MIT claims to have found a “language universal” that ties all languages together

Interesting report at

They found what they expected: “All languages have average dependency lengths shorter than the random baseline,” they write. This was especially true for longer sentences, which makes sense—there isn’t as much difference between “John threw out the trash,” and “John threw the trash out” as there is between the longer examples given above.

They also found that some languages display DLM more than others. Those languages that don’t rely just on word order to communicate the relationships between words tended to have higher scores. Languages like German and Japanese have markings on nouns that convey the role each noun plays within the sentence, allowing them to have freer word order than English. The researchers suggest that the markings in these languages contribute to memory and understanding, making DLM slightly less important. However, even these languages had scores lower than the random baseline.


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