we move rightwards along the hierarchy. The Agreement Hierarchy covers a wide range of disparate data, and continues to figure regularly in work on theoretical syntax. Since the hierarchy was first proposed, typology has moved on. This means that to remain fit for the purposes for which it is currently used, the hierarchy needs an overhaul. The typology of agreement controllers is the area where the need is most urgent; this is therefore our focus. The canonical typology of controllers is shown to have two dimensions: lexeme to phrase, and local to extraneous (the latter involving honorific agreement, associative agreement, back agreement and “pancake sentences”). These two dimensions are amply illustrated. Finally, interactions between the different types of agreement controller are investigated, since these prove revealing for the typology. Besides making progress on the typology of agreement, the paper contributes to typology more generally, in incorporating insights from other typological disciplines.

Greville G. Corbett (2005)The canonical approach in typology, In: AHADSR Zygmunt Frajzyngier (eds.), Linguistic Diversity and Language Theories (Studies in Language Companion Series 72)pp. 25-49 Benjamins
M Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2009)Morphological complexity: the view from typology
Greville G. Corbett (2009)Suppletion: Typology, markedness, complexity, In: MKP Steinkrüger (eds.), On Inflectionpp. 25-40 Moution de Gruyter
Greville G. Corbett (2010)Features in typology

If we consider the widely varying approaches to languages, we find one thing that is shared by almost all: namely the use of features. They have a central place in theoretical syntax and morphology, and are the subject of major typological generalizations. Although features underpin a good deal of what we do in linguistics, they have been neglected: they are used in inconsistent ways, without sufficient attention to the logic of their use and the variety of their meanings. The course will therefore consider why features are so important in linguistics, and set out the different types of feature. We then consider the basic and challenging issue of how we establish the features and values of a particular language. We then have to ask whether and how we can compare features across languages. We whall analyse particularly the genuinely morphosyntactic features (number, gender, person, case, and in rare instances definiteness and respect), since these are in many ways the most interesting. We shall see that they do indeed offer interesting typological patterns, while also displaying remarkable diversity.

Greville G. Corbett (2006)Agreement Cambridge University Press
Greville G. Corbett (2012)Periphrasis and possible lexemes, In: Periphrasis. The Role of Syntax and Morphology in Paradigms(7)pp. 169-189 Oxford University Press/British Academy

When examining Periphrasis we naturally analyse the state of the contributing elements and the interplay of syntactic and morphological factors. But if periphrastic forms are part of paradigms, we should also ask how periphrasis affects the notion ‘possible lexeme’. In particular, we can look at the ways in which periphrastic forms ‘split’ lexemes. This is a relatively new area. Since periphrasis is in large part the issue of whether we are dealing with a single lexeme or more than one, it is therefore worth investigating these splits more generally, first looking at ‘easier’ splits, and only then going on to the typology of splits created by periphrasis. I shall not go over the issue of the competition between synthetic and periphrastic forms, for which see, for instance, Stump (2002) and Kiparsky (2005); rather I shall concentrate on the shape of lexemes which are split by periphrasis.

DP Brown, A Hippisley, M Chumakina, Greville G. Corbett (2004)Suppletion: Frequency, categories and distribution of stems, In: Studies in Language28(2)pp. 387-418
Greville G. Corbett (2003)Types of typology, illustrated from gender systems, In: FP (.) (eds.), Noun Phrase Structure in the Languages of Europe (Empirical Approaches to Language Typology EUROTYP 20-7)pp. 289-334 Mouton de Gruyter
Greville G. Corbett (2004)The Russian Adjective: A pervasive yet elusive category, In: RMWDAAY Aikhenvald (eds.), Adjective classes: A cross-linguistic typologypp. 199-222 Oxford University Press
Greville G. Corbett (2005)Sex-based and Non-sex-based Gender (chapter and map), In: MD Martin Haspelmath (eds.), World Atlas of Language Structurespp. 130-133 Oxford University Press
Greville G. Corbett (2005)The Number of Genders (chapter and map), In: MD Martin Haspelmath, MS Dryer, D Gil, B Comrie (eds.), The World Atlas of Language Structurespp. 126-137 Oxford University Press
Greville G. Corbett (2005)Systems of Gender Assignment (chapter and map), In: MD Martin Haspelmath (eds.), World Atlas of Language Structurespp. 134-137 Oxford University Press
DP Brown, N Evans, C Tiberius, Greville G. Corbett (2003)A large-scale inheritance based morphological lexicon for Russianpp. 9-16
Greville G. Corbett, A Hippisley, D Brown, P Marriott (2001)Frequency, regularity and the paradigm: a perspective from Russian on a complex relation. In: J. Bybee and P. Hopper (eds) Frequency and the Emergence of Linguistic Structure, In: JBAP Hopper (eds.), Frequency and the Emergence of Linguistic Structurepp. 201-226 John Benjamins
M Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2002)The Surrey Syncretisms Database

Syncretism is a surprising yet widespread and poorly understood phenomenon in natural language. Given a regular distinction such as present versus past, as in English help/helped, work/worked, laugh/laughed, we might not expect to find instances like bid, which can be present or past (we now bid five pounds, though yesterday we bid ten pounds). The form bid, is said to be an instance of syncretism, a single form fulfilling two or more different functions. Thus syncretism is found even in English, whose inflectional morphology (system of different word-forms) is simple in comparison with many languages. The database encodes information on inflectional syncretism in 30 genetically and geographically diverse languages, representing such morphosyntactic features as case, person, number and gender, in all the inflectional classes where they are relevant.

Greville G. Corbett (2006)Determining features and their values
GG Corbett (2007)Deponency, syncretism and what lies between., In: M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, D Brown, A Hippisley, (eds.), Deponency and Morphological Mismatches.pp. 21-43
Greville G. Corbett, M Noonan (2008)Case and grammatical relations: studies in honor of Bernard Comrie John Benjamins Publishing Company

The papers in this volume can be grouped into two broad, overlapping classes: those dealing primarily with case and those dealing primarily with grammatical relations. With regard to case, topics include descriptions of the case systems of two Caucasian languages, the problems of determining how many cases Russian has and whether Hungarian has a case system at all, the issue of case-combining, the retention of the dative in Swedish dialects, and genitive objects in the languages of Europe. With regard to grammatical relations, topics include the order of obliques in OV and VO languages, the effects of the referential hierarchy on the distribution of grammatical relations, the problem of whether the passive requires a subject category, the relation between subjecthood and definiteness, and the issue of how the loss of case and aspectual systems triggers the use of compensatory mechanisms in heritage Russian.

Greville G. Corbett (2015)Hybrid nouns and their complexity, In: J Fleischer, E Rieken, P Widmer (eds.), Agreement from a Diachronic Perspective (Trends in Linguistics Studies and Monographs)(287)pp. 191-214 De Gruyter Mouton

Hybrid nouns, nouns which induce different agreements according to the target, have been described in various languages. The new question is why they exist at all. There is clear evidence that hybrids vary considerably in the agreement they control, even within a single language. It therefore seems logical to align this variability with lexical semantics, and this is convincing for some hybrids. But this motivation is hard to reconcile with the fact that some hybrids are hybrids only for part of their paradigm. These latter instances suggest that the underlying motivation for some hybrids is a form-meaning mismatch.

Greville G. Corbett (2010)Implicational hierarchies, In: The Oxford Handbook of Language Typologypp. 190-205 Oxford University Press

This article provides a discussion on implicational hierarchies. It presents the examples of typological hierarchies and considers in turn syntactic, morphosyntactic, and lexical hierarchies. A well-known syntactic hierarchy is the Accessibility Hierarchy. The Agreement Hierarchy and the Animacy Hierarchy are the two well-established examples of morphosyntactic hierarchy. The Berlin and Kay Hierarchy is a famous typological hierarchy for lexis. Any proposed hierarchy must be justified by the range of data that it explains and the closeness of fit between the data and the claim made. The use of hierarchies for research on individual languages is described. The article finally deals with the extension of hierarchies and the relation of hierarchies to semantic maps.

Greville G. Corbett, NF Fraser (2000)Default genders, In: B Unterbeck, M Rissanen, T Nevalainen, M Saari (eds.), Gender in Grammar and Cognition124 Berlin:Mouton de Gruyter 55-97. [Reprinted 2002 in the Mouton Jubilee collection "Mouton Classics: From syntax to Cognition: From Phonology to text", volume 1, 297-339]
Greville G. Corbett (2012)Grammatical Relations in a typology of agreement systems, In: B Comrie, V Solovyev (eds.), Argument Structure and Grammatical Relations: A crosslinguistic typologyXVpp. 37-54 John Benjamins Publishing Company

It has been suggested that grammatical relations should be sufficient to determine agreement relations within the clausal domain. Three types of counter-example to this proposal are presented. Then evidence is presented which suggests that the rules for agreement require access to thematic roles and to communicative functions. In addition, they need to refer to surface case. While grammatical relations provide a useful part of a typology of agreement, they are far from sufficient.

O Bond, Greville G. Corbett, M Chumakina, D Brown (2016)Archi: Complexities of agreement in cross-theoretical perspective Oxford University Press

This book presents a controlled evaluation of three widely practised syntactic theories on the basis of the extremely complex agreement system of Archi, an endangered Nakh-Daghestanian language. Even straightforward agreement examples are puzzling for syntacticians because agreement involves both redundancy and arbitrariness. Agreement is a significant source of syntactic complexity, exacerbated by the great diversity of its morphological expression. Imagine how the discipline of linguistics would be if expert practitioners of different theories met in a collaborative setting to tackle such challenging agreement data - to test the limits of their models and examine how the predictions of their theories differ given the same linguistic facts. Following an overview of the essentials of Archi grammar and an introduction to the remarkable agreement phenomena found in this language, three distinct accounts of the Archi data examine the tractability and predictive power of major syntactic theories: Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar, Lexical Functional Grammar, and Minimalism. The final chapter compares the problems encountered and the solutions proposed in the different syntactic analyses and outlines the implications of the challenges that the Archi agreement system poses for linguistic theory.

A Hippisley, M Chumakina, Greville G. Corbett, D Brown (2004)Suppletion: Frequency, categories and distribution of stems, In: Studies in Language28(2)pp. 387-418
Greville G. Corbett (2010)Classic problems at the syntax-morphology interface:whose are they?, In: S Muller, (eds.), Proceedings of the HPSG10 Conferencepp. 255-268

There are fascinating problems at the syntax-morphology interface which tend to be missed. I offer a brief explanation of why that may be happening, then give a Canonical Typology perspective, which brings these problems to the fore. I give examples showing that the phenomena could in principle be treated either by syntactic rules (but these would be complex) or within morphology (but this would involve redundancy). Thus `non-autonomous' case values, those which have no unique form but are realized by patterns of syncretism, could be handled by a rule of syntax (one with access to other features, such as number) or by morphology (with resulting systematic syncretisms). I concentrate on one of the most striking sets of data, the issue of prepositional government in Latvian, and outline a solution within Network Morphology using structured case values.

