ksinnema at ling.helsinki.fi
Thu Mar 31 11:57:51 UTC 2011
Esa's claim about the interconnectedness of simplicity and complexity is
well-founded. But how could these notions not be interconnected?
I think Nicholas Rescher (1998) has described complexity in a helpful
way. To Rescher, complexity is on the one hand a matter of real world
entities, like biological systems or languages. On the other hand, our
best practical index/measure of complexity depends, to some extent, on
definitions & perspectives. Complexity is thus at the same time a matter
of real world entities and a matter of the observer. Like Tom said, it
would be a bit deflating for science if complexity was just a matter of
definitions, being merely a property of our models and not of the
reality they attempt to model. Yet, many have viewed complexity
ultimately in this way (e.g. Karl Popper, Herbert Simon and Murray
Gell-Mann). But if complexity was merely a matter of our models, I think
the whole notion would not have been as helpful in science as it has
been thus far.
For those interested in the history of complexity research, Michel
Alhadeff-Jones' (2008) brief article is an infomative introduction to
the issue. In my dissertation I also write about complexity from a
typological point of view. If it's accepted in the review this spring, I
could send a copy or the URL to those interested.
Rescher, Nicholas 1998. Complexity: A philosophical overview. New
Alhadeff-Jones, Michel 2008. Three generations of complexity theories:
Nuances and ambiguities. Educational Philosophy and Theory 40(1): 66-82.
31.3.2011 13:15, Daniel Everett kirjoitti:
> Tom is absolutely right on here. And that was the point of the link I just sent as well.
> On 31 Mar 2011, at 06:08, Tom Givon wrote:
>> Sounds like you're blasting again, ol' boy. Tho of course, there are going to be other interpretations. Chomsky's "simplicity metric" was NOT supposed to evaluate the simplicity/complexity of the phenomenon itself (language/grammar), but of the DESCRIPTION--in order for ol' Noam to justify the superiority of one "more economical" description (guess which?) over all others. Of course, we all know that "complexity " may in part depends on definitions& perspectives, but it would be a bit deflating for science if we should conclude that it is all JUST a matter of definition& perspectives. In the rise of biological structure, at the very least--both organisms and DNA, but also neurology--it is perfectly possible to talk about increased system complexity intelligibly without crashing into your logical conundrum. Certainly John Tyler Bonner has done it for biology, Herbert Simon& others have done something similar for cognition. And I dimly recall something analogous being d
one in the "evolution" of the physical universe after the Big Bang, maybe Murray Gel-Mann? (Well, he has a whole Institute in Santa Fe dedicated to elaborating this...). So at least in principle, assuming that language IS a biologically-based phenomenon, it is not nonsensical to investigate its complexity. For what's good for the goose...
>> Keep on truckin', Esa. TG
>> On 3/31/2011 3:48 AM, 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,
>>> 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.
>>> Homepage: http://users.utu.fi/eitkonen
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