complexity measures

Richard Hogg MFCEPRH at
Mon Jan 19 14:07:07 UTC 1998

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
On 16 Jan 98 at 11:52, 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).
> 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.
I'm sure that David's conclusion must be right, but in rejecting the
claim that all languages must be equally complex we have to be equally
careful not to embrace the claim that language change = language
evolution, i.e. that languages "improve" over time.
Cases where a simplification in one subsystem leads to
complexification in another subsystem are inherent in a system which
doesn't evolve but simply changes (except, perhaps, sub specie
Richard Hogg
Richard M. Hogg            Tel: +44(0)161 275 3164
Department of English      Fax: +44(0)161 275 3256
  and American Studies     e-mail: r.m.hogg at
University of Manchester   web:
Oxford Road
Manchester M13 9PL

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