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The use of null hypotheses (in a statistical sense) is common in hard sciences but not in theoretical linguistics. Here the null hypothesis that the low frequency of syntactic dependency crossings is expected by an arbitrary ordering of words is rejected. It is shown that this would require star dependency structures, which are both unrealistic and too restrictive. The hypothesis of the limited resources of the human brain is revisited. Stronger null hypotheses taking into account actual dependency lengths for the likelihood of crossings are presented. Those hypotheses suggests that crossings are likely to reduce when dependencies are shortened. A hypothesis based on pressure to reduce dependency lengths is more parsimonious than a principle of minimization of crossings or a grammatical ban that is totally dissociated from the general and non-linguistic principle of economy.
CitationFerrer-i-Cancho, R. Non-crossing dependencies: Least effort, not grammar. A: "Towards a theoretical framework for analyzing complex linguistic networks". Springer, 2016, p. 203-234.
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