Logo: MPI Workshop
Semantic Maps:
Methods and Applications
Semantic Maps: Methods and Applications


In recent years the semantic map methodology has enjoyed increased popularity in cross-linguistic studies. Although there are various ways to make semantic maps, they all are attempts to visually represent cross-linguistical regularity in semantic structure. It has become increasingly clear that these attempts to map out linguisic categorisation provide an empirically testable tool to the study of semantic variation across languages. The semantic map approach has further shown convergence with grammaticalization theory, as well as with the research using (implicational) hierarchies, as found in functional typology and optimality theory.

Some general discussion and references on the (recieved) method of building semantic maps can be found in Croft 2001 and Haspelmath 2003. Further, different kinds of semantic maps have been proposed for diverse parts of linguistic structure, including tense/aspect (e.g., Anderson 1982; Croft fc.), modality (Anderson 1986; van der Auwera & Plungian), voice (Kemmer 1993; Croft 2001), pronouns (Haspelmath 1997a; Cysouw fc.), case-marking (Haspelmath 2003; Narrog & Ito 2006), clause linkage (Kortmann 1997; Malchukov 2004), spatial and temporal domain (Haspelmath 1997b; Levinson & Meira 2003), as well as to a number of syntactic domains, such as intransitive predication (Stassen 1997) and secondary predication (van der Auwera & Malchukov 2005).

Yet various aspects of the semantic maps approach remain unsettled and open to discussion: it is the goal of the workshop to address these topics, in order to contribute -  both empirically and theoretically - to the development of the semantic map methodology.



Anderson, Lloyd B. 1982. The 'perfect' as a universal and as a language-particular category. In: Paul J. Hopper (ed.), Tense-Aspect: Between Semantics & Pragmatics, 227-264. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Anderson, Lloyd B. 1986. Evidentials, paths of change, and mental maps: typologically regular asymmetries. In: Wallace Chafe & Johanna Nichols (eds.) Evidentiality: The linguistic encoding of epistemology. Norwood: Ablex, 273-312.

Croft, William. 2001. Radical construction grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Croft, William & Keith T. Poole. forthcoming. Inferring universals from grammatical variation: Multidimensional scaling for typological analysis. (available online)

Cysouw, Michael. forthcoming. Building semantic maps: the case of person marking. In: Bernhard Wälchli & Matti Miestamo (eds.) Berlin: Mouton. (available online)

Haspelmath, Martin. 1997a. Indefinite Pronouns. Oxford: Clarendon.

Haspelmath, Marin. 1997b. From space to time: temporal adverbials in the world's languages. München: Lincom.

Haspelmath, Martin. 2003. The geometry of grammatical meaning: semantic maps and cross-linguistic comparison. In M. Tomasello (ed.), The new psychology of language, vol. 2, New York: Erlbaum, 211-243.

Kemmer, Susan. 1993. The middle voice. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Kortmann, Bernd. 1997. Adverbial subordination: a typology and history of adverbial subordinators based on European languages. Berlin: Mouton.

Levinson, Stephen & Sergio Meira. 2003. 'Natural concepts' in the spatial topological domain - Adpositional meanings in crosslinguistic perspective: An exercise in semantic typology. Language 79(3): 485-516.

Malchukov, Andrej. 2004. Towards a semantic typology of adversative and contrast marking. Journal of semantics, 21(2): 177-198.

Narrog, Heiko, and Ito Shinya. (to appear). Re-constructing semantic maps: the Comitative-Instrumental area, Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung.

Stassen, Leon 1997. Intransitive predication: an essay in linguistic typology. Oxford: Oxford University press.

Van der Auwera, Johan & Malchukov, Andrej 2005. A semantic map for depictive adjectivals. In: Nikolaus P. Himmelmann & Eva Schultze-Berndt (eds.) Secondary predication and adverbial modification. The typology of depictive constructions, 393-423. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Van der Auwera, J. & Plungian, V.A. 1998. Modality's semantic map. Linguistic Typology, 2(1): 79-124.