University of Surrey Institute of Advanced Studies

University of Surrey

Creating Infrastructure For Canonical Typology


There is a growing movement within linguistics to promote the use of ontologies for linguistic description. However, differences in terminology and underlying logic are major stumbling blocks. One way of addressing these problems is to adopt the canonical approach to typology by taking defining properties and placing them in a multidimensional space. In this way we can treat, for example, issues of whether particular constructions fit under the rubric 'agreement' or 'case' as a matter of greater or lesser proximity to a canonical ideal. A two-day international seminar is being held at Surrey in January 2009, addressing the issues relevant for the creation of an ontology for Canonical Typology in the form of a Community of Practice Extension (COPE) within the General Ontology for Linguistic Description (GOLD). It brings together computational linguists, fieldworkers and typologists, as well as researchers working specifically on ontologies.

A bibliography of current work on Canonical Typology can be found at:

A small number of bursaries is available to subsidise travel within the UK for postgraduate student participants. Anyone wishing to be considered for a student bursary should send a one-page letter of application to Mrs Mirela Dumic ( by 7 December 2008.

Fri, 9 Jan09:0010:00Meeting of the LTRC group
10:0010:30Refreshments and arrival
10:3010:45Introduction (Dunstan Brown, Surrey)
10:4511:30Canonical morphosyntactic features (Grev Corbett, Surrey)
11:3012:30Towards a multidimensional typology of nominal classification (Frank Seifart, Regensburg)
13:1514:00Refining the canonical characterization of the passive (Anna Siewierska, Lancaster)
14:0015:00Rare but useful: the canons 'direct' and 'indirect' in reported speech typology (Nicholas Evans, ANU)
15:0015:30Coffee break
15:3016:15Canonical typology: the case of reflexivization (Martin Everaert, Utrecht)
16:1517:00Towards a typology of finiteness: a canonical approach (Irina Nikolaeva, SOAS)
Sat, 10 Jan09:0009:45On clitics and canons (Andrew Spencer, Essex & Ana Luis, Coimbra)
09:4510:30Canonical typology of person agreement: Evidence from signed languages (Adam Schembri, UCL & Kearsy Cormier, UCL)
10:3011:00Coffee break
11:0011:45Canons and the Possession-Modification Scale (Irina Nikolaeva, SOAS & Andrew Spencer, Essex)
11:4512:30Infrastructure requires a foundation: a base for the canons of negation (Oliver Bond, SOAS)
13:3014:15From interlinearized glossing to standard annotation (Dorothee Beermann Hellan, Trondheim)
14:1515:00Corpus informed approach to Canonical Typology (Jiajin Xu, Lancaster)
15:0015:15Coffee break
15:1516:00An extensible design for linguistic survey databases (Alexis Dimitriadis, Utrecht)
16:0017:00Using canonical typology to achieve e-Linguistics (Scott Farrar, Washington)
17:00Concluding remarks