Cognitive Science 40 (6):n/a-n/a (2016)

Across languages of the world, some grammatical patterns have been argued to be more common than expected by chance. These are sometimes referred to as language universals. One such universal is the correlation between constituent order freedom and the presence of a case system in a language. Here, we explore whether this correlation can be explained by a bias to balance production effort and informativity of cues to grammatical function. Two groups of learners were presented with miniature artificial languages containing optional case marking and either flexible or fixed constituent order. Learners of the flexible order language used case marking significantly more often. This result parallels the typological correlation between constituent order flexibility and the presence of case marking in a language and provides a possible explanation for the historical development of Old English to Modern English, from flexible constituent order with case marking to relatively fixed order without case marking. In addition, learners of the flexible order language conditioned case marking on constituent order, using more case marking with the cross-linguistically less frequent order, again mirroring typological data. These results suggest that some cross-linguistic generalizations originate in functionally motivated biases operating during language learning.
Keywords Language universals  Communicative pressures  Language acquisition  Learning biases  Efficient information transfer
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/cogs.12346
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,579
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Language as Shaped by the Brain.Morten H. Christiansen & Nick Chater - 2008 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (5):489-509.

View all 17 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Case-Marking Systems Evolve to Be Easy to Learn and Process.Maggie Tallerman - 2008 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (5):534-535.


Added to PP index

Total views
11 ( #835,432 of 2,461,827 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #448,803 of 2,461,827 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes