The complexity of Narrow Syntax: minimalism, representational economy, and simplest Merge

Andreas Trotzke, Jan-Wouter Zwart

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


    This paper considers the question of formal complexity measurement within linguistic minimalism and argues that information structure properties should not be encoded in narrow syntax as features triggering movement, suggesting that the relevant information is established at the interfaces. Also, it argues for a minimalist model of grammar in which complexity arises out of the cyclic interaction of subderivations. This model allows one to rephrase the question of the formal complexity of a generative grammar, such that a different answer is forthcoming depending on whether we consider the grammar as a whole, or just narrow syntax. The grammar as a whole, including interface components in addition to narrow syntax, as well as recursive interaction among subderivations, is vastly more complicated than a finite-state grammar, but there is no reason for concluding that narrow syntax is not simply finite-state.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationMeasuring grammatical complexity
    EditorsFrederick Newmeyer, Laurel Preston
    Place of PublicationOxford
    PublisherOxford University Press
    Number of pages20
    ISBN (Print)978-0-19-968530-1
    Publication statusPublished - 30-Oct-2014
    EventFormal linguistics and the measurement of grammatical complexity - University of Washington, Seattle, United States
    Duration: 23-Mar-2013 → …


    ConferenceFormal linguistics and the measurement of grammatical complexity
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    Period23/03/2013 → …


    • complexity
    • layered derivations
    • Discourse
    • idioms
    • finite-state grammar
    • Recursion

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