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The Typology of Noun Phrase Structure from a Processing Perspective

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This paper examines cross-linguistic variation patterns in the syntax and morpho-syntax of Noun Phrases. The variation is surprising and not readily explainable in grammatical terms alone, but many of these patterns can be motivated in terms of on-line processing demands. Two processing hypotheses are proposed: anything that is an NP must be recognized as such, i.e. every NP must be ‘constructable’; and all the items that belong to NP must be ‘attachable’ to it, and the amount of syntactic, morpho-syntactic or lexical encoding of attachment will be in proportion to complexity and efficiency in processing. Some predictions following from these hypotheses are defined. Typological generalizations and cross-linguistic data provide prima facie evidence for them, suggesting that processing has played a significant role in shaping grammars in this area.

This talk is part of the RCEAL Tuesday Colloquia series.

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