Language Sampling: Issues and challenges

Saint-Petersburg, December 20, 2019


Organized by the research project on the typology of caritives at the Institute for Linguistic Studies RAS, Saint Petersburg.

Language samples are critical for the outreach and the quality of research in the field of linguistic typology. However, sampling procedures are not standardized, and therefore still constitute an issue of debate among linguists. The gold standard for a typological sample must be representative of the languages of the world. This means, on the one hand, that one has to decide how to deal with areal, genetic, and bibliographical biases. On the other hand, a decision should be made on how to select the languages in terms of their typological parameters. Suggestions have been made in the literature, such as [Bakker 2011]; [Bickel 2008]; [Bickel, Nichols 2013]; [Dahl 2008]; [Miestamo 2016]. However, the claim by Stassen still stands: “no general agreement exists with regard to the composition and the size of such samples” [Stassen 1997: 7].

The project “Grammatical periphery in the languages of the world: a typological study of caritives” is hosting a workshop to discuss language sampling from various theoretical and methodological perspectives. The aim of this workshop is to bring together scholars experienced in linguistic typology, in order to exchange ideas on different aspects of the development of language samples.

We welcome abstract submissions, preferably pieces of research, that either present personal experience in language sampling, or contribute to the general discussion on sampling methods. We offer two options: shorter talks (20-minute presentation plus 10-minute discussion) and longer talks (30-minute presentation plus 15-minute discussion). Please specify your preferred option when sending your abstract.

  • Submission deadline: Abstracts (not exceeding 2500 characters ~ 1 page) should be submitted by September 30, 2019 to

  • Notifications of acceptance/rejection will be sent out by October 15.

  • The languages of the conference are Russian and English.

  • There is no participation fee.


Workshop webpage:


Sofia Oskolskaya, ILS RAS

Maksim Fedotov, ILS RAS

Elizaveta Zabelina, ILS RAS

Ezequiel Koile, HSE / MPI SHH



Bakker, Dik. 2011. Language sampling. In Jae Jung Song (ed.), The Oxford handbook of linguistic typology, 100–127. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bickel, Balthasar. 2008. A refined sampling procedure for genealogical control. Language Typology and Universals 61. 221–233.

Bickel, Balthasar & Johanna Nichols. 2013. The Autotyp genealogy and geography database 2013 release.

Dahl, Östen. 2008. An exercise in a posteriori language sampling. Language Typology and Universals 61. 208–220.

Dryer, Matthew S. & Martin Haspelmath (eds.). 2013. The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie.

Hammarström, Harald, Robert Forkel, Martin Haspelmath & Sebastian Bank. 2015. Glottolog 2.4. Leipzig: Max-Planck Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie.

Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons & Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2015. Ethnologue: Languages of the world. 18th edn. Dallas: SIL International.

Miestamo, M., Bakker, D. & Arppe, A. 2016. Sampling for variety.  Linguistic Typology, 20(2), pp. 233-296.

Stassen, L. 1997. Intransitive Predication. Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory. Oxford: Clarendon.

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