Esa Itkonen eitkonen at
Thu Mar 31 10:06:30 UTC 2011

Dear Dan: It is NOT "quite different" from what I expect, as you will see if you care actually to have a look at what I wrote.


----- Original Message -----
From: Daniel Everett <dan at>
Date: Thursday, March 31, 2011 1:02 pm
Subject: Re: [FUNKNET] simplicity
To: Esa Itkonen <eitkonen at>, Funknet <funknet at>

> Dear Esa,
> In fact, there is at least one very active group that works with 
> evaluating claims of simplicity and complexity, Josh Tenenbaum's lab 
> at MIT's BCS Department. Their approach is quite different than you 
> might expect, though, testing the relative complexity of the grammars 
> needed to describe a language. Ted Gibson and Amy Perfors have worked 
> with Josh and others to produce some interesting studies  in this 
> vein.  One paper that has emerged from this research is here:
> -- Dan
> On 31 Mar 2011, at 05:48, Esa Itkonen wrote:
> > Simplicity and complexity are conceptually interdependent: if, and 
> only if, you can define one, you can define the other. Between 1957 
> and c. 1997 it was confidently predicted that a valid definition of 
> simplicity (conceptualized as a "simplicity measure") was just around 
> the corner. But, as we all know, nothing came of it. Nowadays much the 
> same is being claimed about complexity. This seems illogical, however, 
> for reasons just indicated. (Never mind that simplicity and complexity 
> are mainly thought to apply to grammars and languages, respectively. 
> It would surely be odd if the simplicity/complexity of grammars in no 
> way reflected the simplicity/complexity of languages.) Why is all this 
> so difficult? Some hints at an answer may or may not be gathered from 
> my 2011 piece on 'Simplicity vs. complexity' (= click first 'Homepage' 
> and then 'Selected writings available as full texts'). Some historical 
> and conceptual background is provided by 'Philosophy of linguistics' 
> (= 2011, to a
> > ppear in the 'Oxford Handbook of the History of Linguistics'). You 
> are also free to have a (second?) look at what I wrote about this 
> topic back in 2009.
> > 
> > Esa 
> > 
> > Homepage:
> > 

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