Grammatical complexity in cross-linguistic perspective

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In this paper, I address theoretical and methodological issues in the cross-linguistic study of grammatical complexity. I identify two different approaches to complexity: the absolute one – complexity as an objective property of the system, and the relative one – complexity as cost/difficulty to language users. I discuss the usability of these approaches in typological studies of complexity. I then address some general problems concerning the comparison of languages in terms of overall complexity, and argue that in typological studies of complexity it is better to focus on specific domains that are comparable across languages. Next, I discuss a few general criteria for measuring complexity. Finally, I address the relationship between complexity and cross-linguistic rarity.


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