The goals and principles of AUTOTYP

AUTOTYP is a large-scale research program with goals in both quantitative and qualitative typology. In quantitative typology, we are interested in detecting and explaining geographical distributions of typological features and in producing statistical estimates of universal preferences as well as of genealogical inheritance and areal diffusion potentials. In qualitative typology, we aim at a systematic analysis of the kinds of variation found in various typological domains. 

AUTOTYP was developed in response to two problems faced by traditional typological databases:

  1. Traditional databases typically rely on a static and pre-defined category list which tends to conflict with the data as more languages are entered and which restricts the database to research in theories that completely sanction the category list. (For discussion of some of the problems arising, download our paper on the use of AUTOTYP in field linguistics. )

  2. Traditional databases are typically integrated into a single file containing a wide variety of information making it difficult if not impossible to re-use any part of this information, e.g., genetic affiliation, in other databases or to search for typological correlations across databases.

The AUTOTYP program addresses these shortcomings and proposes general design principles for the development of typological databases. For a presentation of all projects currently adopting the AUTOTYP principles, go to the projects page.

The principles of AUTOTYP

The Autotypology principles requires that databases differentiate between data files, which contain records on specific issues by language, and definition files, which contain records of notions and their definitions that prove to be necessary in the data files. The two file types allow for a dual use of the database in research: the data files allow quantitative typological inquiry into statistical correlations between structural, genealogical or geographical features, while the definition files produce contributions to qualitative typology since they contain all and only notions that are cross-linguistically relevant and viable.

last modified
© by Balthasar Bickel and Johanna Nichols 2000