Lookup NU author(s): Professor Daniel Nettle
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The complexity of different components of the grammars of human languages can be quantified. For example, languages vary greatly in the size of their phonological inventories, and in the degree to which they make use of inflectional morphology. Recent studies have shown that there are relationships between these types of grammatical complexity and the number of speakers a language has. Languages spoken by large populations have been found to have larger phonological inventories, but simpler morphology, than languages spoken by small populations. The results require further investigation, and, most importantly, the mechanism whereby the social context of learning and use affects the grammatical evolution of a language needs elucidation.
Author(s): Nettle D
Publication type: Review
Publication status: Published
Journal: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Society
Print publication date: 01/07/2012
ISSN (print): 0962-8436
ISSN (electronic): 1471-2970
Publisher: ROYAL SOC