Language and Historical Context
Areal and historical linguistics are a major research focus at Berkeley. Modern conceptions of the "linguistic area" were in fact largely created here, first through the pioneering work of A. L. Kroeber in the early 20th century, later through a series of articles by Murray Emeneau (most famously his 1956 "India as a linguistic area"), and most recently with Johanna Nichols's ongoing investigation of spread zones and accretion zones in linguistic geography. In other current research, faculty and students are investigating diffusional patterns in Amazonia, in California and the western US, in southeast Asia, and in early reconstructed phases of the Indo-European language family.
Our faculty have also long been concerned with the interplay between linguistic theory and typology on the one hand and language change on the other hand. Gary Holland's research has largely focussed on typologically interesting aspects of syntactic change, poetics, and stylistics in the early Indo-European languages — for example, how to understand early patterns of relativization from a cross-linguistic perspective. Andrew Garrett's recent work on language change has sought to develop a general view of phonological and morphological change: which diachronic patterns are possible (and why) and which are unknown?
Berkeley faculty who work on language change, linguistic reconstruction, and areal linguistics are also committed to a fully contextualized view of grammar. This means paying attention to the discourse, text, sociolinguistic, and sociocultural contexts of language structures, and many of us have worked extensively on texts in various language areas. Examples include Holland's metrical edition of the Rigveda (with Barend van Nooten), Garrett's Yurok text project, Garrett and Line Mikkelsen's Karuk dictionary, syntax, and text project, Leanne Hinton's work on the Yahi text corpus recorded by Ishi (with Herb Luthin), and Lev Michael's work with Iquito, Máíhɨki, Muniche, Nanti, and Omagua.
Language families and areas of special interest to Berkeley faculty include Algonquian (Rhodes), Amazonian languages (Michael), Bantu (Hyman), Calfornia Indian languages (Garrett, Hinton), Celtic (Holland, Sweetser), Indo-European (Garrett, Holland), Nakh-Daghestanian (J. Nichols), and Sino-Tibetan (Matisoff), in addition to those regularly taught in language and literature departments.