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: Yingqi Jing, Balthasar Bickel, Martin Meyer, Sebastian Sauppe, Damián Blasi, Chundra Cathcart, Jessica Ivani, Jeremy Hawbaker, Diana Krasovskaya, Carlo Meloni (Jan 2021)

  • Local Partners: Paul Widmer, Mathias Jenny, Christian Ebert, Martin Meyer, Simon Townsend, Sabine Stoll, Judith Burkart, Carel Van Schaik, Katie Collier

Selected publications:

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.

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: Benjamins.