Seminar für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft – Balthasar Bickel

Degrees of ergativity

An example of current research

Probabilities of assigning the same case maker to the sole argument of 1-place predicates ("S") and the most agent-like argument of 2- and 3-place predicates ("A"). Blue: very likely, red: very unlikely ("ergative")

Balthasar Bickel

My core interest is the worldwide distribution of linguistic diversity (a field known as ‘language typology’). This involves the development of variables that allow measuring diversity, the formulation of theories explaining the distribution of these variables, and the study of the relationships of linguistic distributions to (biological) genetic diversity as well as to cultural and cognitive diversity. The methods used in this research range from the statistical analysis of typological databases to ethnolinguistic fieldwork and experimental methods. Current foci of research include the typological profile of the Himalayas and the Caucasus, which deviate from the surrounding Eurasian spead areas; the analysis of cross-linguistic variation in the domains of clause linkage and grammatical relations as well the impact of this variation on discourse style and language processing; and the development of new methods for measuring and testing universal and areal distributions and their historical developments. I am co-director (with Johanna Nichols at UC Berkeley) of the AUTOTYP research program for typological databasing and have been leading a series of fieldwork projects on typological outlier languages in the Himalayas (e.g. CPDP).