Greville G. Corbett, A Krasovitsky, A Long, M Baerman, DP Brown (2017)Russian Quantifier phrases in transition.
Greville G. Corbett, A Krasovitsky, A Long, DP Brown, M Baerman (2017)Changing semantic factors in case selection: Russian evidence from the last two centuries
N Evans, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2001)Dalabon pronominal prefixes and the typology of syncretism: a Network Morphology analysis. In: G. Booij and J. van Marle (eds) Yearbook of Morphology 2000, In: GBJV Marle (eds.), Yearbook of Morphology 2000pp. 187-231 Kluwer
Greville G. Corbett (2010)Canonical inflectional classes
Greville G. Corbett (2003)Agreement: Terms and Boundaries, In: W Griffin, (eds.), The Role of Agreement in Natural Language. Proceedings of the 2001 Texas Linguistic Society Conference, Austin, Texaspp. 109-122
Greville G. Corbett (2003)Agreement: overview, In: WJ Frawley (eds.), International Encyclopedia of Liguistics: Second Editionpp. 53-55 Oxford University Press
Greville G. Corbett (2009)Canonical inflectional classes., In: F Montermini, G Boyé, J Tseng, (eds.), Selected Proceedings of the 6th Décembrettes: Morphology in Bordeauxpp. 1-11

The author uses a 'canonical' approach to offer a new perspective on the complex phenomenon of inflectional classes. This means extrapolating from what there is to what there might be, in order to define the theoretical space into which real instances fit. To do this, the author proposes eight criteria, grouped under two overarching principles. These are: I. distinctiveness: canonical inflectional classes are as clearly distinct as possible; and II. independence: the distribution of lexical items over canonical inflectional classes is unmotivated. The author investigates the various deviations from these principles, by considering in turn the more detailed criteria which exemplify them. While one might reasonably expect that 'canonical inflectional class' is an ideal without exemplars, the author finds an example which comes remarkably close to canonical.

Greville G. Corbett (2001)Asymmetries of morphological marking, In: JRRAFN Christopher Schaner-Wolles (eds.), Naturally! Linguistic studies in honour of Wolfgang Ulrich Dressler presented on the occasion of his 60th birthdaypp. 87-95 Rosenberg & Sellier
B Comrie, Greville G. Corbett (2002)The Slavonic Languages Taylor & Francis

In this scholarly volume, each of the living Slavonic languages are analyzed and described in depth, together with the two extinct languages--Old Church Slavonic and Polabian.

Greville G. Corbett, M Klamer, A Schapper, G Holton, F Kratochvil, L Robinson (2014)Numeral words and arithmetic operations in the Alor-Pantar languages, In: M Klamer (eds.), The Alor-pantar Languages: History and Typologypp. 337-373 Language Sciences press

The indigenous numerals of the AP languages, as well as the indigenous structures for arithmetic operations are currently under pressure from Indonesian, and will inevitably be replaced with Indonesian forms and structures. This chapter presents a documentary record of the forms and patterns currently in use to express numerals and arithmetic operations in the Alor-Pantar languages. We describe the structure of cardinal, ordinal and distributive numerals, and how operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions are expressed.

Greville G. Corbett, M Klamer, A Schapper (2014)Plural number words in the Alor-Pantar Languages, In: M Klamer (eds.), The Alor-Pantar languages: History and typologypp. 375-412 Language Sciences Press

In this chapter, we investigate the variation in form, syntax and semantics of the plural words found across the Alor-Pantar languages. We study five AP languages: Western Pantar, Teiwa, Abui, Kamang and Wersing. We show that plural words in Alor-Pantar family are diachronically instable: although proto-Alor-Pantar had a plural number word *non, many AP languages have innovated new plural words. Plural words in these languages exhibit not only a wide variety of different syntactic properties but also variable semantics, thus likening them more to the range exhibited by affixal plural number than previously recognized.

Greville G. Corbett (1991)Gender Cambridge Univ Pr

Gender distinction is often based on sex; sometimes this is only one criterion and the gender of nouns depends on other factors (thus "house" is masculine in Russian, feminine in French and neuter in Tamil).

Greville G. Corbett (2006)Gender as a key morphosyntactic feature
Greville G. Corbett (2000)Number

Provides an introduction to the grammatical category of number surveying many of the world's languages.

Greville G. Corbett, D Brown, N Evans (2002)Morphology, typology, computation. In: S. Bendjaballah, W.U. Dressler, O.E. Pfeiffer and M. Voeikova (eds) Morphology 2000, Selected papers from the 9th Morphology Meeting, Vienna, 24-25 February 2000, In: S Bendjaballah, U Dressler, OE Pfeiffer, M Voeikova (eds.), Morphology 2000: Selected Papers from the 9th Morphology Meeting, Vienna 24-28 February 2000pp. 91-104 Benjamins
Greville G. Corbett, C Tiberius, D Brown, J Barron (2002)The Surrey Database of Agreement
Greville G. Corbett (2014)Lexicalization and paradigmatic structure: Key instances in Slavonic., In: N Motoki, A Danylenko, P Piper (eds.), Grammaticalization and Lexicalization in the Slavic Languages: Proceedings from the 36th meeting of the Commission on the Grammatical Structure of the Slavic Languages of the international Committee of Slavistspp. 266-274 Otto Sagner

The abstract structure of paradigms reflects the requirements of syntax. This implies regularity across the lexicon. How then can the structure of a paradigm (rather than particular forms) be lexicalized? There are possible instances of this in Slavonic, which we discuss both for their inherent interest and for their relevance to the more general issue of the syntax-morphology interface. Our approach relies heavily on the notion of default, and is within the Network Morphology framework (Corbett & Fraser 1993, Evans, Brown & Corbett 2002, Brown & Hippisley 2012). In this paper the emphasis is on the interesting conceptual issues, rather than on the formalism.

Greville G. Corbett, D Brown, M Chumakina, A Hippisley (2004)The Surrey Suppletion database
M Chumakina, DP Brown, H Quilliam, Greville G. Corbett (2007)Slovar´ arčinskogo jazyka (arčinsko-russko-anglijskij) [A dictionary of Archi: Archi-Russian-English] Delovoj Mir, xxiv + 410 pp.

A Dictionary of the Archi (Daghestanian) Language including word sounds and illustrations. Archi is spoken by about 1200 people in a remote mountain region in Daghestan. The language is characterised by remarkable phonetics, a very high degree of irregularity in all its inflecting word classes and by its morphological system, with extremely large paradigms. Archi culture is one of the most distinctive and best-preserved cultures of Daghestan

M Chumakina, Greville G. Corbett (2008)Archi: the challenge of an extreme agreement system., In: EA Ljutikova, OV Fëdorova (eds.), Fonetika i nefonetika: K 70-letiju Sandro V. Kodzasovapp. 184-194 Jazyki slavjanskix kul´tur
Greville G. Corbett (2007)Gender and Noun Classes, In: T Shopen (eds.), Language Typology and Syntactic Description: III: Grammatical categories and the lexiconpp. 241-279 Cambridge University Press[Revised version sent off 13.7.98, soft copy sent 15.1.02]
R Evans, C Tiberius, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2003)A large-scale inheritance-based morphological lexicon for Russianpp. pp9-p16
Greville G. Corbett (2009)Morphosyntactic features: the special contribution of the Slavonic languages., In: S Birzer, M Finkelstein, I Mendoza (eds.), Proceedings of the Second International Perspectives on Slavistics Conference (Regensburg 2006)pp. 68-74 Otto Sagner

Politeness has a major place in many languages, and is remarkably pervasive in some. Yet we rarely find respect as a morphosyntactic feature, alongside gender, person, number and case. I document this imbalance, and then ask why this is what we find. This paper was later published as a section of the book Features (2012). 338 pages. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107661080. Also in Linguistik 2012, 51 (1). Available online at:

Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown, M Chumakina (2008)Prolegomena to a typology of periphrasis

Periphrasis straddles the boundary between syntax and morphology, and so creates analytical and theoretical problems. These concern the nature of the word, the interaction between syntax and morphology, and the possible sizes and shapes of inflectional paradigms. Progress has been hampered because the theoretical devices available have been inadequate and because the range of data considered has been narrow. We are therefore undertaking a typological survey, adopting a ‘canonical’ approach in which we specify the different dimensions along which concrete instances of periphrasis can be classified as more or less canonical. Periphrastic constructions are common, yet relatively little is known about their typological range. Following Haspelmath (2000), our canonical approach encompasses not just verbs but also comparable phenomena involving other parts of speech (‘analytic’ forms in some traditions). Thus we include less familiar examples, such as this one, showing periphrastic expression of number on nouns. We give just two of seven cases: Nenets ti ‘reindeer’ (Ackerman 2000:3) SINGULAR DUAL PLURAL NOMINATIVE ti tex°h tiq DATIVE ten°h tex°h nyah tex°q Number and case are expressed synthetically for most cells of the paradigm, except for certain cells in the dual (represented here by the dative). We plan a careful examination of four key languages, Archi, Bininj Gun-Wok, Nenets and Sanskrit, each of which has significant and different instances of periphrasis. Based on this survey, we will establish: • the set of criteria for periphrasis; this is to define the space across which to calibrate any attested periphrastic construction. We shall start from the definitions in Ackerman & Stump (2004: 125-147). • the typological range of periphrasis, taking into account both the constructions and how they interact with language-specific morphological and syntactic rules • the diachronic stages that the syntactic phrase goes through on its way to becoming part of the morphological paradigm, and the conditions that permit this. Periphrasis can be understood in terms of a configuration of properties of canonical inflectional morphology (e.g. obligatoriness) and canonical syntax (e.g. independence of expression), as in our Nenets example. The canonical approach with its inclusive orientation allows us to calibrate and clarify the differing intuitions of typologists, and place periphrasis within the larger space of morphology-syntax interaction. Ackerman, Farrell. 2000. Lexical constructions: Paradigms and periphrastic expressions. Paper read at the LFG Workshop on Morphosyntax, Berkeley. Ackerman, Farrell & Gregory Stump. 2004. Paradigms and periphrastic expression: A study in realization-based lexicalism. Projecting Morphology, ed. by Andrew Spencer & Louisa Sadler, 111-157. Stanford: CSLI. Haspelmath, Martin. 2000. Periphrasis. Morphology: An international handbook on inflection and word formation, ed. by G. Booij, C. Lehmann & J. Mugdan, 654-664. Berlin: de Gruyter.

