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The interaction between simplicity and naturalness in nominal word order typology

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Julia Heine.

There will be a tea reception from 4pm.

In this talk, I discuss the connection between the typological distribution of word orders in the noun phrase, and cognitive biases active during learning. In particular, I set out two such biases – one for structural simplicity, and one for semantic naturalness – and test how they interact to drive the behaviour of adults and children in a series of artificial language learning experiments. The findings across these experiments suggest that developmental and native language transfer effects play a role in how new linguistic patterns are learned. Nevertheless, both simplicity and naturalness also shape learning outcomes in a way that aligns closely with the typology, providing a possible explanation for the frequency of particular patterns across the world’s languages.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Linguistics Forum series.

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