The term “linguistic complexity” is often thrown around lightly, but what exactly is meant by it remains fuzzy and elusive. Its various flavours and facets are influenced by a diverse combination of linguistic and extralinguistic factors, for instance discourse status (Arnold et al. 2000), medium (Biber & Gray 2010), situational setting (Verhoeven & Lehmann 2018), and language development (Weiss & Meurers 2019), to name just a few. And despite the hundreds of measurements of phenomena that contribute to complexity (cf. Lu 2011; Weiss 2017), many open questions about the theoretical models, cognitive processes, and influencing factors behind complexity have yet to be explored.
This is where our workshop comes in. We are interested in contributions that aim at a better understanding of the relationship between complexity and register.
Being intangibly related to aspects of processing (cf. Gibson 1998, 2001), complexity pertains to all areas of language analysis, from phonological weight and morphological structure to the manifold levels of syntactic embedding and information packaging (see Weiss & Meurers 2019 for an aggregation of complexity features). Recent research has shown that these linguistic areas involve different types of complexity (e.g. for clause vs. phrase level, see Biber & Gray 2010, and for center vs. peripheral embedding, see Karlsson 2007 and Verhoeven & Lehmann 2018). Thus, we must first understand what type of complexity is involved and be able to operationalize it properly (Szmrecsányi 2004) before we can begin to investigate the underlying reasons for different levels of complexity.
Variation in situational and functional settings (register variation) has been shown to be one factor that affects the level of various types of linguistic complexity (cf. Halliday 1979; Biber & Gray 2010; Biber 2012; Maas 2006; 2010; Miller & Weinert 1998; for recursivity in particular Sakel & Stapert 2010; Kornai 2014), yet it is not always clear what the exact theoretical relationship is between register and the individual facets of complexity. How do the situation’s communicative needs and intentions affect our choice of one complexity measure over another? How do surface complexity and processing relate to one another, and what difference does the type of complexity make to this relationship?
We are delighted to announce Benedikt Szmrecsanyi with Alexandra Engel (KU Leuven) and Zarah Weiß (Universität Tübingen) as invited speakers.
Contributions to the workshop may cover, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- register variation
- syntactic, structural, and grammatical complexity
- morphological complexity
- cognitive and processing complexity
- recursion and embedding
- variationist theory
Format of the Abstracts
Authors should submit anonymous 2-page abstracts (figures and references can be on a separate page) in a 12-point font (e.g. Times New Roman) to
References should be formatted according to the APA guidelines. Abstracts will be peer reviewed. Talks will be given 30 minute slots including discussion. The workshop language is English.
- submission of abstracts: August 31, 2021
- notification of acceptance: September 30, 2021
- workshop date: November 19, 2021
Arnold, Jennifer E., Anthony Losongco, Thomas Wasow & Ryan Ginstrom. 2000. Heaviness vs. newness: The effects of structural complexity and discourse status on constituent ordering. Lan- guage 76(1). 28. https://doi.org/10.2307/417392.
Biber, Douglas. 2012. Register as a predictor of linguistic variation. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 8(1). 9–37. https://doi.org/10.1515/cllt-2012-0002.
Biber, Douglas & Bethany Gray. 2010. Challenging stereotypes about academic writing: Com- plexity, elaboration, explicitness. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 9(1). 2–20. https: //doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2010.01.001.
Gibson, Edward. 1998. Linguistic complexity: Locality of syntactic dependencies. Cognition 68(1). 1–76. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0010-0277(98)00034-1.
Gibson, Edward. 2001. The Dependency Locality Theory. In Alec P. Marantz, Yasushi Miyashita & Wayne O’Neil (eds.), Image, Language, Brain: Papers from the First Mind Articulation Project Symposium, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/3654.003.0008. https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/3654.003.0008.
Halliday, Michael A. K. 1979. Differences between spoken and written language. In Glenda Page, John Elkins & Barrie O’Connor (eds.), Communication through reading: Proceedings of Fourth Australian Reading Conference. 37–52. Adelaide: Australian Reading Association.
Karlsson, Fred. 2007. Constraints on multiple center-embedding of clauses. Journal of Linguistics 3(43). 365–392. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226707004616.
Kornai, András. 2014. Resolving the infinitude controversy. Journal of Logic, Language and Infor- mation 23(4). 481–492. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10849-014-9203-2.
Lu, Xiaofei. 2011. A corpus-based evaluation of syntactic complexity measures as indices of college- level ESL writers’ language development. TESOL Quarterly 45(1). 1–27.
Maas, Utz. 2006. Der Übergang von Oralität zu Skribalität in soziolinguistischer Perspektive. In Soziolinguistik: Ein internationales Handbuch zur Wissenschaft von Sprache und Gesellschaft, vol. 2 (Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft), 2147–2170. De Gruyter.
Maas, Utz. 2010. Literat und orat. Grundbegriffe der Analyse geschriebener und gesprochener Sprache. Grazer Linguistische Studien (73). 21–150.
Miller, Jim & Regina Weinert. 1998. Spontaneous spoken language: Syntax and discourse .
Sakel, Jeanette & Eugenie Stapert. 2010. Pirahã – in need of recursive syntax? In Harry van der Hulst, Jeanette Sakel & Eugenie Stapert (eds.), Recursion and human language, 1–16. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter Mouton. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110219258.1.
Szmrecsányi, Benedikt M. 2004. On operationalizing syntactic complexity. In The 7th International Conference on the Statistical Analysis of Textual Data. 1031–1038. Louvain La Neuve: Presses universitaires de Louvain.
Verhoeven, Elisabeth & Nico Lehmann. 2018. Self-embedding and complexity in oral registers. Glossa: A journal of general linguistics 3(1). 1–30. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.5334/ gjgl.592.
Weiss, Zarah & Detmar Meurers. 2019. Analyzing linguistic complexity and accuracy in academic language development of German across elementary and secondary school. In Proceedings of the fourteenth workshop on innovative use of nlp for building educational applications. 380–393. Florence, Italy: Association for Computational Linguistics. https://doi.org/10.18653/v1/W19- 4440. https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/W19-4440.
Weiss, Zarah Leonie. 2017. Using measures of linguistic complexity to assess German L2 proficiency in learner corpora under consideration of task-effects: MA thesis.
Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) – SFB 1412, 416591334