Correlating complexity: A typological approach

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Proceeding from the assumption that all languages are equally complex, there exists a corollary, widely held but poorly documented, herein referred to as the negative correlation hypothesis. It states: If one component of language is simplified then another must be elaborated. Here, this assumption is reformulated in terms of a scientific hypothesis and subjected to statistical analysis. Thirty-two geographically diverse languages representing thirty language families and two isolates are tested for syllable count and inflectional synthesis on the verb as a means of rating their phonological and morphological complexity, respectively. The correlation between these measures is found to be slightly positive (r=0.0704), but statistically insignificant (p>0.05), indicating that the negative correlation hypothesis, if it is to be retained, still awaits scientific confirmation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-40
Number of pages40
JournalLinguistic Typology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Complexity
  • Inflection
  • Inflectional synthesis
  • Morphology
  • Phonology
  • Syllable

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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