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195715Re: Is there an inverse relationship between lexical richness and grammatical complexity?

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  • Demian Terentev
    Mar 19, 2013
      Hypothesis fails on Sanskrit and Ancient Greek that feature both lexical
      richness and grammatical complexity.

      As for conlangs, Toki Pona is an example of grammatically and lexically
      sparse language.

      I believe, it is harder to create a lexically rich language than a
      grammatically complex one, so, most conlangs tend to be grammatically
      complex. Although, it would be interesting to develop an isolating conlang
      with lots of absolute sinonyms for example, I can hardly see anyone
      investing that much effort in a conlang.


      2013/3/20 Daniel Bowman <danny.c.bowman@...>

      > Hi All,
      >
      > Alex Fink and I had a very interesting conversation today where we
      > considered how lexical richness may (or may not) have an inverse
      > relationship with grammatical complexity. I am interested to hear what
      > others on the list think of this concept, and I'm particularly excited to
      > know if anyone's considered this while designing their conlangs.
      >
      > This is how it works:
      >
      > If a language has a large lexicon, it may be able to use words to describe
      > situations that other languages grammaticalize. For example, English does
      > not grammaticalize formality (unlike Korean and Japanese). Therefore,
      > English speakers have to use words to describe a situation that a Korean
      > speaker would mark using a certain formality inflection. English is richer
      > in vocabulary for formality, whereas Korean is richer in grammar. If
      > Korean has less words for formal situations than English, this would lend
      > support to the inverse relationship hypothesis.
      >
      > Another example showing the inverse: my conlang Angosey has evidentiality
      > markers. One of these markers indicates that the speaker considers the
      > source of information doubtful. In this case, I have obviated the need for
      > the word "doubt" since I have a grammatical construction for it. I can
      > likely do away with "dubious, unsubstantiated, unlikely" etc, or at least
      > greatly reduce my usage of these terms.
      >
      > I think the absolute inverse relationship is unlikely to hold - I am sure
      > there's a situation where I would need a word for "doubt" in Angosey and be
      > unable to replace it with my evidentiality marker. However, such markers
      > may push certain words - such as "doubt" below the "common use" threshold
      > we recently discussed in the English word count thread. In other words,
      > the word "doubt" will exist, but it will be used quite seldom since the
      > evidentiality marker replaced most of its occurrences.
      >
      > Irrespective of whether or not the lexical richness vs grammatical
      > complexity holds for natlangs, it poses an interesting puzzle for
      > conlangers. Is it possible to design a very lexically rich, grammatically
      > minimal conlang? Is it easier to do this than to make (and use) one that
      > is both grammatically and lexically sparse?
      >
      > Conversely, is it possible, or do we have examples of, languages with a
      > very minimal lexicon with a correspondingly rich grammar? Perhaps Ithkuil
      > is an example of this?
      >
      > Danny
      >
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