Depth in English grammar

Sampson, Geoffrey (1997) Depth in English grammar. Journal of Linguistics, 33. pp. 131-51. ISSN 00222267

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Corpus data are used to investigate Yngve’s claim that English usage avoids grammatical structures in which the number of left branches between any word and the root node of a sentence exceeds some fixed limit. The data do display a marked bias against left-branching, but the pattern of word-depths does not conform to Yngve’s concept of a sharp limit. The bias could alternatively reflect a statistical invariance in the incidence of left-branching, but whether this is so depends on how left-branching is counted. Six nonequivalent measures are proposed; it turns out that one (and only one) of these yields strikingly constant figures for left-branching in real-life sentences over a wide range of lengths. This is not the measure suggested by Yngve’s formulation; it is the measure whose invariance is arguably the most favourable for computational tractability.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
Depositing User: Geoffrey Richard Sampson
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:17
Last Modified: 31 May 2012 09:23
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