complexity measures

manaster at manaster at
Sun Jan 18 13:53:34 UTC 1998

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
I quite agree, but certainly many of us were taught this
as unshakeable dogma in grad school.  I know I was.
It was, of course, a response to the traditional
ideas about the inequality of lgs and the supposed
simplicity of "primitive lgs" as compared to
Latin, Greek, Skt, et al.  So this whole topic
has to be understood in context.  In the context
of trying to refuse 19th/early 20th century ideas
about "primitive lgs", there was something quite
concrete that was it issue adn the authors who argued that African
or Amerindian lgs were no less complex than Latin et al.
had something quite concrete in mind and were entirely
right.  Taken out of that context, the question
becomes either meaningless or requires a new
context--and THAT is how I at any rate would like
to interpret David's (if I may call you that) remarks.
On Fri, 16 Jan 1998, David Lightfoot wrote:
> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>    Recent postings suggest that some people believe that languages are all
> equally complex (although this is not entailed by Larry Trask's original
> question, giving rise to this discussion).
>    One possibility is that this belief is an empirical finding.  In which
> case, there must be a way of measuring the overall complexity of a language
> somebody has found that languages all emerge with the same index.
> Alternatively, it might follow from some basic principles or some
> theory that languages must be equally complex. I know of no such
> empirical support nor of any theoretical underpinning for such an idea.
> What am I missing?
>    I should have thought that if there is a simplification in some part
> of a system, there doesn't necessarily have to be compensating
> complexification elsewhere.

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