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Book: Neo-Firthian Approaches to Linguistic Typology

Chapter: Introduction

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.33965


Despite some claims to the contrary (e.g., Caffarel, Martin et al. 2006; Mwinlaaru and Xuan 2016), unlike the majority of functionally oriented theories, Neo-Firthian theories – including Systemic Functional Grammar – have shown little serious interest in linguistic typology and have made at best a limited contribution to the discipline. This forms the backdrop to the dual aims of the book, namely to enrich Neo-Firthian theory with typology and to enrich linguistic typology with Neo-Firthian linguistics. This chapter introduces linguistic typology and universals and some of the major approaches in the discipline, and suggests that a major inadequacy of much of linguistic typology as it is currently practiced is its avowed atheoretical stance. It is proposed that Neo-Firthian theories offer a firm base for typology, and the major defining characteristics of typology as conceptualised in a Neo-Firthian approach are identified; I also overview the existing contribution, such as it is, of Neo-Firthian theories to typology. This chapter also identifies Neo-Firthian theories, and situates them in relation to other functionally oriented theories such as Cognitive Grammar, Construction Grammar, older West Coast Functional Grammar, Role and Reference Grammar, and Functional Discourse Grammar. This chapter also discusses methodological challenges to Neo-Firthian typology and the significance of the exceptional and unusual in linguistic typology and theory.

Chapter Contributors

  • William McGregor ( - billmcgregor) 'Aarhus University'