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Are Some Languages Better than Others?$
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R. M. W. Dixon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198766810

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198766810.001.0001

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How about complexity?

How about complexity?

Chapter:
(p.125) Chapter 6 How about complexity?
Source:
Are Some Languages Better than Others?
Author(s):

R. M. W. Dixon

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198766810.003.0006

We have said that no present-day language is ‘primitive’. All have a fair degree of complexity. However it does not follow that: ‘the more complex the better’. A language may satisfy many of the requirements we identify as relevant for an ‘ideal’ language (see chapter 10) either in a straightforward way, or in a convoluted way. The former is plainly preferable. The first two sections of the chapter provide a sample illustration of the considerable grammatical complexity of the Amazonian language Jarawara (on which I worked for twelve years). The general reader can if they wish skim this and skip on to the final section, on how complexity is acquired, and how it may be lost.

Keywords:   complexity, negation, auxiliaries, language change, Jarawara

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