T. Florian Jaeger tiflo at
Thu Mar 31 19:45:01 UTC 2011


I just started following FUNKNET and saw the discussion about simplicity. If
I understand the discussion correctly, I think there is an alternative way
to think about complexity, one that is empirically driven and informed by
psycholinguistics. I understand that this argument can easily become
circular, but that depends on the specific claims.

Hal Tily and I discuss this approach and summarize psycholinguistic findings
over the last four decades that speak to both 'complexity' (of processing)
and 'communicative suitability' (Jaeger and Tily, 2011, WIRE: Cognitive
Science, It's a
very short article, perhaps of interest to this discussion?

There are actually several labs that seek to address what's complex, using
both behavioral and computational methods and investigation acquisition,
comprehension, and production (what's complex to acquisition isn't
necessarily complex to production, etc.). A lot of this work relies on
information theoretic and Bayesian derivations of "ideal speakers", "ideal
comprehenders", etc. and the proposals capture and extend ideas that have
been around for a long time in functional linguistics. In case you are
interested in knowing more about these lines of work, some people that I
would consider working on these topics are: Masha Fedzechkina, Ramon Ferrer
i Cancho, John Hale, Roger Levy, Fermin Moscoso del Prado Martin, Ting Qian,
Amy Perfors, and Steven Piantadosi, Hal Tily, and myself (this is still a
very biased and much too short list). This field provides both theoretical
solutions to what is "complex", "simple", or "suited for communication" and
psycholinguistics, as well as cross-linguistics, empirical evaluations of
these theories (for a summary see the linked article above).

Apologies if I misunderstood and this is irrelevant to your discussion.


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