DP Brown, C Tiberius, Greville G. Corbett (2007)The Alignment of Form and Function: Corpus-based evidence from Russian, In: International Journal of Corpus Linguistics12pp. 511-534
N Evans, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (1998)Emu Divorce: A Unified Account of Gender and Noun Class Assignment in Mayali, In: In: M. Catherine Gruber, Derrick Higgins, Kenneth S. Olson & Tamra Wysocki (eds). Papers from 34th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Societypp. 147-172
Greville G. Corbett (2009)WORDS: forms, uses and complexity.
DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett, N Fraser, A Timberlake (1996)Russian Noun Stress and Network Morphology, In: Linguistics34(1)pp. 53-107
Greville G. Corbett (2009)Agreement, In: T Berger, K Gutschmidt, S Kempgen, P Kosta (eds.), Die Slavische Sprachen/The slavic Languages: An international Handbook of their Structure, their History and their Investigation, Vol 1pp. 342-354 Walter de Gruyter

In many respects the agreement systems of Slavonic languages are close to canonical. Controllers of agreement are often present, they have overt expression of features, and they take consistent agreements. The target has obligatory bound expression of agreement, and there is matching of features values (for person, number and gender). However, Slavonic also shows several very interesting instances of agreement choices, induced by a range of different controller types. These agreement choices provide good evidence for the constraints of the Agreement Hierarchy and the Predicate Hierarchy, as well as for various types of condition on agreement, notably animacy and precedence.

M Chumakina, A Kibort, Greville G. Corbett (2007)Determining a language’s feature inventory: person in Archi, In: PK Austin, A Simpson (eds.), Endangered Languages (special issue of Linguistische Berichte)14pp. 143-172 Helmut Buske

In descriptions of languages, we make use of morphosyntactic features such as gender, number or person. This paper shows that sometimes choosing the features and values to describe a language is not straightforward, and the decision of whether or not to use a particular feature requires careful consideration. Thus, when determining a language’s feature inventory, we should consider both why we posit a given feature, and how many values to posit for the feature. In our case study we look closely at the Daghestanian language Archi. It is usually assumed that languages have a person feature, but with Archi this is not self-evident. Archi (like some related languages) has no unique forms for agreement in person, and the standard descriptions of this language do not involve the feature person. However, the agreement patterns in Archi may be interpreted in favour of the presence of this feature, despite the absence of any phonologically distinct forms realising it. Thus, we claim that Archi does have the feature of person that had not been recognised for this language before. We also give a brief overview of the category of person in the languages of Daghestan.

M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, D Brown (2009)The Surrey Defectiveness Database (consisting of a Typological Database and a 100-language Survey) University of Surrey

The term 'defectiveness' refers to gaps in inflectional paradigms — specifically, gaps which do not appear to follow from natural restrictions imposed by meaning or function. The Latin noun for 'change' is a textbook example: bizarrely, it lacks nominative and dative singular forms, and has no genitive plural. The fact that inflectional paradigms may have such anomalous gaps in them has been known since at least the days of the classical grammarians, but now as then, we understand little about them. And though the existence of defective paradigms is indisputable, few people could name more than a handful of examples. The project A Typology of Defectiveness, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, completed in February 2009, has aimed to expand our empirical knowledge of this intriguing phenomenon and to clarify its significance for the study of language. This website hosts two complementary databases. The Typological Database examines the different types of defective paradigms according to various typological parameters. This database illustrates different types of defective paradigm according to various morphological and morphosyntactic parameters: a) Word class: what word class do the defective lexemes belong to? b) Morphosyntactic category: what morphosyntactic features characterize the missing forms? c) Paradigmatic correlation: can the gap(s) in the paradigm be described in terms of an easily definable morphological category (e.g. a word missing a particular morphological stem) or a morphosyntactic category (e.g. a verb missing its past tense or 1st person singular)? The 100-language Survey looks for plausible examples within a controlled sample, in order to gain a picture of how prevalent defectiveness actually is in the languages of the world.

A Krasovitsky, M Baerman, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett, A Long, H Quilliam (2009)Database of Short Term Morphosyntactic Change: variation in Russian 1801-2000

Languages change by gaining and losing word forms over time, but an equally significant role in their history is played by subtle shifts in the function of existing forms. Investigating such developments requires us to analyse patterns of use in large amounts of historical data, but such data are simply unavailable for most languages. Russian is a happy exception. It is a language with a rich and relatively stable system of inflectional morphology. Yet while the system of forms has changed relatively little, the use of these forms has undergone a remarkable degree of change over the last 200 years, a period for which a substantial quantity of varied material is available. The database is the product of a project funded by the Arts and Humanties Research Council (grant number RG/AN4375/APN18306); a full list of project outputs may be found at By investigating a corpus of literary texts created between 1801 and 2000 (10 million words in total), we have shown how dramatically a language can change even as the actual word forms remain unchanged. The database was designed to help address two theoretical questions: • What is the nature of morphosyntactic change in a language whose morphological system remains stable? • What factors condition the choice between competing forms? The database provides statistical analyses of the competition between grammatical forms for six morphosyntactic phenomena within equal time periods, described below. We give the user the means to investigate morphological, syntactic, stylistic and socio-linguistic factors involved in historical change , and so to observe how innovative usage spreads across contexts. Besides the results of this original study, we also give the results of earlier, less complete, studies by other scholars. An annotated bibliography of these sources is available at The data are the result of several person-years of effort; we have published some of the findings, and we welcome further use of the database by other researchers. We want the database to be accessible to historical linguists with no knowledge of Russian, as well as to Russianists, and so we give the examples in transliterated form. The database available at

Greville G. Corbett, T Trippel, M Maxwell, C Prince, C Manning, S Grimes, S Moran (2008)Lexicon Schemas and Related Data Models: when standards meet users

Lexicon schemas and their use are discussed in this paper from the perspective of lexicographers and field linguists. A variety of lexicon schemas have been developed, with goals ranging from computational lexicography (DATR) through archiving (LIFT, TEI) to standardization (LMF, FSR). A number of requirements for lexicon schemas are given. The lexicon schemas are introduced and compared to each other in terms of conversion and usability for this particular user group, using a common lexicon entry and providing examples for each schema under consideration. The formats are assessed and the final recommendation is given for the potential users, namely to request standard compliance from the developers of the tools used. This paper should foster a discussion between authors of standards, lexicographers and field linguists. Published in "Proceedings of the 6th International Language Resources and Evaluation Conference (LREC'08)"

Paper in the Arbeitsgruppe 'Auf alles gefasst sein: Ausnahmen in der Grammatik' at the 27th Annula meeting of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Sprachwissenschaft, Cologne 23-25 Feb 2005

A Hippisley, M Chumakina, Greville G. Corbett, D Brown (2004)Suppletion - Frequency, categories and distribution of stems, In: STUDIES IN LANGUAGE28(2)pp. 387-418

International Symposium 'the typology of argument structure and grammatical relations'11-14 may 2004, Kazan, Proceedings. Kazan state University

Greville G. Corbett, A Krasovitsky, A Long, M Baerman, D Brown (2005)Predicate nouns in Russian

SLS2006: The First Conference of the Slavic Linguistics Society, Bloomington IN.

A Kibort, Greville G. Corbett (2010)Features: perspective on a key notion in linguistics. Oxford University Press

Offers new perspectives on basic elements of linguistic analysis Subject is of interest to all linguists Important for both theoretical and empirical research Written by prominent, international scholars This book presents a critical overview of current work on linguistic features and establishes new bases for their use in the study and understanding of language. Features are fundamental components of linguistic description: they include gender (feminine, masculine, neuter); number (singular, plural, dual); person (1st, 2nd, 3rd); tense (present, past, future); and case (nominative, accusative, genitive, ergative). Despite their ubiquity and centrality in linguistic description, much remains to be discovered about them: there is, for example, no readily available inventory showing which features are found in which of the world's languages; there is no consensus about how they operate across different components of language; and there is no certainty about how they interact. This book seeks at once to highlight and to tackle these problems. It brings together perspectives from phonology to formal syntax and semantics, expounding the use of linguistic features in typology, computer applications, and logic. Linguists representing different standpoints spell out clearly the assumptions they bring to different kinds of feature and describe how they use them. Their contrasting contributions highlight the areas of difference and the common ground between their perspectives. The book brings together original work by leading international scholars. It will appeal to linguists of all theoretical persuasions. Readership: Linguists of all theoretical persuasions - including syntacticians, morphologists, computational linguists, and typologists - and their postgraduate students.

Greville G. Corbett, M Baerman, D Brown, A Krasovitsky, A Long (2005)Diachronic processes in Russian morphosyntax (a corpus based approach)
Greville G. Corbett (2007)Canonical typology, suppletion and possible words, In: Language83(1)pp. 8-42 Linguistic Society of America

We specify a typology for the extreme of inflectional morphology, namely suppletion (as in go ~ went). This is an unusual enterprise within typology, and it requires a ‘canonical’ approach. That is, we define the canonical or best instance, through a set of converging criteria, and use this point in theoretical space to locate the various occurring types. Thus the criteria establish the dimensions along which we find the specific instances of suppletion, allowing us to calibrate examples out from the canonical. The criteria fall into two main areas, those internal to the lexeme and those external to it. Moreover, we find interactions with other morphological phenomena, and discuss four of them: syncretism, periphrasis, overdifferentiation and reduplication. These remarkable instances of suppletion, particularly when in interaction with other phenomena, extend the boundary of the notion ‘possible word’. Besides laying out the possibilities for the specific phenomenon of suppletion, we show how a canonical approach allows us to make progress in typology, even in the most challenging areas.

Greville G. Corbett, C Tiberius, J Barron (2002)Agreement: A bibliography
Greville G. Corbett, C Tiberius, D Brown (2003)Ambiguity in Russian Morphology Lancaster 790

Proceedings of Corpus Linguistics 20003. University Centre for Computer Corpus Research on Language Technical Papers Vol 16

Greville G. Corbett (2013)The Expression of Gender6 De Gruyter Mouton

Gender is a fascinating category, which has grown steadily in importance across the humanities and social sciences. The book centres on the core of the category within language. Each of the seven contributions provides an independent account of a key part of the topic, ranging from gender and sex, gender and culture, to typology, dialect variation and psycholinguistics. The authors pay attention to a broad range of languages, including English, Chukchi, Konso and Mohawk.

Greville G. Corbett, D Brown, C Tiberius (2003)Qualitative typological databases: the Surrey experience.

Eva Hajicova (ed) Abstracts: XVII International Congress of Linguists: Prague, Czech Republic, July 24-9, 2003

Greville G. Corbett, D Brown, M Chumakina, A Hippisley (2004)Inflectional Syncretism and Corpora.

Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Geneva

M Baerman, DP Corbett, AR Brown, Hippisley (2007)Deponency and Morphological Mismatches Oxford University Press

Deponency is a mismatch between form and function in language that was first described for Latin, where there is a group of verbs (the deponents) which are morphologically passive but syntactically active. This is evidence of a larger problem involving the interface between syntax and morphology: inflectional morphology is supposed to specify syntactic function, but sometimes it sends out the wrong signal. Although the problem is as old as the Western linguistic tradition, no generally accepted account of it has yet been given, and it is safe to say that all current theories of language have been constructed as if deponency did not exist. In recent years, however, linguists have begun to confront its theoretical implications, albeit largely in isolation from each other. There is as yet no definitive statement of the problem, nor any generally accepted definition of its nature and scope. This volume brings together the findings of leading scholars working in the area of morphological mismatches, and represents the first book-length typological and theoretical treatment of the topic. It will establish the important role that research on deponency has to play in contemporary linguistics, and set the standard for future work.

