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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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What you can say without syntax: a hierarchy of grammatical complexity

What you can say without syntax: a hierarchy of grammatical complexity

(p.65) 4 What you can say without syntax: a hierarchy of grammatical complexity
Measuring Grammatical Complexity

Ray Jackendoff

Eva Wittenberg

Oxford University Press

This chapter proposes a hierarchy of grammars that offer a range of resources for expressing meaning, all the way from the grammatically simplest languages to fully complex languages. The hierarchy can be understood in two ways: First, it provides a formal tool for describing communication systems. Second, it enables us to make an empirical claim about the human language faculty: it is a palimpsest, consisting of layers of different degrees of complexity, in which various grammatical phenomena fall into different layers. Several linguistic phenomena illustrate this claim.

Keywords:   communication systems, creoles, hierarchy of grammars, interface rules, levels of complexity, pidgins, recursion, sign languages, thematic roles, word order

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