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Measuring Grammatical Complexity$
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Frederick J. Newmeyer and Laurel B. Preston

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199685301

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199685301.001.0001

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Major contributions from formal linguistics to the complexity debate

Major contributions from formal linguistics to the complexity debate

(p.14) 2 Major contributions from formal linguistics to the complexity debate
Measuring Grammatical Complexity

John A. Hawkins

Oxford University Press

This chapter lays out the more general contributions made by formal linguistics to discussions of grammatical complexity. It also discusses some contributions that can be regarded as having been less successful and some that have not yet been exploited. It is argued that formal linguistics can give us a precise characterization of comparable syntactic structures across languages and of their relative complexity; it can define different levels of complexity in parsing phenomena such as garden paths; it contributes key clarifications to discussions of ‘overall complexity’; and it enables us to define efficiency as well as complexity and makes possible metrics for measuring both. It is argued further that rule-based metrics of complexity have been less successful than surface structure-based metrics and that formal linguistic theories need to be better integrated with psycholinguistic and computational theories, to the mutual benefit of each.

Keywords:   efficiency, formal linguistics, grammatical complexity, language processing, language typology, parsing, psycholinguistics, relative clauses, rule-based metrics

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