Östen Dahl

Professor emeritus

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Works at Department of Linguistics
Telephone 08-16 23 45
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 C, plan 2-3
Room C 228
Postal address Institutionen för lingvistik 106 91 Stockholm


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2016. Östen Dahl, Bernhard Wälchli. Letras de Hoje 51 (3), 325-348

    This paper investigates the grammatical space of the two gram types – perfects and iamitives. Iamitives (from Latin iam ‘already’) overlap in their use with perfects but differ in that they can combine with stative predicates to express a state that holds at reference time. Iamitives differ from ‘already’ in having a higher frequency and showing a strong tendency to be grammaticalized with natural development predicates. We argue that iamitives can grammaticalize from expressions for ‘already’. In this study, we extract perfect grams and iamitive grams iteratively starting with two groups of seed grams from a parallel text corpus (the New Testament) in 1107 languages. We then construct a grammatical space of the union of 370 extracted grams by means of Multidimensional Scaling. This grammatical space of perfects and iamitives turns out to be a continuum without sharp boundaries anywhere.

  • 2016. Östen Dahl. Linguistic typology 20 (2), 427-437

    This article discusses questions arising in connection with Martin Haspelmath’s proposal to distinguish between “descriptive categories” at the language-specific level and “comparative concepts” at the crosslinguistic level, where the latter cannot be seen as either crosslinguistic categories or category types (Haspelmath 2010). It is argued that comparative concepts may be better subsumed under the notion of “generalizing concept”, which is not tied to any specific level of analysis, and that the distinction between what is language-specific and what is crosslinguistic is not absolute. Further, it is shown that crosslinguistic pattern clusters as identified in what is here called “bottom-up typology” meshes well with the homeostatic property cluster approach to biological species.

  • 2015. Östen Dahl.

    This book looks at some phenomena within the grammar of the noun phrase in a group of traditional North Germanic varieties mainly spoken in Sweden and Finland, usually seen as Swedish dialects, although the differences between them and Standard Swedish are often larger than between the latter and the other standard Mainland Scandinavian languages. In addition to being conservative in many respects – e.g. in preserving nominal cases and subject-verb agreement – these varieties also display many innovative features. These include extended uses of definite articles, incorporation of attributive adjectives, and a variety of possessive constructions. Although considerable attention has been given to these phenomena in earlier literature, this book is the first to put them in the perspective of typology and grammaticalization processes. It also looks for a plausible account of the historical origin of the changes involved, arguing that many of them spread from central Sweden, where they were later reverted due to the influence from prestige varieties coming from southern Scandinavia.

  • 2015. Östen Dahl. Major versus Minor? Languages and Literatures in a Globalized World, 15-24
  • 2015. Östen Dahl. Kungl. Vetenskapssamhällets i Uppsala årsbok 40/2013-14, 71-81
  • Chapter The perfect map
    2014. Östen Dahl. Aggregating Dialectology, Typology, and Register Analysis, 268-289

    The work presented in this paper can be seen as a continuation of my earlier attempts at using quantitative methods to compare tense-aspect categories across languages using translation questionnaire data using a different kind of data - a parallel corpus of Bible translations. Here I report on a comparison of the distribution of grams labeled perfect in traditional descriptions. The results confirm earlier claims that these grams do share a core of prototypical uses and also an anti-prototype, that is, a set of uses that are left untouched until the final end of the grammaticalization process by which perfects expand into general pasts. In the grey zone between the prototype and the anti-prototype, versions in one and the same language tend to show great variation. But it is also possible to identify specific areas of cross-linguistic variation even among the more conservative perfect grams.

  • 2014. Östen Dahl. En samtidig världshistoria, 111-123
  • Chapter Sirionó
    2014. Östen Dahl. Lenguas de Bolivia, 99-133
  • 2013. Östen Dahl. Journal of Slavic Linguistics 21 (1), 45-76

    Most treatments of temporal semantics start out from the conception of time as a line stretching from the past into the future, which is then populated with eventualities or situations. This paper explores how time can be seen as emerging from the construction of representations of reality in which the basic building blocks are static—i.e., timeless—representations, which are connected to each other by events that are transitions between them and that create an ordering which can be understood as temporal. This connects to von Wright’s “logic of change” and the “hybrid semantics” suggested by Herweg and Löbner. In this context, telicity is seen as the capacity of events, or of the predicates that express them, to “create time” in the sense of defining a before and an after. The basic elements of the model are global states, which are timeless taken in isolation but are connected by transition events, which transform one global state into another and thereby define the temporal relationships between them. Transition events, corresponding to Vendlerian achievements, represent simple changes which are then the basis for all other constructs in the model, most notably delimited states, Vendlerian activities (atelic dynamic eventualities), and accomplishments (telic non-punctual eventualities), but also time points and intervals. Transition events are further instrumental in constructing narrative structures and are responsible for narrative progression.

  • 2013. Östen Dahl. Time and TAME in language, 22-53
  • 2011. Östen Dahl. The Oxford handbook of grammaticalization
Show all publications by Östen Dahl at Stockholm University


Last updated: February 17, 2020

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