Greville G. Corbett (2001)Why linguists need languages, In: LM (.) (eds.), On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environmentpp. 82-94 Smithsonian Institution Press
Greville G. Corbett (2001)Number, In: EK Martin Haspelmath (eds.), Language Typology and Linguistic Universals: An International Handbookpp. 816-831 de Gruyter
Greville G. Corbett (2001)Grammatical gender, In: NJSAPB Baltes (eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences: IXpp. 6335-6340 Elsevier
Greville G. Corbett (2001)Grammatical number, In: NJSAPB Baltes (eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences: IXpp. 6340-6342 Elsevier
Greville G. Corbett, M Baerman, D Brown, A Krasovitsky, A Long (2008)Animacy in the development of the Russian predicative adjective in the 19th and 20th centuries
Greville G. Corbett, A Krasovitsky, M Baerman, DP Brown, A Long (2017)Morphosyntactic Change in Russian: A Corpus-based Approach.
M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown (2009)Typology of Defectiveness

The term 'defectiveness' refers to gaps in inflectional paradigms — specifically, gaps which do not appear to follow from natural restrictions imposed by meaning or function. The Latin noun for 'change' is a textbook example: bizarrely, it lacks nominative and dative singular forms, and has no genitive plural. The fact that inflectional paradigms may have such anomalous gaps in them has been known since at least the days of the classical grammarians, but now as then, we understand little about them. And though the existence of defective paradigms is indisputable, few people could name more than a handful of examples. The project A Typology of Defectiveness, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, completed in February 2009, has aimed to expand our empirical knowledge of this intriguing phenomenon and to clarify its significance for the study of language. This website hosts two complementary databases. The Typological Database examines the different types of defective paradigms according to various typological parameters, while the 100-language Survey looks for plausible examples within a controlled sample, in order to gain a picture of how prevalent defectiveness actually is in the languages of the world.

OS Fedden, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett, A Hippisley, P Marriott (2013)Grammatical typology and frequency analysis: Number availability and number use, In: A Przepiórkowski (eds.), Journal of Language Modelling1(2)pp. 227-241
IRL Davies, C MacDermid, Greville G. Corbett, HC McGurk, D Jerrett, T Jerrett, PT Sowden (1992)Colour terms in Setswana: A linguistic and perceptual approach., In: Linguistics: an interdisciplinary journal of the language sciences30pp. 1065-1103
Greville G. Corbett, W Browne (2009)Serbo-Croat: Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian, In: B Comrie (eds.), The World¹s Major Languages(18)pp. 330-346 Routledge
Greville G. Corbett, W Browne (2003)Serbo-Croatian, In: WJ Fawley (eds.), International Encyclopedia of Linguistics: Second Editionpp. 47-51 Oxford University Press
N Evans, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2002)The Semantics of Gender in Mayali: Partially Parallel Systems and Formal Implementation, In: Language77pp. 111-155
M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown, A Hippisley (2006)The Surrey Deponency Databases

The databases record instances of deponency, which is the term we have adopted to describe mismatches between morphology and morphosyntax. The prototypical example are the deponent verbs of Latin, which involve a mismatch between passive form and active meaning. That is, a normal Latin verb had active forms such as amō 'I love' and amāvī 'I have loved', which contrasted with the passive forms amor 'I am loved' and amātus sum 'I have been loved' (in this case, with a masculine subject). A deponent verb, on the other hand, looks like the passive but functions like the active, as in mīror 'I admire', mīrātus sum 'I have admired'. In the the databases we construe deponency in an extended fashion, covering any mismatch between the apparent morphosyntactic value of a morphological form and its actual value in a given syntactic context. Two databases are housed on this site, accessible through the links above. The cross-linguistic database looks at the presence of morphological mismatches in a controlled sample of genetically and geographically diverse languages (based on the 100-language sample from the World Atlas of Language Structures). The typological database records the logical space of deponency: what features may be affected, and what are the characteristics of the resulting paradigm? Every logical combination of parameters is represented by one exemplar (or where none has been found, this is noted too). The typological database is supplemented by a set of formal analyses of examples which hold particular interest for morphological theory.

M Baerman, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2015)Understanding and Measuring Morphological Complexity Oxford University Press

This book aims to assess the nature of morphological complexity, and the properties that distinguish it from the complexity manifested in other components of language.

Greville G. Corbett (2011)Higher order exceptionality in inflectional morphology., In: H Simon, H Wiese (eds.), Expecting the unexpected: Exceptions in grammar(6)pp. 107-126 Mouton de Gruyer

We start from the notion of ‘canonical’ inflection, and we adopt an inferential-realizational approach. We assume that we have already established the features and their values for a given system (while acknowledging that this may be a substantial analytic task). In a canonical system, feature values “should” multiply out so that all possible cells exist. Paradigms “should” be consistent, both internally (within the lexeme) and externally (across lexemes). Such a scheme would make perfect sense in functional terms: it provides maximal differentiation for minimal phonological material. However, real systems show great divergences from this idealization. A typology of divergences from the canonical scheme situates the types of morphological exceptionality, including: periphrasis, anti-periphrasis, defectiveness, overdifferentiation, suppletion, syncretism, heteroclisis and deponency. These types of exceptionality provide the basis for an investigation of higher order exceptionality, which results from interactions of these phenomena, where the exceptional phenomena target the same cells of the paradigm. While some examples are vanishingly rare, they are of great importance for establishing what is a possible word in human language, since they push the limits considerably beyond normal exceptionality.

M Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2005)The Syntax-Morphology Interface: a Study of Syncretism Cambridge University Press. xix + 281pp.
DP Brown, C Tiberius, M Chumakina, Greville G. Corbett, A Krasovitsky (2009)Databases designed for investigating specific phenomena., In: M Everaert, S Musgrave, A Dimitriadis (eds.), The Use of Databases in Cross-Linguistic Studies41pp. 117-154 Mouton De Gruyter

In this chapter we consider databases which have been constructed to investigate particular linguistic phenomena. Data entered into a database with little thought or attention to its categorisation are at best usless, and in the worst case harmful if used to make spurious generalizations. So there is a requirement that we are explicit about our analyses and the phenomena under investigation, and that serious thought is given to the structure of the database.

Greville G. Corbett (2016)Morphomic splits, In: A Luís, R Bermúdez-Otero (eds.), The Morphome Debatepp. 64-88 Oxford University Press.

Lexemes may have an internally consistent paradigm, or the paradigm may be split into segments. Splits may be ‘motivated’, that is they may correspond to morphosemantic, morphosyntactic2 or phonological specifications. Alternatively the split may lack such motivation, in which case we have a morphomic split, one which arguably increases the complexity of the system with no obvious corresponding return. We shall focus on the difference between these two types, so that we can recognise morphomic splits. There are some properties which the two types of split share: for instance, both motivated and morphomic splits can be viewed in terms of Wurzel’s Paradigm Structure Conditions (1989: 118), that is, there can be predictive relations within the segments; and both types can persist over long periods of time.3 But they are also interestingly different, which makes drawing the distinction valuable. It bears on the important notion that syntax is morphology-free. Our main question, then, is ‘how do morphomic splits differ from motivated splits?’

Greville G. Corbett (2003)Agreement: The range of the phenomenon and the principles of the Surrey Database of Agreement., In: Agreement: A Typological Perspective (special number of Transactions of the Philogical Society101(2)pp. 155-202 Blackwell

Agreement is approached from the analytical decisions required for constructing a typological database. The Surrey Database of Agreement provides detailed, highly structured information on the agreement systems of fifteen genetically diverse languages. The range of material included and the criteria for inclusion are set out here. There is then detailed discussion of the difficult cases, in particular the dividing line between agreement markers and pronominal affixes. The criteria relevant to this distinction are in part drawn from the literature and in part new. The aim is that the criteria adopted should be fully clear, so that linguists of different persuasions can use the database for their varying purposes.

DP Brown, C Tiberius, Greville G. Corbett (2002)A typological database of agreementpp. pp1843-pp1846
Greville G. Corbett (2010)Morphology-free syntax:two counter-examples from Serbo-Croat., In: S Franks, V CHidambaran, B Joseph (eds.), A Linguist's Linguist: Studies in South Slavic Linguistics in Honor of E.Wayles Browne Bloomington, Indiana: Slavica
Greville G. Corbett (2003)Agreement: Canonical instances and the extent of the phenomenon, In: Morphology: Selected papers from the Third Mediterranean Morphology Meeting. September 20-22, 2001pp. 109-128
Greville G. Corbett (2006)Linguistic Features, In: K Brown (eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd edition, Vol 7 Oxford, Elsevier
Greville G. Corbett (2003)Agreement: canonical instances and the extent of the phenomenon., In: G Booij, J DeCesaris, A Ralli, S Scalise (eds.), Topics in Morphology: Selected papers form the Third mediterranean Morphology Meeting (Barcelona, Sep 20-22, 20001), 109-128. Barcelona: Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Greville G. Corbett (2010)A Canonical Approach to Case in Slavonic (kanonski pristup padežima u slavenskim jezicima), In: M Birtić, DB Rončević (eds.), Sintaksa padeža: Zbornik radova znanstvenoga skupa: Drugi hrvatski sintaktički danipp. 57-74

Special issue of Transactions of the Philological Society 101, no.2

Greville G. Corbett (2005)Systems of nominal classification I: Gender oppositions, In: DA Cruse, F Hundsnurscher, M Job, PR Lutzeier (eds.), Lexicology: An international Handbook on the Nature and Structure of Words and Vocabularies: IIpp. 986-994 de Gruyter
M Chumakina, Greville G. Corbett (2012)Periphrasis. The Role of Syntax and Morphology in Paradigms Oxford University Press/British Academy

Periphrasis straddles the border between two major linguistic components, morphology and syntax. It describes a situation where a grammatical meaning, such as a tense, which could be expected to be expressed morphologically within a word, is instead expressed by a syntactic phrase. Inclusion of syntactic phrases in morphological paradigms creates analytical and theoretical problems that have yet to be resolved by linguists, who have been hampered by the rather narrow range of data available for consideration and by a lack of adequate theoretical devices. This book addresses the challenge by broadening the range of phenomena under discussion and presenting new theoretical approaches to the problem of periphrasis. Part I takes four key languages from diverse families - Nakh-Daghestanian, Gunwinyguan (Australian), Uralic and Indo-European - as examples of languages in which periphrasis poses particular problems for current linguistic theories. Part II views periphrasis in different contexts, determining its place within the morphological and syntactic systems of the languages it is found in, its relations to other linguistic phenomena, and the typological variation represented by periphrastic constructions. Treating periphrasis as a morphological and syntactic phenomenon at the same time and applying the criteria worked out within the Canonical Typology approach allows linguists to view periphrasis as a family of phenomena within a typological space of syntactic constructions used to fulfil grammatical functions.

