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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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The importance of exhaustive description in measuring linguistic complexity: the case of English try and pseudocoordination

The importance of exhaustive description in measuring linguistic complexity: the case of English try and pseudocoordination

Chapter:
(p.202) 10 The importance of exhaustive description in measuring linguistic complexity: the case of English try and pseudocoordination
Source:
Measuring Grammatical Complexity
Author(s):

Daniel Ross

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199685301.003.0010

Attempts to measure grammatical complexity are often based on data from a subset of properties in a language as an approximation. Despite this, such a subset of core grammatical phenomena is not representative of the language as a whole, and in such an approximation many properties that would add to complexity are easily overlooked. A case study of English try and pseudocoordination (I will try and win the race!) provides evidence for this claim. In this construction, neither verb can be inflected, and it is shown that there must be explicit reference to inflection in the syntactic derivation, a property not found more generally in the language. This is exactly the sort of linguistic phenomenon that would be easily overlooked by researchers selecting a purportedly representative sample. Therefore, it is concluded that accurate measurement of grammatical complexity must be based on extensive, preferably exhaustive, description of a linguistic system.

Keywords:   grammatical complexity, inflection, Kolmogorov complexity, linguistic typology, morphology, peripheral constructions, pseudocoordination

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