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Kirby, S. (1997) Competing motivations and emergence: explaining implicational hierarchies. Language Typology, 1(1):5--32.

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Paper at a Glance

Competing motivations and emergence: explaining
implicational hierarchies
Simon Kirby
simon@ling.ed.ac.uk
To appear in Language Typology -- 1997
Abstract It is the basic tenet of the functional approach to typology that at least some linguistic universals may be explained by appealing to features of language use. But the mechan­ ics of the mapping between function and distribution are seldom made explicit. In this paper, a theory of linguistic adaptation is set out in which universals are treated as phe­ nomena of the third kind in Keller's (1994) terms, i.e. objects which are the result of human actions but not the goal of their intentions. In this view universals emerge at a global level from the interactions of individuals whose actions locally can be described in terms of functional motivations. Computational models of this process (an invisible hand pro­ cess) can be set up to see what universals emerge with different functional pressures in place. Using this model, Keenan and Comrie's accessibility hierarchy is shown to emerge when competing functional pressures relating to structural complexity and morpholog­ ical complexity are taken into account. This is contrasted with claims that structural complexity asymmetries alone can explain implicational universals. The value of this ap­ proach is further demonstrated by testing the predicted skewing in the distribution of `case­coding' strategies down the hierarchy.
1 Introduction A central goal of theoretical linguistics is the explanation of the linguistic universals revealed by typological research. The types of explanations sought fall into a range of categories (see, e.g. Hawkins 1988; Hurford 1990; Hawkins 1992) and it is unclear whether there are any un­ derlying principles in common with the various approaches. This paper is part of an attempt to provide a theoretical framework for various kinds of functional­typological explanations that is also broadly compatible with the nativist approach to language
...
BibTex
@article{kirby97competingMotivations,
  author={S. Kirby},
  title={Competing motivations and emergence: explaining implicational hierarchies},
  journal={Language Typology},
  year={1997},
  volume={1},
  number={1},
  pages={5--32},
  url={http://groups.lis.illinois.edu/amag/langev/paper/kirby97competingMotivations.html}
}


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