Evaluating complexity in syntax

Presentation by Phillippe Blache, Laboratoire Parole et Langage, CNRS & Aix-Marseille Université

Part of the Measuring ling. complexity: A multidisciplinary perspective workshop at UCL, Belgium, 24 April 2015

Complexity means different things to different people

System vs Structural complexity (Dahl, 2004)

Existing models: incomplete dependency hypothesis, dependency locality theory, early intermediate constituents principle, activation. However, they all fail to describe language in natural environment.

Challenges: dealing with natural data and dealing with language in its context, esp. spoken language and natural interaction.

Hypothesis: difficulty depends on the search space size. The larger the search space, the more difficulty.

The more properties, the smaller the search space. Maximize online principle  (Hawkins, 2004).

Generative grammar is a very restrictive view.

Property grammars: linguistic statements as constraints (filtering + instantiating)

Basics: constraints are independent, linear precedence.

Constraint violation is possible.


Measuring ling. complexity: A multidisciplinary perspective


 All presentations here


The Linguistics Research Unit of the Institute of Language and Communication hosted a workshop on ‘Measuring linguistic complexity: A multidisciplinary perspective’ on Friday 24 April, 2015. 

The main objective of the workshop were to bring together specialists from a number of different but related fields to discuss the construct of linguistic complexity and how it is typically measured in their respective research fields. 

The event was structured around keynote presentations by five distinguished scholars:

  • Philippe Blache (CNRS & Universite d’Aix-Marseille, France): Evaluating complexity in syntax: a computational model for a cognitive architecture
  • Alex Housen (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium): L2 complexity – A Difficult(y) Matter
  • Frederick J. Newmeyer (University of Washington, University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University): The question of linguistic complexity: historical perspective
  • Advaith Siddharthan (University of Aberdeen, UK): Automatic Text Simplification and Linguistic Complexity Measurements
  • Benedikt Szmrercsanyi (KULeuven, Belgium): Measuring complexity in contrastive linguistics and contrastive dialectology

A round table closed the workshop.

Details about the event are available on the workshop website: http://www.uclouvain.be/en-linguistic-complexity.html

The number of participants is limited. Participation is free of charge but registration is required before Friday 3rd April (via our registration form at http://www.uclouvain.be/en-505315.html). 

Thomas François (Centre de traitement automatique du langage) & Magali Paquot (Centre for English Corpus Linguistics)


A multidimensional construct: Bulté & Housen (2012:23)

Shared challenges, shared oportunities

Where is the place of theory here?

Do we need new measures? Do we ned to validate existing ones?

The many facets of complexity.

Formal linguistics may be a good starting point but don’t have much to offer.

Building a research community ?