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Areal pressure in grammatical evolution

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An Indo-European case study

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Abstract

This article investigates the evolutionary and spatial dynamics of typological characters in 117 Indo-European languages. We partition types of change (i.e., gain or loss) for each variant according to whether they bring about a simplification in morphosyntactic patterns that must be learned, whether they are neutral (i.e., neither simplifying nor introducing complexity) or whether they introduce a more complex pattern. We find that changes which introduce complexity show significantly less areal signal (according to a metric we devise) than changes which simplify and neutral changes, but we find no significant differences between the latter two groups. This result is compatible with a scenario where certain types of parallel change are more likely to be mediated by advergence and contact between proximate speech communities, while other developments are due purely to drift and are largely independent of intercultural contact.

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