Part 2: McWhorter’s approach to complexity

Apart from Sinnemäki’s methods to approaching linguistic complexity, there are of course many others who have attempted to do the same. McWhorter (1995) argued that approaching complexity and measuring the degrees of relative typological complexity of languages requires a metric. He hence formulated a metric in terms of:

  • Number of marked phonemes

A phonemic inventory is more complex if it has more marked members.

  • The notion of rule

A syntax is more complex than another to the extent that it requires the processing of more rules.

  • Verbal constructions

A grammar is more complex than another to the extent that it gives overt and grammaticalized expression to more fine-grained semantic and/or pragmatic distinctions than another.

  • Inflectional morphology

In most cases, inflectional morphology renders a grammar more complex.

Overall, it should be noted that there are various ways to approach complexity possibly due to the fact that there has not been a single unified definition of complexity among researchers. This area of topic is generally broad and to focus on one approach or metric system in measuring complexity could cause inaccuracy when using it across all languages.