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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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Complexity in comparative syntax: the view from modern parametric theory

Complexity in comparative syntax: the view from modern parametric theory

Chapter:
(p.103) 6 Complexity in comparative syntax: the view from modern parametric theory
Source:
Measuring Grammatical Complexity
Author(s):

Theresa Biberauer

Anders Holmberg

Ian Roberts

Michelle Sheehan

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199685301.003.0006

The theory of principles and parameters offers a promising approach to the question of explanatory adequacy. It is less clear whether this approach offers a way of approaching questions of complexity. The chapter addresses the question of what parametric theory can tell us about the complexity of grammatical systems. It presents an ‘emergentist’ view of parametric variation in which parametric options emerge from the interaction of an underspecified Universal Grammar, the primary linguistic data, and acquisition strategies. The chapter describes how this view gives rise to parameter hierarchies, and sketches five such hierarchies. It then investigates typological features of some example languages, showing how the complexity of these features can be calculated as a function of their position on the parametric hierarchies. In other words, this version of parameter theory gives a measure of the relative complexity of grammars.

Keywords:   case and alignment, emergentist, language acquisition, language typology, Minimalist Program, movement, null arguments, parameter hierarchy, parameters, universal grammar

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