LINGUIST List 10.1547

Mon Oct 18 1999

Qs: Sentence processing, Against uniformitarianism

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  1. Kentaro Nakatani, Previous studies in sentence processing
  2. Frederick Newmeyer, Against uniformitarianism

Message 1: Previous studies in sentence processing

Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 16:04:30 -0400
From: Kentaro Nakatani <>
Subject: Previous studies in sentence processing

Dear colleagues,

I am a grad student in linguistics. Recently I'm interested in 
the relationship between morphological complexity of predicates
and complexity of sentence processing, in Japanese and English.

If anybody could give me suggestions on where I could find 
previous studies on this matter, I would appreciate it very much.

Specifically, I would like to find literature on:

(1) the relationship between sentence processing and English 
 verbal morphology/incorporation;
(2) the relationship between sentence processing and Japanese 
 verbal morphology/incorporation.
(3) syntactic complexity of Japanese predicates including 
 "-temiru", "-tekuru", "-teiku", "-teiru", "-tearu", etc.

Thank you in advance.

Ken Nakatani
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Message 2: Against uniformitarianism

Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 16:47:19 -0700 (PDT)
From: Frederick Newmeyer <>
Subject: Against uniformitarianism

I am interested in knowing about serious linguistically-informed
proposals that argue against 'uniformitarian' assumptions in
linguistics. I intend for that term to be interpreted in a fairly
broad sense, so I am interested in people calling my attention to
proposals that:

1. argue that the typological distribution of grammatical elements has
changed over time.


2. argue that 'purely' grammatical features correlate non-accidentally
with aspects of culture, climate, and so on.

Here are a few examples that I am aware of:

1. Perkins (1992) argues that less complex cultures tend to have more
complex deixis systems.
2. A variety of scholars for a variety of reasons argue that there has
been a general mostly unidirectional 'drift' from OV order to VO order
(Vennemann 1973; Bichakjian 1991; Giv�n 1979; Newmeyer in press).
3. Hombert and Marsico (1996) argue that complex vowel systems are fairly
recent historical developments.
4. Nettle (1999) suggests that typologically rare features are
concentrated in languages with small numbers of speakers.

I would appreciate hearing about more proposals of this sort. I'll

Fritz Newmeyer

Bichakjian, Bernard H. (1991). Evolutionary patterns in linguistics.
Studies in language origins II, ed. by Walburga von Raffler-Engel and
Jan Wind. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 187-224.
Giv�n, Talmy (1979). On understanding grammar. New York: Academic Press.
Hombert, Jean-Marie and Egidio Marsico (1996). Do vowel systems increase
in complexity? Evolution of Human Language Conference, Edinburgh.
Nettle, Daniel (1999). Linguistic diversity. Oxford: Oxford University
Newmeyer, Frederick J. (in press). On reconstructing 'proto-world' word
order. The emergence of language, ed. by Chris Knight, James Hurford,
and Michael Studdert-Kennedy, .
Perkins, Revere D. (1992). Deixis, grammar, and culture. Typological
Studies in Language 24. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Vennemann, Theo (1973). Explanation in syntax. Syntax and semantics, vol.
2 ed. by John Kimball. New York: Seminar Press, pp. 1-50.
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