Bernard Comrie


Office Hours

Tuesdays 4:00 - 5:00 PM
Thursdays 2:00 - 3:00 PM
and by appointment
Winter 2020

Office Location

South Hall 3515


Language universals and typology; historical linguistics; languages of the Caucasus; languages of New Guinea


1972 Ph.D, University of Cambridge


I studied Linguistics at the University of Cambridge and taught Russian and Linguistics there for six years before moving to the Linguistics Department of the University of Southern California, where I taught for 20 years. In 1998 I moved to Germany to take up the directorship of the Department of Linguistics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, a position from which I retired in 2015. Since 2002 I am also Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and starting in the Fall quarter 2015 I am in full-time residence at UCSB. My belief that an understanding of Language requires an understanding of as many languages of different types as possible has led me to carry out fieldwork in places as far apart as Papua New Guinea and the North Caucasus — I have been known to say: “If it’s a language, I’ll work on it.” Topics I have investigated from this cross-linguistic, typological perspective include tense and aspect, transitivity and voice, and numeral systems. My interests in new directions in historical linguistics have led me to seek out collaborations with population geneticists, archeologists, and anthropologists to combine the strengths of these disciplines in solving problems relating to prehistoric human migrations. My other interests include travel and appreciating classical music.


  • Grammar of Akabea (Andaman Islands)

  • Grammar of Bezhta (North Caucasus)

  • Grammar of Haruai (Papua New Guinea)

  • Grammar of Tsez (North Caucasus)

  • Intercontinental Dictionary Series / Loanword Typology

  • Rare Linguistic Phenomena

  • Typology of Numeral Systems

  • Typology of Writing Systems

  • Languages and Genes


Comrie, Bernard & Lucía Golluscio (eds). 2015. Language Contact and Documentation / Contacto Lingüístico y Documentación. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. ix + 370 pp.

Enfield, N. J. & Bernard Comrie (eds). 2015. The Languages of Mainland Southeast Asia: The State of the Art. (Pacific Linguistics 649.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. vi + 662 pp.

Malchukov, Andrej & Bernard Comrie (eds). 2015. Valency Classes in the World’s Languages. 2 vols. (Comparative Handbooks of Linguistics 1/1-2.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. xii + 1721 pp.

Comrie, Bernard, Madzhid Khalilov & Zaira Khalilova. 2015. Valency and valency classes in Bezhta. In Andrej Malchukov & Bernard Comrie (eds): Valency Classes in the World’s Languages, 541-570. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Borin, Lars, Anju Saxena, Taraka Rama & Bernard Comrie. 2014. Linguistic landscaping of South Asia using digital language resources: Genetic vs. areal linguistics. Proceedings of LREC [Language Resources and Evaluation Conference] 2014: 3137-3144.

Comrie, Bernard. 2014. Rare phenomena and representative corpora. In Andrés Enrique-Arias, Manuel J. Gutiérrez, Alazne Landa & Francisco Ocampo (eds.): Perspectives in the Study of Spanish Language Variation: Papers in Honor of Carmen Silva-Corvalán (= Verba Anexo 72), 101-109. Santiago de Compostela: Servizo de Publicacións e Intercambio Científico, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela. DOI:

Lefebvre, Claire, Bernard Comrie & Henri Cohen (eds). 2013. New Perspectives on the Origins of Language. Studies in Language Companion Series 144. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. xvi + 582 pp.

Comrie, Bernard, Diana Forker, Zaira Khalilova. 2013. Alignment typology, reflexives, and reciprocals in Tsezic languages. In Chundra Cathcart, Shinae Kang & Clare S. Sandy (eds.): Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society 37.2: Special Session on Languages of the Caucasus, 32-51. eLanguage.

Comrie, Bernard & Zaira Khalilova. 2013. Bezhta valency patterns. In Iren Hartmann, Martin Haspelmath & Bradley Taylor (eds.): Valency Patterns Leipzig. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Comrie, Bernard. 2013. Ergativity: some recurrent themes. In Edith L. Bavin & Sabine Stoll (eds.): The Acquisition of Ergativity, 15-34. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Comrie, Bernard. 2013. Human themes in Spanish ditransitive constructions. In Dik Bakker & Martin Haspelmath (eds.): Languages Across Boundaries: Studies in Memory of Anna Siewierska, 37-52. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Borin, Lars, Bernard Comrie & Anju Saxena. 2013. The Intercontinental Dictionary Series – a rich and principled database for language comparison. In Lars Borin & Anju Saxena (eds.): Approaches to Measuring Linguistic Differences (Trends in Linguistics 265), 285-302. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Cysouw, Michael & Bernard Comrie. 2013. Some observations on typological features of hunter-gatherer languages. In Balthasar Bickel, Lenore A. Grenoble, David A. Peterson & Alan Timberlake (eds.): Language Typology and Historical Contingency. In Honor of Johanna Nichols, 383-394. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. [Supplementary materials, 21 pp., available at]


  • Linguistics 109: Introduction to Syntax

  • Linguistics 181: Languages of the World

  • Linguistics 222: Typology and Universals

  • Linguistics 245: Topics in Language Change

  • Linguistics 256A-B: Seminar in Typology and Universals
    ?- Recent seminar topics: Languages and Genes, Areal Typology, Typology of Reference-Tracking Systems, Alignment Typology, Typology of Ditransitive Constructions, Typology of Valence and Valence Alternations