Does a language like Hindi allow more complex sentences than English?

Word order typology interacts with linguistic complexity: a cross-linguistic corpus study.

Faculty: Ashwini Vaidya and Samar Husain

In this cross-linguistic study we show that a language with Subject-Object-Verb order (e.g., Hindi) can allow for longer linear head-dependent distance compared to a language with Subject-Verb-Object order (e.g., English). However, we find that hierarchical distance is less across languages with differing word orders. The pattern across various languages points to ‘limited’ adaptability with regard to the word order of a language and highlights the close interaction of linguistic exposure and working memory constraints in determining sentence complexity. We argue that adaptability has limits and working memory constraints cannot be overridden beyond a certain point . The paper was accepted in the journal Cognitive Science in 2020, authored by Himanshu Yadav, Ashwini Vaidya, Vishakha Shukla and Samar Husain.