About this Research Topic
The question whether all languages are similarly complex is at the centre of some of the most heated debates within linguistics. These debates focus on such issues as the universality of syntactic recursion, the exceptional simplicity of creole languages, complexity trade-offs between structural levels, as well as sociolinguistic correlates of complexity profiles. Discussions concerning complexity have implications that go far beyond linguistics in the narrow sense, including e.g. the role of nature vs. nurture in human cognition and culture, or the distinction between message and noise in information theory. In consequence, debates on linguistic complexity shape our perception of human nature and variation among human populations.
In this Research Topic, we want to investigate the motivations driving the research on linguistic complexity. Thus, Menzerath’s law about complexity trade-offs was inspired by bottom-up empirical observations. By contrast, the claim about the universality of syntactic recursion was primarily informed by theoretical considerations. Due to its normative dimension, the notion of complexity has also served as a vehicle for advancing ideological agendas, such as characterizing speakers as more or less advanced based on perceived properties of their languages. By bringing these perspectives together, we want to contribute to a critical assessment of how linguistic research is motivated by both epistemic and non-epistemic goals.
We invite contributions to reflect on the empirical, theoretical and ideological motivations behind research on linguistic complexity. In this Research Topic, we want to bring together a wide range of perspectives, including sociolinguistics, anthropology, computational linguistics, language documentation, language acquisition, historical linguistics, and historiography of linguistics.
We seek Conceptual Analysis, Brief Research Report, Empirical Study, Mini Review, Opinion, Original Research, and Review articles that investigate motivations behind the research on, for example, the following topics:
• Correlations between the size of speaker populations, ratios of L2 speakers and linguistic complexity profiles;
• Comparing corpus-based complexity measures from different languages;
• Perceptions of low-resource languages relative to better-studied languages;
• Linguistic complexity in relation to cultural complexity;
• Changing views on complexity since the late 19th century.
Keywords: linguistic complexity, sociolinguistics, historiography, linguistics, Menzerath’s law
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.