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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Does One Size Fit all in Crosslinguistic Dependency Length Minimization?


Previous studies have claimed that language structures tend to minimize the linear distance between syntactic heads and their dependents, a principle known as Dependency Length Minimization (DLM). These studies, however, have largely focused on written modality. In this study we examine the role of dependency length in acceptability ratings of English and Hindi, two typologically distinct languages, using audio stimuli. With double PP constructions as a test case, our results demonstrate no effect of DLM, suggesting the preference for shorter dependencies is different in acceptability and written texts. These findings are further supported with corpus analysis of a total of 10 treebanks for the two languages, which shows additional language-specific differences in the extent of DLM. We discuss the implications of our work and call for more careful consideration of linguistic and modality-specific diversity when it comes to processing-based claims about language typology.

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