Scott DeLancey

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Scott DeLancey (born 1949) is an American linguist (University of Oregon). His work focuses on typology and historical linguistics of Tibeto-Burman languages as well as Plateau Penutian, especially the Klamath language.

He is well known for having developed the concept of mirative,[1] for promoting the study of comparative Penutian[2] and for being a vocal proponent of the idea that a system of agreement should be reconstructed in proto-Tibeto-Burman[3]

He is currently undertaking field research on several Tibeto-Burman languages of North-Eastern India. He has hypothesized that the growth of the Shang state probably led to the adoption of its language as a lingua franca among the southern Baiyue and the Sino-Tibetan speaking Zhou to the West, creating a common lexical stock. The rise of the Zhou within the Shang state in turn, is interpreted as strengthening the Sino-Tibetan component, and, when the Zhou established a dynasty, the lingua franca would have undergone creolization with a stronger Zhou Sino-Tibetan lexicon while building on a morphology that was inherited from the Shang dynasty speakers. The sum effect of the Zhou diffusion of their version of the lingua franca was, he argues, one of Tibeto-Burmanization, with a concomitant shift from a SVO morphological substrate to a language with an increasing tendency towards SOV structure.[4] Linguist Paul K. Benedict also proposed that the Shang may have not been Sinitic speakers and that the Zhou invaders from the west were the bearers of proto-Sinitic languages.[5]


  • DeLancey, Scott, Lon Diehl & LaRaw Maran. 1978a. A localistic account of aspect in Jinghpaw. University of Michigan Papers in Linguistics 2(4). 49-64.
  • DeLancey, Scott, Lon Diehl & LaRaw Maran. 1978b. The Tibeto-Burman aspect mechanisms. University of Michigan Papers in Linguistics 2(4). 65-88.
  • Delancey, Scott (1982). "Modern Tibetan: A case study in ergative typology". Journal of Linguistic Research. 2 (1): 21–31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Delancey, Scott (1984). "Transitivity and ergative case in Lhasa Tibetan". Proceedings of the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society: 131–140.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • (1984). "Categories of non-volitional actor in Lhasa Tibetan." A. Zide et al., eds., Proc. of the Conference on Participant Roles: South Asia and Adjacent Areas, pp. 58–70. IULC.
  • (1984). "Agentivity in syntax." Chicago Linguistic Society Parasession on Agentivity and Causation.
  • (1985). "On active typology and the nature of agentivity." F. Plank, ed., Relational Typology. Mouton.
  • (1985). "Lhasa Tibetan evidentials and the semantics of causation." Proc. of the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, 65-72.
  • (1986). "Evidentiality and volitionality in Tibetan." W. Chafe and J. Nichols, eds., Evidentiality: The Linguistic Coding of Epistemology, pp. 203–13.
  • Delancey, Scott (1990). "Ergativity and the cognitive model of event structure in Lhasa Tibetan". Cognitive Linguistics. 1 (3): 289–321. doi:10.1515/cogl.1990.1.3.289.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Delancey, Scott (1990). "Tibetan evidence for Nungish metathesis". Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area. 12 (2): 25–31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Delancey, Scott (1990). "Contour tones from lost syllables in Central Tibetan". Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area. 12 (2): 33–34.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Delancey, Scott (1991). "The origins of verb serialization in Modern Tibetan". Studies in Language. 15 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1075/sl.15.1.02del.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Delancey, Scott (1992). "The historical status of the conjunct/disjunct pattern in Tibeto-Burman". Acta Linguistica Hafniensia. 25: 39–62. doi:10.1080/03740463.1992.10412277.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Delancey, Scott (1997). "Mirativity: the grammatical marking of unexpected information". Linguistic Typology. 1: 33–52. doi:10.1515/lity.1997.1.1.33.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • (1998). "Semantic categorization in Tibetan honorific nouns." Anthropological Linguistics 40:109-23.
  • (1999). "Relativization in Tibetan." in Yogendra Yadava and Warren Glover, eds., Studies in Nepalese Linguistics, pp. 231–49. Kathmandu: Royal Nepal Academy.
  • (2012) 'Still mirative after all these years. Linguistic Typology 16.3
  • 1981. The category of direction in Tibeto-Burman. Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area 6.1:83-102.
  • 1981. An interpretation of split ergativity and related patterns. Language 57.3:626-57.
  • 1997. The Penutian hypothesis: Retrospect and prospect. (with Victor Golla). International Journal of American Linguistics 63:171-202.
  • 2002. The mirative and evidentiality. Journal of Pragmatics 33.3:369-382.
  • 2010. DeLancey, Scott. 2010. 'Towards a history of verb agreement in Tibeto-Burman.' Himalayan Linguistics Journal 9.1. 1-39.


  1. DeLancey, Scott (1997). "Mirativity: The grammatical marking of unexpected information". Linguistic Typology 1: 33–52. doi:10.1515/lity.1997.1.1.33.
  2. DeLancey, Scott; & Golla, Victor. (1997). The Penutian hypothesis: Retrospect and prospect. International Journal of American Linguistics, 63, 171–202
  3. DeLancey, Scott. 2010. 'Towards a history of verb agreement in Tibeto-Burman.' Himalayan Linguistics Journal 9.1. 1-39.
  4. Scott De Lancey, 'The origins of Sinitic,’ in Zhuo Jing-Schmidt (ed.) Increased Empiricism: Recent advances in Chinese Linguistics, John Benjamins Publishing Co. 2013 pp.73-99 pp.91-2, p.91: ‘When Zhou takes over the empire, there is, as on Benedict’s model, a temporary diglossic situation, in which genuine Zhou speech is, for a while, retained in the ruling class, but among the former Shang population, Shang speech is gradually replaced not by “pure” Sino-Tibetan Zhou, but by a heavily Tibeto-Burman influenced version of the lingua franca.’
  5. Van Driem, George (2005). Tibeto Burman vs. Indo-Chinese. London: Routledge. p. 88.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>