Complex Sentences, Types of Embedding, and Recursivity


5-6 March 2012

U Konstanz

[Poster]  [Program]

© Günter Posch

Complex Sentences, Types of Embedding, and Recursivity is a research project at the University of Konstanz, funded by the German Excellence Initiative (DFG). It runs from August 2011 to March 2013.

PI: Dr. Andreas Trotzke

Complex sentences have always been a matter of intense investigation in linguistics. Since complex syntax is clearly evidenced by sentential embedding and since embedding of one sentence in another is taken to signal recursivity of the grammar, the capacity of computing complex sentences is of central interest to the recent hypothesis that syntactic recursion is the defining property of natural language. In the light of more recent claims that complex syntax is not a universal property of all living languages, the issue of how to detect and define syntactic complexity has become a much debated topic in current linguistics.

This project deals with what types of embedding can be distinguished and what kind of basic procedures are underlying them. In particular, are there fundamentally different modes of embedding for clauses and other syntactic constituents? Are recursive procedures a sine qua non for complex syntax, or do iterative rather than recursive mechanisms suffice to generate sentence-level embedding? What is the place of recursivity in the grammar then?



Trotzke, Andreas & Josef Bayer (eds.) (2015). Syntactic Complexity across Interfaces. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Trotzke, Andreas & Jan-Wouter Zwart (2014). The complexity of narrow syntax: Minimalism, representational economy, and simplest Merge. In Frederick J. Newmeyer & Laurel B. Preston (eds.), Measuring Grammatical Complexity, 128-147. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Trotzke, Andreas & Markus Bader (2013). Against usage-based approaches to recursion: The grammar-performance distinction in a biolinguistic perspective. GLOW Newsletter 70, 183-184.

Trotzke, Andreas & Antje Lahne (2011). Recursion as derivational layering: An amendment to Zwart. Biolinguistics 5, 335-346.

Workshop: Complex Sentences, Types of Embedding, and Recursivity

We thank all of you for participating in our workshop!

Andreas Trotzke, Josef Bayer & Antje Lahne