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Language Complexity as an Evolving Variable ed. by Geoffrey Sampson, David Gil, and Peter Trudgill (review)

Language Complexity as an Evolving Variable ed. by Geoffrey Sampson, David Gil, and Peter... Book Reviews Language Complexity as an Evolving Variable. Edited by GEOFFREY SAMPSON, DAVID GIL, and PETER TRUDGILL. Studies in the Evolution of Language 13. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. xiii + 309. $150.00 (cloth), $50.00 (paper). Reviewed by Jeffrey Heath, University of Michigan This volume, based on a 2007 workshop in Leipzig, begins with a self-consciously radical manifesto by coeditor Sampson. His "A Linguistic Axiom Challenged" (pp. 1--18) is an attack on models that claim roughly invariant complexity of natural languages, whether formalists or post-Sapirean descriptivists. In the guise of a vengeful angel of global warming, he concludes by dismissing equicomplexity as "a melting iceberg" (p. 18). Most of the following papers also question equicomplexity, though with fewer rhetorical flourishes. They average fifteen pages and in most cases are handbook-like summaries of work published elsewhere at greater length. Can complexity be meaningfully defined? Should we focus on overt complexity (tabulating the number of units, hierarchical levels, or both in speakers' outputs), or should we focus on listeners' processing difficulty? Can languages (leaving pidgins and creoles aside) differ widely in overall complexity, or is there a trade-off across modules (such as morphology versus syntax) so that all languages http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Anthropological Linguistics University of Nebraska Press

Language Complexity as an Evolving Variable ed. by Geoffrey Sampson, David Gil, and Peter Trudgill (review)

Anthropological Linguistics , Volume 54 (4) – Sep 11, 2012

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University of Nebraska Press
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Copyright © University of Nebraska Press
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1944-6527
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Abstract

Book Reviews Language Complexity as an Evolving Variable. Edited by GEOFFREY SAMPSON, DAVID GIL, and PETER TRUDGILL. Studies in the Evolution of Language 13. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. xiii + 309. $150.00 (cloth), $50.00 (paper). Reviewed by Jeffrey Heath, University of Michigan This volume, based on a 2007 workshop in Leipzig, begins with a self-consciously radical manifesto by coeditor Sampson. His "A Linguistic Axiom Challenged" (pp. 1--18) is an attack on models that claim roughly invariant complexity of natural languages, whether formalists or post-Sapirean descriptivists. In the guise of a vengeful angel of global warming, he concludes by dismissing equicomplexity as "a melting iceberg" (p. 18). Most of the following papers also question equicomplexity, though with fewer rhetorical flourishes. They average fifteen pages and in most cases are handbook-like summaries of work published elsewhere at greater length. Can complexity be meaningfully defined? Should we focus on overt complexity (tabulating the number of units, hierarchical levels, or both in speakers' outputs), or should we focus on listeners' processing difficulty? Can languages (leaving pidgins and creoles aside) differ widely in overall complexity, or is there a trade-off across modules (such as morphology versus syntax) so that all languages

Journal

Anthropological LinguisticsUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Sep 11, 2012

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