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Complexity as L2-difficulty: Implications for syntactic change

  • George Walkden EMAIL logo and Anne Breitbarth
From the journal Theoretical Linguistics


Recent work has cast doubt on the idea that all languages are equally complex; however, the notion of syntactic complexity remains underexplored. Taking complexity to equate to difficulty of acquisition for late L2 acquirers, we propose an operationalization of syntactic complexity in terms of uninterpretable features. Trudgill’s sociolinguistic typology predicts that sociohistorical situations involving substantial late L2 acquisition should be conducive to simplification, i.e. loss of such features. We sketch a programme for investigating this prediction. In particular, we suggest that the loss of bipartite negation in the history of Low German and other languages indicates that it may be on the right track.


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Published Online: 2019-11-30
Published in Print: 2019-12-18

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