complexity measures

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal mcv at
Sun Jan 18 13:54:22 UTC 1998

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Scott DeLancey <delancey at> wrote:
>On Sat, 17 Jan 1998, Miguel Carrasquer Vidal wrote:
>> There is no objective measure of "language complexity", so I don't see
>> how this might have been "shown".  "Dogma", on the other hand, strikes
>> me as too strong a term.  I'd say "heuristic".  Most languages seem to
>> be about equivalently complex.  But there certainly are exceptions.
>    When you say "most languages *seem* to be about equivalently
>complex", can you explicate this intuition at all?
It's not really a primary intuition.  Everybody knows that learning a
language that is similar to your native one is subjectively "easier".
The "uneducated", "intuitive" point of view is then that some
languages are "easy" (simple) and others "hard" (complex).  Of course,
once you realize/learn that different people classify the "complexity"
of other languages differently according to their native tongue, the
result is a "corrected", "educated" intuition, summarized in "all
languages are about equally complex".  Since it's not based on any
objective measurement, it still isn't in any way a scientific fact.
"Received opinion" ("idie regue") might be a better term.
See Greg Downing's message.
Can we get a more objective measure of "language complexity"?  I think
that the passage I quoted from Malcolm Ross' article might hold some
promise.  It suggests that "complexity" is related in some way to the
manner in which a language is used socially.  A language used by a
small "in-group" can afford to be more "complex" than a wide-spread
"koine".  Still not an objective measure, but it might be an
indication of where to look, and what to look for...
Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at

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