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ERIC Number: EJ775151
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Nov
Pages: 34
Abstractor: Author
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0277
Minimization of Dependency Length in Written English
Temperley, David
Cognition, v105 n2 p300-333 Nov 2007
Gibson's Dependency Locality Theory (DLT) [Gibson, E. 1998. "Linguistic complexity: locality of syntactic dependencies." "Cognition," 68, 1-76; Gibson, E. 2000. "The dependency locality theory: A distance-based theory of linguistic complexity." In A. Marantz, Y. Miyashita, & W. O'Neil (Eds.), "Image, Language, Brain" (pp. 95-126). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.] proposes that the processing complexity of a sentence is related to the length of its syntactic dependencies: longer dependencies are more difficult to process. The DLT is supported by a variety of phenomena in language comprehension. This raises the question: Does language "production" reflect a preference for shorter dependencies as well? I examine this question in a corpus study of written English, using the Wall Street Journal portion of the Penn Treebank. The DLT makes a number of predictions regarding the length of constituents in different contexts; these predictions were tested in a series of statistical tests. A number of findings support the theory: the greater length of subject noun phrases in inverted versus uninverted quotation constructions, the greater length of direct-object versus subject NPs, the greater length of postmodifying versus premodifying adverbial clauses, the greater length of relative-clause subjects within direct-object NPs versus subject NPs, the tendency towards "short-long" ordering of postmodifying adjuncts and coordinated conjuncts, and the shorter length of subject NPs (but not direct-object NPs) in clauses with premodifying adjuncts versus those without.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom (Cambridge)