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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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Constructions, complexity, and word order variation

Constructions, complexity, and word order variation

(p.148) 8 Constructions, complexity, and word order variation
Measuring Grammatical Complexity

Peter W. Culicover

Oxford University Press

In order to explore the question of whether all languages are of equal complexity, it is essential to have some idea about (i) what produces linguistic complexity, (ii) how complexity is measured, and (iii) what evidence justifies attributing some degree of complexity to a language. This chapter focuses on (i) and (iii), paying particular attention to word order variation in Germanic verbal clusters. It argues that one type of complexity resides in the correspondence between syntactic form and conceptual structure interpretation, and that even within this domain there are independent dimensions that contribute to complexity. Evidence for complexity, it is suggested, is linguistic change, which in turn leads to variation. The reduction of complexity on several dimensions leads to differential changes even in closely related language varieties, due to the fact that they are represented in distinct (but possibly interacting) social networks.

Keywords:   categorial grammar, construction grammar, grammatical complexity, infinitival relatives, optimality theory, processing, self-embedding, verb clusters, West Germanic, word order

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