DP Brown, M Chumakina, Greville G. Corbett (2012)Canonical Morphology and Syntax Oxford University Press

This is the first book to present Canonical Typology, a framework for comparing constructions and categories across languages. The canonical method takes the criteria used to define particular categories or phenomena (eg negation, finiteness, possession) to create a multidimensional space in which language-specific instances can be placed. In this way, the issue of fit becomes a matter of greater or lesser proximity to a canonical ideal. Drawing on the expertise of world class scholars in the field, the book addresses the issue of cross-linguistic comparability, illustrates the range of areas - from morphosyntactic features to reported speech - to which linguists are currently applying this methodology, and explores to what degree the approach succeeds in discovering the elusive canon of linguistic phenomena.

Greville G. Corbett (2012)Features Cambridge University Press

Features are a central concept in linguistic analysis. They are the basic building blocks of linguistic units, such as words. For many linguists they offer the most revealing way to explore the nature of language. Familiar features are Number (singular, plural, dual, …), Person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and Tense (present, past, …). Features have a major role in contemporary linguistics, from the most abstract theorizing to the most applied computational applications, yet little is firmly established about their status. They are used, but are little discussed and poorly understood. In this unique work, Corbett brings together two lines of research: how features vary between languages and how they work. As a result, the book is of great value to the broad range of perspectives of those who are interested in language.

Greville G. Corbett (2011)Split Lexemes in Slavonic, In: Sreto Tanasić (editor) Gramatika i leksika u slovenskim jezicima: Zbornik radova s međunarodnog simpozijuma, 113-123. Novi Sad / Belgrade: Matica srpska / Institut za srpski jezik SANU.
Oliver Bond, Greville G. Corbett, Marina Chumakina (2016)Introduction, In: O Bond, Greville G. Corbett, M Chumakina, D Brown (eds.), Archi: Complexities of agreement in cross-theoretical perspective(1)pp. 1-16 Oxford University Press
Matthew Baerman, Greville G. Corbett (2010)Defectiveness: Typology and Diachrony, In: M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown (eds.), Defective Paradigms: Missing Forms and What They Tell Uspp. 1-18 Oxford University Press
Greville G. Corbett, Sebastian Fedden, R Finkel (2017)Single versus concurrent systems: nominal classification in Mian, In: Linguistic Typology21(2)pp. 209-260 de Gruyter

The Papuan language Mian allows us to refine the typology of nominal classification. Mian has two candidate classification systems, differing completely in their formal realization but overlapping considerably in their semantics. To determine whether to analyse Mian as a single system or concurrent systems we adopt a canonical approach. Our criteria – orthogonality of the systems (we give a precise measure), semantic compositionality, morphosyntactic alignment, distribution across parts of speech, exponence and interaction with other features – point mainly to an analysis as concurrent systems. We thus improve our analysis of Mian and make progress with the typology of nominal classification.

DP Brown, C Tiberius, Greville G. Corbett (2004)Inflectional Syncretism and Corpora
Greville G. Corbett, D Brown, M Chumakina, A Hippisley (2005)Resources for suppletion: A typological database and a bibliography.

On-line proceedings of the 4th Mediterranean Morphology Meeting (MMM4), Catania, Sicilia 21-23 Sep 2003

IRL Davies, PT Sowden, DT Jerrett, T Jerrett, Greville G. Corbett (1998)A cross cultural study of English and Setswana speakers on a colour triads task: a test of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis., In: British Journal of Psychology89pp. 1-15
IRL Davies, Greville G. Corbett (1994)The basic colour terms of Russian, In: Linguistics32(1)pp. 65-90 Walter de Gruyter
IRL Davies, Greville G. Corbett, A Mtnje, PT Sowden (1995)The basic colour terms of Chichewa., In: Lingua95pp. 259-278
S Fedden, Greville G. Corbett (2017)Understanding intra-system dependencies: Classifiers in Lao, In: NJ Enfield (eds.), Dependencies in Language(13)pp. 171-179 Language Science Press.
Don Daniels, Greville G. Corbett (2020)Repartitioning, In: Language95(4)pp. 711-750 Linguistic Society of America

We present a new phenomenon in inflectional morphology, ‘repartitioning’, based on data from Soq (Trans New Guinea). In repartitioning, the semantic boundary between two sets of morphological forms is redrawn in a single domain; one feature value takes over part, but not all, of the meaning of the other. In Soq the boundary is redrawn between the yesterday past tense and the hodiernal; the domain is the lexeme s- ‘stay’. For this one verb, the yesterday past takes over most of the range of the hodiernal, while the morphological forms remain regular. In clause chains the repartitioned verb surprisingly shows no syntactic effects. We demonstrate key differences from known phenomena, notably syncretism and overdifferentiation. Repartitioning is indeed new. It can be modeled in a theory based on default inheritance, but poses problems for other approaches. Finally, we present a typology of featural mismatches that situates Soq relative to known phenomena.*

Greville G. Corbett, A Kibort (2010)Introduction, In: A Kibort, Greville G. Corbett (eds.), Features: perspectives on a key notion in linguistics Oxford University Press

We need to bring together research into the diverse content of features in the world's languages with the discussion of their formal properties, and look for insights across sub‐discipline boundaries. This chapter offers summaries of all contributions and highlights areas of common ground between the different approaches. The selected perspectives represent major areas of linguistics where features are used.

Greville G. Corbett, M Baerman (2006)Prolegomena to a typology of morphological features, In: Morphology16(2)pp. 231-246

Morphological features characterize variations in morphological form which are independent of syntactic context. They contrast with morphosyntactic features, which characterize variations in form correlated with different syntactic contexts. Morphological features account for formal variation across lexemes (inflectional class), as well as morphosyntactically incoherent alternations within the paradigm of a single lexeme. Such morphological features are not available to the syntax, as is made explicit in the principle of 'morphology-free syntax'. Building on work on stress patterns in Network Morphology and on stems in Paradigm Function Morphology, we take initial steps towards a typology of these morphological features. We identify four types: inflectional class features (affixal and prosodic), stem indexing features, syncretic index features and morphophonological features. Then we offer a first list of criteria for distinguishing them from morphosyntactic features (independently of the principle of morphology-free syntax). Finally we review the arguments demonstrating the need to recognize morphological features. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007.

Greville G. Corbett (1999)The place of agreement features in a specification of possible agreement systems, In: Folia Linguistica33(1-2)pp. 211-224 Mouton de Gruyter

Agreement features introduce greater complexity into agreement systems than is generally recognized. They may determine the agreement domain (Dargi) and certain combinations of feature values can rule out particular sentence types (Tsakhur). Feature interactions show three levels of complexity: just the target may be involved (German), or a computation of controller feature values may be required (Slovene), or computation may involve a covert feature (Miya).

RJ Hayward, Greville G. Corbett (1988)Resolution rules in Qafar, In: Linguistics26(2)pp. 259-280 Walter de Gruyter
Greville G. Corbett (2011)The penumbra of morphosyntactic feature systems, In: Morphology21(2)pp. 445-480 Springer

Often features are presented as clean, neat, simple. Indeed it is the contrast with the idiosyncrasies of lexical items which gives the intuitive justification for features. But reality is more complex. There are many instances where it is arguable whether we should postulate a feature (value), as with person in Archi. We must recognize that feature systems vary: (a) according to how well founded they are, and (b) in how they distribute across the lexicon. To analyse this difficult area, the penumbra of feature systems, I start from an idealized view, and then plot the deviations from that ideal. In other words, I take a ‘canonical’ approach. Having justified this approach in general terms, I propose a specific set of converging criteria for canonical features and values, concentrating on the genuine morphosyntactic features. In brief, the overarching principles are that a canonical morphosyntactic feature is constrained by simple rules of syntax (including the claim that syntax is ‘morphology-free’) and has robust formal marking. These give us a point in the theoretical space from which to calibrate the difficult instances which abound in feature systems. In accounts of particular features, various types of what we may call non-canonical behaviour have been pointed out: e.g., non-autonomous case values (Zaliznjak 1973), minor numbers, inquorate genders. We should ask whether these problems are feature-specific or whether they recur in the different morphosyntactic features. It turns out that, at the right level of abstraction, we find similar instances of non-canonicity with the different features. Let us concentrate on the criteria contributing to ‘robust formal marking’: Criterion 1: Canonical features and their values have dedicated forms. We find non-autonomous case values (violating criterion 1), in Classical Armenian, for instance (Baerman 2002); similarly we find non-autonomous gender values (as in Romanian). Criterion 2: Canonical features and their values are uniquely distinguishable across other logically compatible features and their values. Deviations give sub-genders (Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian), sub-cases (Russian) and sub-numbers (Biak). Criterion 3: Canonical features and their values are distinguished consistently across relevant parts of speech (word classes). In the easy examples, one part of speech has values which represent a collapsing of values available on another. More interesting are systems where combinations give additional values: combined gender systems (Mba), constructed number systems (Mele-Fila) and combined person (Maybrat). Criterion 4: Canonical features and their values are distinguished consistently across lexemes within relevant parts of speech. The basic deviation gives us a minor value: as in a minor number value (Bezhta), a minor case (Russian), a minor gender (Lelemi). This leads to the question of whether such deviations can co-exist. I give a striking example: the Russian second genitive exhibits all four types of non-canonical behaviour concurrently. Since it deviates from all four listed criteria this marks the extreme of the typological space. By investigating the penumbra of feature systems, including the possible and impossible interactions within the penumbra (which features are the context for the deviations of others), we put the theory of morphosyntactic features on a more realistic and hence firmer foundation.

Greville G. Corbett, S Fedden (2015)Canonical Gender, In: K Börjars, SJ Hannahs (eds.), Journal of Linguistics52(3)pp. 495-531

Nominal classification remains a fascinating topic but in order to make further progress we need greater clarity of definition and analysis. Taking a Canonical Typology approach, we use canonical gender as an ideal against which we can measure the actual gender systems we find in the languages of the world. Building on previous work on canonical morphosyntactic features, particularly on how they intersect with canonical parts of speech, we establish the distinctiveness of gender, reflected in the Canonical Gender Principle: In a canonical gender system, each noun has a single gender value. We develop three criteria associated with this principle, which together ensure that canonically a noun has exactly one gender value; we give examples of non-canonicity for each criterion, thus gradually building the typology. This is the essential groundwork for a comprehensive typology of nominal classification: the Canonical Typological approach allows us to tease apart clusterings of properties and to characterize individual properties with respect to a canonical ideal, rather than requiring us to treat the entire system as belonging to a single type. This approach is designed to facilitate comparisons of different noun classification systems across languages.

A Hippisley, IRL Davies, Greville G. Corbett (2008)The basic colour terms of Lower Sorbian and Upper Sorbian and their typological relevance, In: Studies in Language32(1)pp. 56-92 john Benjamins

Berlin & Kay's basic colour term framework claims that there is an ordering in the diachronic development of languages' colour systems. One generalisation is that primary colours, WHITE, BLACK, RED, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, are lexicalised before derived colours, which are perceptual blends, e.g. ORANGE is the blend of YELLOW and RED. The colour systems of Lower Sorbian and Upper Sorbian offer an important typological contribution. It is already known that primary colour space can contract upon the emergence of a basic derived term; our findings indicate that derived categories also shift as colour systems develop. Tsakhur offers corroborating evidence.

