[Lingtyp] Temporal features?

Marianne Mithun mithun at linguistics.ucsb.edu
Mon Oct 1 18:52:35 UTC 2018

Of course it's not necessarily the case that morphologically complex words
are usually parsed morpheme-by-morpheme online, especially with high
frequency, frequency which might be enhanced in small societies.


On Mon, Oct 1, 2018 at 11:03 AM Heath Jeffrey <schweinehaxen at hotmail.com>

> An object lesson about correlations between societal complexity and
> linguistic complexity is the trajectory of Trudgill's work. His original
> basic idea was that small, tightly-knit societies allow (and perhaps favor)
> complex phonemic inventories and opaque morphology to develop. If you read
> "Sociolinguistic Typology" from cover to cover, you get the sense that
> halfway through writing it he realized that small, tightly-knit societies
> can also allow highly simple systems (like those David has brought to our
> attention). So large-population national languages are stuck in a narrow
> range in the middle, while those of small tightly-knit ones can range
> widely in both directions. Not fully elucidated by Trudgill but implied by
> his results: the common denominator between very high complexity and very
> low complexity is that both types of language put a high cognitive burden
> on the listener, who must either quickly parse words that contain many tiny
> morphemes in complex networks on the one hand, or must infer the speaker's
> meaning from limited lexical input on the other hand. It's cognitive
> complexity in this shifty sense, not mechanically computed complexity
> (number of phonemes, morphemes-per-word counts, etc.), that we should be
> looking at. But this doesn't make research methodology any easier.
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of
> David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de>
> *Sent:* Monday, October 1, 2018 12:18 PM
> *To:* Martin Kohlberger
> *Cc:* lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org; josephdbrooks at ucsb.edu
> *Subject:* Re: [Lingtyp] Temporal features?
> Martin,
> On 01/10/2018 22:45, Martin Kohlberger wrote:
> > Dear David,
> >
> > Following Joseph's comment, I really don't follow your point.  How
> > does your "national language" value necessarily correlate with greater
> > socio-political complexity compared to a "local language only recently
> > part of larger polity"?  Are you implying that communities which speak
> > a local language that is not part of a larger polity are necessarily
> > socio-politically less complex than communities which speak a national
> > language?
> More or less, yes, that's what I'm implying.  Nation states have
> multiple levels of jurisdictional hieraerchy; they have newspapers,
> public transport, bureaucracies, football leagues, universities, you
> name it.  Hunter-gatherer societies have essentially none of the above.
> (I'm not quite sure what the source of the misunderstanding is.  If it
> has anything to do with apparent value judgements, I should emphasize
> that there is nothing inherently better or worse in being more complex,
> be it grammatically or socio-politically.)
> David
> --
> David Gil
> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
> Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
> Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816
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