The Evolution of Syntactic Complexity


What constraints shape the diachronic dynamics and range of clause combinations and hierarchical structures more generally? What is the evolutionary basis of syntactic integration effects such as asymmetries and embeddings? How does it interact with word order patterns and referential density and coherence? How do patterns of clause integration and hierarchy in language processed by the human brain and how do they compare to call combinations in animals? 

  • Contact: Chundra Cathcart

  • Team: Chundra Cathcart, Caroline Andrews, Jessica Ivani, Sebastian Sauppe, Carlo Meloni, Alec Shaw, Yingqi Jing, Stefan Schnell, Balthasar Bickel, Martin Meyer

This project collaborates closely with the Work Packages Compositionality and StructurePlanning of the NCCR Evolving Language


Selected publications:

Collier, K., A. Radford, S. Stoll, S. K. Watson, M.B. Manser, B. Bickel & S.W. Townsend. 2020. Dwarf mongoose alarm calls: investigating a complex non-human animal call. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 287(1935): 20192514.

Townsend, S. W., S. Engesser, S. Stoll, K. Zuberbühler & B. Bickel. 2018. Compositionality in animals and humans. PLOS Biology 16. e2006425.

Blasi, D.E., R. Cotterell, L. Wolf-Sonkin, S. Stoll, B. Bickel & M. Baroni. 2019. On the distribution of deep clausal embeddings: A large cross-linguistic study. In A. Korhonen, D. Traum & L. Màrquez (eds.), Proc. 57th Ann. Meeting of the Assoc. for Comput. Ling., 3938–3943. Florence, Italy: ACL. doi:10.18653/v1/P19-1384.

Widmer, M., S. Auderset, P. Widmer, J. Nichols & B. Bickel. 2017. NP recursion over time: Evidence from Indo-European. Language 93. 1–36. 10.1353/lan.2017.0058

Bickel, B. 2010. Capturing particulars and universals in clause linkage: A multivariate analysis. In I. Bril (ed.), Clause-hierarchy and clause-linking, 51–101. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.