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Title: Syntactic Complexity
Subtitle: Diachrony, acquisition, neuro-cognition, evolution
Edited By: T. Givón
Masayoshi Shibatani
Series Title: Typological Studies in Language 85

Complex hierarchic syntax is considered one of the hallmarks of human
language. The highest level of syntactic complexity, recursive-embedded
clauses, has been singled out by some for a special status as the apex of
the uniquely-human language faculty-evolutionary but somehow immune to
adaptive selection. This volume, coming out of a symposium held at Rice
University in March 2008, tackles syntactic complexity from multiple
developmental perspectives. We take it for granted that grammar is an
adaptive instrument of communication, assembled upon the pre-existing
platform of pre-linguistic cognition. Most of the papers in the volume deal
with the two grand developmental trends of human language:
diachrony, the communal enterprise directly responsible for
fashioning synchronic morpho-syntax; and ontogeny, the individual
endeavor directly responsible for the acquisition of competent grammatical
performance. The genesis of syntactic complexity along these two
developmental trends is considered alongside with the cognition and
neurology of grammar and of syntactic complexity, and the evolutionary
relevance of diachrony, ontogeny and pidginization is argued on general
bio-evolutionary grounds. Lastly, several of the contributions to the
volume suggest that recursive embedding is not in itself an adaptive
target, but rather the by-product of two distinct adaptive gambits: the
recruitment of conjoined clauses as modal operators on other clauses and
the subsequent condensation of paratactic into syntactic structures.

Publication Year: 2009
Publisher: John Benjamins
Review: Read the review
BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Cognitive Science
Language Acquisition
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Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9027229996
ISBN-13: 9789027229991
Prices: Europe EURO 110.00
U.S. $ 165.00
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9027230005
ISBN-13: 9789027230003
Prices: Europe EURO 36.00
U.S. $ 54.00
Format: Electronic
ISBN-13: 9789027290144
Prices: Europe EURO 110.00
U.S. $ 165.00