IRL Davies, C MacDermid, Greville G. Corbett, H McGurk, D Jerrett, T Jerrett, P Sowden (1992)Color terms in Setswana: a linguistic and perceptual approach., In: Linguistics30(6)pp. 1065-1104 Walter de Gruyter
A Krasovitsky, A Long, M Baerman, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2008)Predicate nouns in Russian, In: Russian Linguistics32(2)pp. 99-113
S Fedden, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett, G Holton, M Klamer, LC Robinson, A Schapper (2013)Conditions on pronominal marking in the Alor-Pantar languages, In: Linguistics51(1)pp. 33-74 De Gruyter

We examine the varying role of conditions on grammatical relations marking (namely animacy and volitionality) by looking at different languages of one family, using both existing descriptions and working with specially prepared video stimuli. This enables us to see the degree of variation permitted within closely related languages. We look at four Alor-Pantar languages (Teiwa, Adang, Kamang, and Abui), Papuan languages of eastern Indonesia. The conditions on argument marking are manifested in different ways. Those languages with syntactic alignment index objects with a prefix, those which have semantic alignment index objects and some subjects with a prefix. In 42 video clips we systematically varied animacy and volitionality values for participants in one and two-participant events. These clips were used in fieldwork to elicit descriptions of the events. The data show that animacy of the object is an important factor which favours indexation of the object on the verb in all four languages to varying degrees. Volitionality, on the other hand, is a factor in the semantically aligned languages only. While the presence of a prefix on the verb is semantically motivated in many instances, marking is not directly determined by verbal or participant semantics, and lexical factors must also play a role.

S Fedden, Greville G. Corbett (2017)Gender and classifiers in concurrent systems: refining the typology of nominal classification, In: Glossa2(1)34pp. 1-47

Some languages have both gender and classifiers, contrary to what was once believed possible. We use these interesting languages as a unique window onto nominal classification. They provide the impetus for a new typology, based on the degree of orthogonality of the semantic systems and the degree of difference of the forms realizing them. This nine-way typology integrates traditional gender, traditional classifiers and – importantly – the many recently attested phenomena lying between. Besides progress specifically in understanding nominal classification, our approach provides clarity on the wider theoretical issue of single versus concurrent featural systems.

Greville G. Corbett, BG Hewitt (2013)Aleksandr Kibrik: An appreciation, In: LINGUISTIC TYPOLOGY17(3)pp. 516-517 WALTER DE GRUYTER GMBH
ER Round, Greville G. Corbett (2017)The theory of feature systems: One feature versus two for Kayardild tense-aspect-mood, In: Morphology27(1)pp. 21-75 Springer

Features are central to all major theories of syntax and morphology. Yet it can be a non-trivial task to determine the inventory of features and their values for a given language, and in particular to determine whether to postulate one feature or two in the same semantico-syntactic domain. We illustrate this from tenseaspect-mood (TAM) in Kayardild, and adduce principles for deciding in general between one-feature and two-feature analyses, thereby contributing to the theory of feature systems and their typology. Kayardild shows striking inflectional complexities, investigated in two major studies (Evans 1995, Round 2013), and it proves particularly revealing for our topic. Both Evans and Round claimed that clauses in Kayardild have not one but two concurrent TAM features. While it is perfectly possible for a language to have two features of the same type, it is unusual. Accordingly, we establish general arguments which would justify postulating two features rather than one; we then apply these specifically to Kayardild TAM. Our finding is at variance with both Evans and Round; on all counts, the evidence which would motivate an analysis in terms of one TAM feature or two is either approximately balanced, or clearly favours an analysis with just one. Thus even when faced with highly complex language facts, we can apply a principled approach to the question of whether we are dealing with one feature or two, and this is encouraging for the many of us seeking a rigorous science of typology. We also find that Kayardild, which in many ways is excitingly exotic, is in this one corner of its grammar quite ordinary.

HO Enger, Greville G. Corbett (2012)Definiteness, Gender, and Hybrids: Evidence from Norwegian Dialects, In: Journal of Germanic Linguistics24(4)pp. 287-324 Cambridge University Press

In some Norwegian dialects, such as older Oslo dialect, the noun mamma ‘mother’ unexpectedly appears to be masculine. The Nordreisa dialect (Northern Norwegian) goes one step further. The word looks like it is masculine, but only in the definite form. This is an unusual “split” because gender mixture is normally based on number, not definiteness (but we find some few corroborative examples in other Norwegian dialects and different, but converging evidence on the Web). The Nordreisa example of mamma is unusual also because agreement targets are affected differently. The preference is for masculine agreement within the noun phrase, but for feminine agreement outside it. This is, therefore, an intriguing example since it combines a split based on definiteness with different gender requirements according to different agreement targets. On careful analysis, and given strict adherence to the classical, agreement-based definition of gender, the unusual behavior of mamma turns out to conform to the Agreement Hierarchy

Greville G. Corbett (1999)Introduction, In: Folia Linguistica33(1-2)pp. 103-108 Mouton de Gruyter
Greville G. Corbett (2010)Canonical derivational morphology, In: Word Structure3(2)pp. 141-155 Edinburgh University Press

The approach of Canonical Typology has proved fruitful for investigating a range of problems in syntax, inflectional morphology and most recently in phonology. It is therefore logical to take a canonical approach to derivational morphology. It provides a new perspective on some old issues, showing how previous key ideas fit together. The criteria proposed prove to have some degree of external justification. And from the point of view of canonical typology the results are particularly promising, since the criteria are interestingly different from those proposed in other domains.

IRL Davies, T Sosenskaja, Greville G. Corbett (1999)Colours in Tsakhur: First account of the basic colour terms of a Nakh-Daghestanian language, In: Linguistic Typology3(2)pp. 179-207 Walter de Gruyter
Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown, S Fedden, A Hippisley, P Marriott (2013)Grammatical typology and frequency analysis: Number availability and number use., In: Journal of Language Modelling 1.227-2411(2)pp. 227-241 Polish Academy of Sciences

The Smith-Stark hierarchy, a version of the Animacy Hierarchy, offers a typology of the cross-linguistic availability of number. The hierarchy predicts that the availability of number is not arbitrary. For any language, if the expression of plural is available to a noun, it is available to any noun of a semantic category further to the left of the hierarchy. In this article we move one step further by showing that the structure of the hierarchy can be observed in a statistical model of number use in Russian. We also investigate three co-variates: plural preference, pluralia tantum and irregularity effects; these account for an item's behaviour being different than that solely expected from its animacy position.

Greville G. Corbett (2010)Features: Essential notions

© Oxford University Press, 2013.Features are standard currency in linguistics; they allow generalizations in syntax, and equally in morphology. Yet while features are heavily used, they are often taken for granted. It is therefore worth considering: the use of features (their logic, their place in different components), the substantive semantics of features, and the inventory of features.

M Chumakina, Greville G. Corbett (2015)Gender-number marking in Archi: Small is complex, In: Understanding and Measuring Morphological Complexity
M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett (2007)Linguistic typology: Morphology, In: Linguistic Typology11(1)pp. 115-117

Typology in its modern form is connected with the search for universals. This works to the advantage of certain types of questions, those which allow a more or less coherent answer for any language. Phonology, syntax, and semantics are usually the starting point, and such topics as phonological inventories, word order, and the range of expressible semantic distinctions constitute the bulk of research. These also form the core questions of general linguistics, so this research emphasis is only to be expected. Conversely, one area that receives relatively little attention from typologists is morphology. This too is hardly surprising: of all the aspects of language, morphology is the most language-specific and hence least generalizable. Indeed, even the very presence of a meaningful morphological component is language-specific. © Walter de Gruyter 2007.

Greville G. Corbett (2006)Gender, Grammaticalpp. 749-756

The term 'gender' requires discussion, since linguistic traditions differ here. This requires us to confront the analytical issue of determining the number of genders in a given language. The central concern of this article will be gender assignment-that is, the way in which the native speaker allots nouns to genders. Examination of languages from different families reveals that genders always have a semantic core, which may be biological sex, or animacy, with other features also having a role. In some languages, nouns are assigned to genders solely on the basis of semantics, but in others this semantic information is supplemented by formal information, which may be phonological or morphological. Given this typology, it is apparent that gender is distributed in interesting ways across the world's languages. Finally, prospects for research into gender are considered. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

M Chumakina, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett, H Quilliam (2011)Surrey Periphrasis Database [Available at:] University of Surrey
M Chumakina, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett, A Hippisley (2004)Suppletion Database. [Available at: ]
Greville G. Corbett (2003)Introduction, In: D Brown, Greville G. Corbett, C Tiberius (eds.), Agreement: A Typological Perspective (special number of Transactions of the Philological Society 101, no 2), 151-154101pp. 151-154
R Evans, C Tiberius, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2003)Russian Lemmatisation with DATR

paper presented at SLOVKO 2003 second international seminar on computer treatment of Slavonic languages. Bratislava, Slovakia 24-5 October 2003

Greville G. Corbett (2008)Determining morphosyntactic feature values: the case of case., In: Greville G. Corbett, M Noonan (eds.), Case and Grammatical Relations: Studies in honor of Bernard Comrie Amsterdam: John Benjamins

Cross-linguistic database and typological database

W Palmer, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett, H Quilliam (2008)Turning Owners into Actors. Possessive morphology as subject-indexing in the languages of the Bougainville region Surrey Morphology Group, School of English and Languages, University of Surrey

This is a database that is freely available at The Surrey Morphology Group Website. For more information also visit tp://

Archi is spoken by about 1200 people in a remote mountain region in Daghestan. The language is characterised by remarkable phonetics, a very high degree of irregularity in all its inflecting word classes and by its morphological system, with extremely large paradigms. Archi culture is one of the most distinctive and best-preserved cultures of Daghestan.

Greville G. Corbett (2010)Features: essential notions, In: A Kibort, Greville G. Corbett (eds.), Features: perspectives on a key notion in linguistics(2)pp. 17-36 Oxford University Press
Greville G. Corbett (2007)Deponency, syncretism and what lies between, In: M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, D Brown, A Hippisley (eds.), Deponency and Morphological Mismatches145pp. 21-43 British Academy and Oxford University

This chapter discusses how deponency is to be differentiated from syncretism, which shows important similarities. It attempts to provide ‘intellectual housekeeping’, which puts order into the description of inflectional morphology. This allows for an analysis of the diversity of inflectional morphology by confronting it with an elegant order. It is revealed that there are types of lexeme whose interest and importance had not previously been fully recognized.

