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      The status of function words in dependency grammar: A critique of Universal Dependencies (UD)


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          The article examines the Universal Dependencies (UD) annotation scheme. The UD project is an international initiative to produce treebanks of the world’s languages, whereby the treebanks have been annotated in a cross-linguistically consistent manner. A central aspect of the UD annotation scheme is its analysis of function words. The scheme advocates subordinating function words to content words. This article discusses linguistic and practical motivations behind the UD decision to subordinate function words to content words. It demonstrates that UD choices in this area are not supported linguistically. At the same time, the near convertibility of the UD treebanks to a more linguistically motivated annotation format means that the UD initiative remains of great value to linguistics in general.

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          Large-scale evidence of dependency length minimization in 37 languages.

          Explaining the variation between human languages and the constraints on that variation is a core goal of linguistics. In the last 20 y, it has been claimed that many striking universals of cross-linguistic variation follow from a hypothetical principle that dependency length--the distance between syntactically related words in a sentence--is minimized. Various models of human sentence production and comprehension predict that long dependencies are difficult or inefficient to process; minimizing dependency length thus enables effective communication without incurring processing difficulty. However, despite widespread application of this idea in theoretical, empirical, and practical work, there is not yet large-scale evidence that dependency length is actually minimized in real utterances across many languages; previous work has focused either on a small number of languages or on limited kinds of data about each language. Here, using parsed corpora of 37 diverse languages, we show that overall dependency lengths for all languages are shorter than conservative random baselines. The results strongly suggest that dependency length minimization is a universal quantitative property of human languages and support explanations of linguistic variation in terms of general properties of human information processing.
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            The minimalist program

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              The Greenbergian word order correlations


                Author and article information

                Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
                Ubiquity Press
                30 January 2019
                : 4
                : 1
                : 17
                [1 ]Department of International Studies, Zijinggang Campus, Building East 5, Zhejiang University, CN
                [2 ]l’Institute de Linguistique et Phonétique Générales et Appliqúees (IPGA) de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3, FR
                Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                : 03 October 2017
                : 07 November 2018

                General linguistics,Linguistics & Semiotics
                Universal Dependencies,function words,treebank corpus,dependency grammar,annotation scheme


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