Cognitive processing, language typology, and variation

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Sinnemäki , K 2014 , ' Cognitive processing, language typology, and variation ' , Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science , vol. 5 , no. 4 , pp. 477-487 .

Title: Cognitive processing, language typology, and variation
Author: Sinnemäki, Kaius
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
Date: 2014
Language: eng
Number of pages: 11
Belongs to series: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science
ISSN: 1939-5078
Abstract: Linguistic typological preferences have often been linked to cognitive processing preferences but often without recourse to typologically relevant experiments on cognitive processing. This article reviews experimental work on the possible parallels between preferences in cognitive processing and language typology. I summarize the main theoretical accounts of the processing‐typology connection and show that typological distributions arise diachronically from preferred paths of language change, which may be affected by the degree to which alternative structures are preferred (e.g., easier) in acquisition or usage. The surveyed experimental evidence shows that considerable support exists for many linguistic universals to reflect preferences in cognitive processing. Artificial language learning experiments emerge as a promising method for researching the processing‐typology connection, as long as its limitations are taken into account. I further show that social and cultural differences in cognition may have an effect on typological distributions and that to account for this variation a multidisciplinary approach to the processing‐typology connection has to be developed. Lastly, since the body of experimental research does not adequately represent the linguistic diversity of the world's languages, it remains as an urgent task for the field to better account for this diversity in future work.
6121 Languages
6162 Cognitive science

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