Greville G. Corbett, Norman M. Fraser, Scott McGlashan (1993)Heads in Grammatical Theory. Introduction., In: Heads in Grammatical Theorypp. 1-10 Cambridge University Press

Contemporary linguistic theories distinguish the principal element of a phrase - the ‘head’ - from the subordinate elements it dominates. This pervasive grammatical concept has been used to describe and account for linguistic phenomena ranging from agreement and government to word order universals, but opinions differ widely on its precise definition. A key question is whether the head is not already identified by some other, more basic notion or interacting set of notions in linguistics. Heads in Grammatical Theory is the first book devoted to the subject. Providing a clear view of current research on heads, some of the foremost linguists in the field tackle the problems set by the assumptions of particular grammatical theories and offer insights which have relevance across theories. Questions considered include whether there is a theory-neutral definition of head, whether heads have cognitive reality, how to identify the head of a phrase, and whether there are any universal correlations between headedness and deletability.

Greville G. Corbett (2023)The typology of external splits: Supplementary Material, In: Language99(1)pp. 108-153 Linguistic Society of America

The lexicon divides into parts of speech (or lexical categories) and there are cross-cutting regularities (features). These two dimensions of analysis take us a long way, but several phenomena elude us. For these the term ‘split’ is used extensively (‘case split’, ‘split agreement’, and more), but in confusingly different ways. Yet there is a unifying notion here. I show that a split is an additional partition, whether in the part of speech inventory or the feature system. On this base an elegant typology can be constructed, using minimal machinery. The typology starts from four external relations (government, agreement, selection, and anti‑government), and it specifies four types of split within each (16 possibilities in all). This typology (i) highlights less familiar splits, from diverse languages, and fits them into the larger picture; (ii) introduces a new relation, anti‑government, and documents it; (iii) elucidates the complexities of multiple splits; (iv) clarifies what exactly is split, which leads to a sharpening of our analyses and applies across different traditions.

Greville G. Corbett (2006)Introduction: Canonical agreement, In: Agreementpp. 1-34 Cambridge University Press

Agreement in language occurs when grammatical information appears on a word which is not the source of that information. In simple examples like she runs, the form runs is singular, agreeing in number with she. This is information about the number of runners (just one), and it matches that expressed in its source she. Patterns of agreement vary dramatically cross-linguistically, with great diversity in expression and types of variation found. This clear introduction offers an insight into how agreement works, and how linguists have tried to account for it. Comparing examples from a range of languages, with radically different agreement systems, it demonstrates agreement at work in a variety of constructions. It shows how agreement is influenced by the conflicting effects of sentence structure and meaning, and highlights the oddities of agreement in English. Agreement will be essential reading for all those studying the structure and mechanisms of natural languages.

IanR. L. Davies, Greville G. Corbett, José B. Margalef (1995)Colour Terms in Catalan: An Investigation of Eighty Informants, Concentrating on the Purple and Blue Regions, In: Transactions of the Philological Society93pp. 17-49 Wiley Interscience

We set out to establish the 'basic' colour term inventory of Catalan, and to see if the inventory was consistent with Berlin and Kay's theory of colour universals. Pilot work had indicated that, like Russian, Catalan might have more than the maximum eleven 'permissible' basic colour terms allowed by Berlin and Kay's theory, and have more than one basic term for blue. A sample of adults and a sample of children performed a colour list task (in which they were asked to give as many colour terms as they knew) and a colour naming task. The list task provided a general indication of the likely basic colour terms, and the naming task indicated the referents of these terms. The results show that Catalan is best described as a standard stage seven Berlin and Kay language with just eleven basic colour terms. However, it has more than one salient term in the blue region and these correpond to the exceptional blue terms of Russian. Furthermore, whilst Catalan has a basic term for purple, its focus is unusually displaced from Berlin and Kay's 'universal' focus for purple, and this may be related to the way in which Catalan segments the blue region.

Greville G. Corbett (2000)Number. Introduction., In: Numberpp. 1-8 Cambridge University Press

Number is the most underestimated of the grammatical categories. It is deceptively simple yet the number system which philosophers, logicians and many linguists take as the norm - namely the distinction between singular and plural (as in cat versus cats) - is only one of a wide range of possibilities to be found in languages around the world. Some languages, for instance, make more distinctions than English, having three, four or even five different values. Adopting a wide-ranging perspective, Greville Corbett draws on examples from many languages to analyse the possible systems of number. He reveals that the means for signalling number are remarkably varied and are put to a surprising range of special additional uses. By surveying some of the riches of the world’s linguistic resources this book makes a major contribution to the typology of categories and demonstrates that languages are much more varied than is generally recognised.

Greville G. Corbett, Ian R.L. Davies (1997)Establishing Basic Colour Terms: Measures and Techniques, In: C. L. Hardin, Luisa Maffi (eds.), Color Categories in Thought and Languagepp. 197-223 Cambridge University Press
Greville G. Corbett, Gerry Morgan (1988)Colour Terms in Russian: Reflections of Typological Constraints in a Single Language, In: Journal of Linguistics24(1)pp. 31-64 Cambridge University Press

One of the milestones in typological studies is Berlin & Kay's (1969) account of basic colour terms, which has produced a steady stream of research of various types. Berlin & Kay summarized their work as follows. In sum, our two major findings indicate that the referents for the basic color terms of all languages appear to be drawn from a set of eleven universal perceptual categories, and these categories become encoded in the history of a given language in a partially fixed order (1969: 4–5).

Erich R. Round, Greville G. Corbett (2019)Comparability and measurement in typological science: the bright future for linguistics, In: Linguistic Typology De Gruyter

Linguistics, and typology in particular, can have a bright future. We justify this optimism by discussing comparability from two angles. First, we take the opportunity presented by this special issue of Linguistic Typology to pause for a moment and make explicit some of the logical underpinnings of typological sciences, linguistics included, which we believe are worth reminding ourselves of. Second, we give a brief illustration of comparison, and particularly measurement, within modern typology.

Debi Roberson, Ian R. L. Davies, Greville G. Corbett, Marieta Vandervyver (2005)Free-sorting of colors across cultures: Are there universal grounds for grouping?, In: Journal of Cognition and Culture5(3)pp. 349-386

These studies examined naming and free-sorting behavior by informants speaking a wide range of languages, from both industrialized and traditional cultures. Groups of informants, whose color vocabularies varied from 5 to 12 basic terms, were given an unconstrained color grouping task to investigate whether there are systematic differences between cultures in grouping behavior that mirror linguistic differences and, if there are not, what underlying principles might explain any universal tendencies. Despite large differences in color vocabulary, there were substantial similarities in grouping behavior across language groups, and substantial within-language variation across informants. It seems that all informants group stimuli based on some criterion of perceptual similarity, but those with large color vocabularies are more likely to group stimuli in line with their basic color terms. The data are best accounted for by a hybrid system that combines a universal principle of grouping by similarity with culture-specific category salience.

Many languages have an intriguing class of nouns, the pluralia tantum, which have restricted number possibilities when, in some sense, they should not. Thus English binoculars has no singular, which is worth noting (that is, it is not predictable). True, there are other nouns denoting items consisting of two significant parts which behave similarly (spectacles, trousers ...); indeed they are subject to ‘middle-size generalizations’ (Koenig 1999). But there are two reasons to note such nouns. First there are many English nouns equally denoting items consisting of two significant parts which are unremarkable in this respect: bicycle, bigraph, Bactrian camel, couple, duo ... And second, there are languages with number systems roughly comparable to that of English in which the equivalents of binoculars and trousers are normal count nouns: Russian binokl´, French pantalon. While pluralia tantum are of continuing interest, it is typically only the English type which is considered. But these familiar examples offer an entry point to a collection of lexical items, some with much stranger behaviour, lurking between the semi-predictable and the unexpectedly defective. In particular, some instances demonstrate that we cannot maintain the general assumption that the ‘internal’ morphosemantic specification of a paradigm cell and its ‘external’ morphosyntactic requirement are necessarily identical. I therefore set out a full typology of these fascinating nouns, so that their significance can be more fully appreciated. I start from the notion of canonical noun, and calibrate the different noncanonical properties according to a set of orthogonal criteria.

Sebastian Fedden, Greville G. Corbett (2018)Extreme classification, In: Cognitive Linguistics29(4)pp. 633-675 De Gruyter

Categorization retains its key importance in research on human cognition. It is an intellectual area where all disciplines devoted to human cognition – psychology, philosophy, anthropology, and linguistics – intersect. In language, categorization is not only a central part of lexical structure but is also salient in systems of nominal classification, notably gender and classifiers. Recent years have seen great progress in the description and analysis of nominal classification systems, so that we are now in a position to offer an account of such systems which brings cognition and typology together, providing the essential parameters for the calibration of experiments for investigating cognition. To this end, we establish the extremes of nominal classification systems, from the surprisingly simple to the surprisingly complex. We analyse the two essential components of nominal classification systems: (i) assignment, i.e. the principles (semantic or formal) which govern category assignment and (ii) exponence, i.e. the morphological means by which systems of nominal classification are expressed. We discuss extreme configurations of assignment and exponence in individual languages and extreme multiple pairings of assignment and exponence in languages with two or even more concurrent classification systems.

Alexander Krasovitsky, Alison Long, Matthew Baerman, Dunstan Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2006)Predicate Nouns in Russianpp. 8-10
Greville G. Corbett (2010)Problems in the Syntax of Slavonic Numerals, In: The Slavonic and East European Review (SEER)56(1)pp. 1-12 Modern Humanities Research Association
Greville G. Corbett (1993)Gender resolution, In: André Crochetière, Jean-Claude Boulanger, Conrad Ouellon (eds.), Proceedings of the XVth International Congress of Linguists, Québec, Université Laval 9-14 August 1992: Volume I1pp. 285-286 Les Presses de l'Université Laval

A typology of gender resolution is established, followed by a typology of gender assignment. It is then demonstrated that there is an implicational link between the two: the type of resolution system found in a given language is predictable in part from the assignment system.

Greville G. Corbett (1998)Numerals, number and individuation, In: A. A. Kiklevič, A. A. Kožinova, I. V. Kožinova, N. B. Mečkovskaja, B. Ju. Norman, B. A. Plotnikov (eds.), Čislo - jazyk - tekst: Sbornik statej k 70-letiju Adama Evgen´eviča Suprunapp. 152-161 Belorusskij Gosudarstvennyj Universitet

It is a pleasure to acknowledge my intellectual debt to Adam Evgen'evič; I have learned a good deal from his careful and extensive work on numerals in different Slavonic languages. A natural question arising from that work is the way in which numerals and grammatical number interact, a question we shall consider in section 2. Adam Evgen'evič's research shows that the interaction is somewhat surprising (section 3), specifically that noun phrases with higher numerals are less likely to control plural agreement than are those with lower numerals. We consider the implications of this finding in terms of individuation (section 4). And then we go on to show how in the light of the Slavonic situation we can better understand puzzling data from languages unrelated to Slavonic, namely Bayso and Arabic (section 5).

Greville G. Corbett (1988)Gender in Slavonic from the standpoint of a general typology of gender systems, In: The Slavonic and East European Review (SEER)66(1)pp. 1-20 Modern Humanities Research Association
Greville G. Corbett (1979)Adjective movement, In: Nottingham Linguistic Circular8(1)pp. 1-10 School of English Studies

The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the existence of a highly restricted movement rule which operates after agreement rules. Syntactic and semantic evidence is given, and the data are taken from Russian, French and English.

