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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 complexity of narrow syntax: Minimalism, representational economy, and simplest Merge

The complexity of narrow syntax: Minimalism, representational economy, and simplest Merge

(p.128) 7 The complexity of narrow syntax: Minimalism, representational economy, and simplest Merge
Measuring Grammatical Complexity

Andreas Trotzke

Jan-Wouter Zwart

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the question of formal complexity measurement within linguistic minimalism and argues that the minimalist approach to complexity of derivations and representations shows similarities with that of alternative theoretical perspectives that assume that linguistic complexity does not arise from syntax alone. In particular, the chapter claims that information structure properties should not be encoded in narrow syntax as features triggering movement, suggesting that the relevant information is established at the interfaces. The chapter argues for a minimalist model of grammar in which complexity arises out of the cyclic interaction of subderivations, a model it takes to be compatible with construction grammar approaches. The chapter demonstrates that this model allows one to revisit the question of the formal complexity of a generative grammar and show that narrow syntax can be captured by a finite-state device and, therefore, falls low on the Chomsky hierarchy.

Keywords:   Chomsky hierarchy, cyclicity, finite-state grammar, grammatical complexity, information structure, merge, Minimalist Program, narrow syntax, recursion, representational economy

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