Complexity trade-offs in core argument marking

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Languages have often been claimed to trade off complexity in one area with simplicity in another. The present paper tests this claim with a complexity metric based on the functional load of different coding strategies (head/dependent marking and word order) that interact in core argument marking. Data from a sample of 50 languages showed that the functional use of word order had a statistically significant inverse dependency with the presence of morphological marking, especially with dependent marking. Most other dependencies were far from statistical significance and in fact provide evidence against the trade-off claim, leading to its rejection as a general all-encompassing principle. Overall, languages seem to adhere more strongly to distinctiveness than to economy.


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