Greville G. Corbett (2010)Agreement in Slavic, In: Glossos(10)pp. 1-61 The Slavic and East European Language Resource Center
Greville G. Corbett, Norman M. Fraser (1993)Network Morphology: A DATR Account of Russian Inflectional Morphology, In: Journal of Linguistics29pp. 113-142
Greville G. Corbett (1987)The Morphology/Syntax Interface: Evidence from Possessive Adjectives in Slavonic, In: Language63(2)pp. 299-345

P[ossessive] A[djective]s in Slavonic, formed from nouns via suffixation, show unusual syntactic behavior. In Upper Sorbian, the form of attributive modifiers, relative pronouns, and personal pronouns can be controlled by the syntactic features of the noun underlying the PA. Control of attributive modifiers gives rise to phrases in which word structure and phrase structure do not match. The fact that the underlying noun is available for syntactic purposes suggests that PA formation is an inflectional process, while other factors (such as change of word-class membership) point just as clearly to a derivational process. It thus appears that any sharp differentiation between inflectional and derivational morphology must be abandoned. Data presented from all thirteen Slavonic languages, based on extensive work with native speakers, show that the control possibilities of the PA vary considerably. However, control of the attributive modifier is possible only if control of the relative pronoun is also possible, and that in turn only if control of the personal pronoun is possible. This result is subsumed under the constraints of the Agreement Hierarchy.

Gerry Morgan, Greville G. Corbett (1989)Russian colour term salience, In: Russian Linguistics13pp. 125-141
Greville G. Corbett (2010)Gender in Russian: an account of gender specification and its relationship to declension, In: Russian Linguistics6(2)pp. 197-232 Kluwer

A native speaker of Russian 'knows' the gender of many thousands of nouns. While the literature on gender in Russian is considerable – as our bibliography shows – the basic question of how it is that Russians use gender correctly has been largely ignored. It is this question we shall try to answer. One hypothesis would be that a native speaker remembers the gender of each item individually; that is to say, each noun is specified for gender in his internalized lexicon. The opposite hypothesis would be that gender is never remembered – it can always be derived from other information about a noun (such as its meaning or phonological form); in other words, no noun is specified for gender in the lexicon. Between these extremes there are various hypotheses according to which the gender of many nouns would be derived by some sort of procedure, while that of various exceptions would be specified in the lexicon. We shall see that gender and morphological class are strongly interrelated, but we shall claim that the few investigators who have considered this relationship in any detail have postulated a type of dependency which creates more problems than it solves.

Greville G. Corbett (1998)Agreement in Slavic
Greville G. Corbett, Norman M. Fraser (2010)Gender assignment: a typology and a model, In: Gunter Senft (eds.), Systems of Nominal Classification (Language, Culture and Cognition 4)pp. 293-325 Cambridge University Press
Norman M. Fraser, Greville G. Corbett (1995)Gender, animacy and declensional class assignment: a unified account for Russian, In: Yearbook of Morphology 1994pp. 123-150 Kluwer
IanR. L. Davies, Greville G. Corbett (1995)A practical field method for identifying probable basic colour terms, In: Languages of the World9(1)pp. 25-36 Lincom Europa

We describe a quick and robust procedure for establishing likely basic colour terms. We illustrate the procedure with a study of English where the basic colour term inventory is known. The method consists of two tasks: an elicited list task (tell me as many colour terms as you know) and a colour naming task. The list task elicits contenders for the basic colour term slots and the naming task establishes their range of referents. The indicators of the degree of basicness of colour terms converged to confirm that there are eleven basic colour terms in English.

Greville G. Corbett, Norman M Fraser (2000)Default Genders, In: Barbara Unterbeck, Matti Rissanen, Terttu Nevalainen, Mirja Saari (eds.), Gender in Grammar and Cognition124pp. 55-97 Mouton de Gruyter
IanR. L. Davies, Greville G. Corbett (1997)Colour Categories in African Languages: A Test of the Berlin and Kay Theory of Colour Universals, In: African Linguistics at the Crossroads: Papers from Kwaluseni, 1st World Congress of African Linguisticspp. 581-598 Rüdiger Köppe
Greville G. Corbett (1991)Gender. Introduction, In: Genderpp. 1-6 Cambridge University Press

Gender is a fascinating category, central and pervasive in some languages and totally absent in others. In this new, comprehensive account of gender systems, over 200 languages are discussed, from English and Russian to Archi and Chichewa. Detailed analysis of individual languages provides clear illustrations of specific types of system. Gender distinction is often based on sex; sometimes this is only one criterion and the gender of nouns depends on other factors (thus ‘house’ is masculine in Russian, feminine in French and neuter in Tamil). Some languages have comparable distinctions such as human/non-human, animate/inanimate, where sex is irrelevant. No other textbook surveys gender across this range of languages. Gender will be invaluable both for class use and as a reference resource for students and researchers in linguistics.

Greville G. Corbett (1983)The number of genders in Polish, In: Papers and Studies in Contrastive LinguisticsVXIpp. 83-89 School of English, Adam Mickiewicz University

In a recent article, Wertz (1977) reviews the question of the number of genders in Polish. He considers previous answers to the question: three genders (Klemensiewicz 1965: 51), five (Mańczak 1956), six (Brooks and Nalibow (1970: 137) and himself proposes seven as the correct solution. It is interesting that an apparently straightforward question should be open to debate, and that there should be such a variety of answers. Naturally, different assumptions as to the nature of gender may produce different analyses; however, as gender is reflected in syntax at a superficial level it is relatively easy to test the adequacy of an analysis. I intend to show that even if we accept Wertz's assumptions, his seven-gender system is unable to handle the surface facts of agreement in Polish. More generally, the split between gender in the singular and gender in the plural, which Wertz and other scholars propose, is untenable.

Matthew Baerman, Dunstan Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2002)The Surrey Syncretisms Database

The Surrey Syncretism Database encodes information on inflectional syncretism in 30 genetically and geographically diverse languages, representing such morphosyntactic features as case, person, number and gender. Syncretism is defined as when some set of words fail to distinguish morphosyntactic feature values which we believe, based on language-internal criteria, to be underlyingly present (for example, in Latin, the dative and ablative cases may be distinct in some contexts but collapsed into a single form in others). For each language all instances of syncretism are recorded.

Greville G. Corbett, Alfred D. Mtenje (1987)Gender agreement in Chichewa, In: Studies in African Linguistics18(1)pp. 1-38

Gender in Chichewa is described as a complete system. First the basic data on gender agreement are presented and it is shown how the available agreement markers correlate with the noun genders (and how the system has changed in the recent past). There follows a discussion of interesting phenomena which do not fit easily into the main gender system. Next structures involving conjoined noun phrases headed by nouns from various genders are analysed in detail. The rules required to account for the Chichewa system prove particularly complex; rules proposed for other Bantu languages do not cover all the Chichewa facts. The data are important for comparative work within Bantu and for typological claims which go beyond.

Anna Kibort, Greville G. Corbett (2005)Proposed Grammatical Features Resource, In: Proceedings of 2005 E-MELD Workshop "Linguistic Ontologies and Data Categories for Language Resources

The Grammatical Features Resources project is complementary to GOLD, and the motivation for offering the paper is to aim for useful interaction. The practical approach taken in GOLD has been to obtain a list of possible feature values from a selected source, with possible supplementation from other sources (Farrar, Lewis & Langendoen 2002). This sidesteps two major issues in constructing a feature/value inventory, namely the analysis problem and the correspondence problem. The proposed features site is intended to provide resources for addressing these substantial issues. Analysis requires us to state how we show that a particular language has, or has not, a given feature. The obvious ploy of requiring a phonological realization is shown to be inadequate for instances like person in Archi, where no single form demonstrates the existence of the feature and yet there are good arguments for person in this language. If the existence of a feature is demonstrable, we must then show how many values it has. Again requiring a phonological realization is too simple. There are instances in the literature of careful argumentation for difficult instances, notably the debate as to the number of case values in Russian (Zaliznjak 1973 and Comrie 1986). Establishing the values of number proved a long and difficult undertaking (given in particular the various references to quadrals in the literature, see Corbett 2000: 26–30). The site will offer two types of relevant information: first, the arguments which have been used to justify postulating features and values (with reference to the sources), and second, instances of challenging systems (which are typically those with most and sometimes with least values). Consider now the correspondence problem, starting with the simplest instance. French and Slovene both have masculine and feminine genders. Do they correspond? Yes, in the sense that nouns denoting females are typically assigned to the feminine gender. No, if we consider that French has two genders and Slovene three. But there are much more challenging cases. Romanian has two genders like French, if we look at agreement targets, but three like Slovene if we consider the nouns. The contribution here of the features resource site will be to provide outline typologies, so that labels such as ‘F’ or ‘N’ can be referred to a typology, clarifying the type of system within which they are functioning. The underlying philosophy, which is in tune with work on GOLD, is to offer useful tools for analysis and annotation.

Greville G. Corbett, Ian R. L. Davies (2010)Linguistic and behavioural measures for ranking basic colour terms, In: Studies in Language19(2)pp. 301-357 John Benjamins

We report an attempt to find more objective measures for identifying basic colour terms. We investigate the types of measure available, both linguistic and behavioural, and the statistical techniques for establishing the closeness of fit with the predictions derived from Berlin and Kay. This leads to an investigation of the interrelation between the measures; having examined consistency across investigators and across languages we establish that certain measures give considerably better results than others. While the indicators point in the same direction, supporting Berlin and Kay to varying degrees, different measures serve different functions.

Greville G. Corbett (1999)Resolution rules for gender agreement in Tsakhur, In: Ja.G. Testelets, E.V. Rakhilina (eds.), Tipologija i teorija jazyka. Ot opisanija k objasneniju. K 60-letiju Aleksandra Evgen´evicha Kibrika [Typology and Linguistic Theory. From Description to Explanation. For the 60th Anniversary of Aleksandr E. Kibrik]pp. 400-411 Jazyki russkoj kul´tury
Ian Davies, Christine Davies, Greville G. Corbett (1994)The basic colour terms of Ndebele, In: African Languages and Cultures7(1)pp. 36-48 Taylor & Francis

We report a field study of the colour terms of the Bantu language Ndebele. The main purposes of the study were to describe the Ndebele colour term inventory, and to determine which colour terms were basic in order to test Berlin & Kay's theory of colour universals. A sample of school children and a sample of adults from Matabeleland performed a list task ('tell me as many colour terms as you know') in order to identify Ndebele colour terms and to establish the relative salience of the terms. The adults also took part in a low resolution colour mapping task which provided a preliminary estimate of the range of referents of each term. Our results show that Ndebele has four definite basic terms: terms for white, black, red and green with blue (grue). In addition, the children had a basic term for yellow, and as this term was taught formally in school, it may eventually become basic for the majority of the population. Both sets of basic terms are consistent with Berlin & Kay's theory.