, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 419–443

The expression of person and number: a typologist’s perspective

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11525-010-9170-5

Cite this article as:
Cysouw, M. Morphology (2011) 21: 419. doi:10.1007/s11525-010-9170-5


The categories of person and number have been analyzed extensively, both from a generative/structural perspective and from a typological/cross-linguistic perspective. The goal of both approaches is to account for the diversity of human languages, but in practice both have a rather different take on the subject. One major difference between these approaches is the relation between language-specific and cross-linguistic analyses. This paper argues that it is crucial to strictly distinguish between the two. However, this plea is at odds with the generative/structural perspective, which attempts to deal with both kinds of analyses at the same time. In contrast, it is of central importance from a typological/cross-linguistic perspective to keep the comparison constant across the wide variation as attested among human languages, thereby often ignoring many language-specific details (for the course of the comparison). The final section of this paper summarizes some major results of recent cross-linguistic comparisons of the person/number categories in the world’s languages.


Person Number Typology Cross-linguistic Evidence Analysis 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

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