Measuring language typicality, with special reference to the Americas

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The World Atlas of Language Structures provides a means of calculating the index of typicality of a language, as the average of the percentage of the world’s languages that share that language’s feature value for each feature. Concentrating on languages represented by at least 100 features gives a sample of 115 languages, including 29 indigenous languages of the Americas. While indigenous languages of the Americas occupy a broad range on the index of typicality, from positions 13 to 115 – in contrast to Indo-European languages of Europe, which all fall well within the bottom half of the range – there are some striking more local results, e.g., languages of interior Amazonia fall in the “very atypical” range of 107 to 115.


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