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195716Re: Is there an inverse relationship between lexical richness and grammatical complexity?

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  • Patrick Dunn
    Mar 19, 2013
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      I'm not convinced that ancient Greek really features lexical richness. The
      cite I mentioned earlier argues that the 90% vocabulary of ancient Greek
      (the number of words needed to understand 90% of a given text) is smaller
      than Latin. Now, picking up my Middle Liddell, I see a lot of words that
      are essentially compounds of other words. It seems the lexical richness of
      Greek comes largely from a freer compounding morphology than, say, Latin.

      It seems that lexical richness might be obscured by morphological
      complexity because languages tending toward the synthetic are more likely
      to have compounding derivational morphology than those tending toward the
      analytic end of the spectrum.

      On Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 9:47 PM, Demian Terentev <mnyonpa@...> wrote:

      > 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
      > >

      Second Person, a chapbook of poetry by Patrick Dunn, is now available for
      order from Finishing Line
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