刘金路, 杨楠. 英语复句句法复杂性的计量研究[J]. 外国语, 2024, 47(3): 40-52.
引用本文: 刘金路, 杨楠. 英语复句句法复杂性的计量研究[J]. 外国语, 2024, 47(3): 40-52.
LIU Jinlu, YANG Nan. A Quantitative Exploration on the Syntactic Complexity of English Complex Sentences[J]. Journal of Foreign Languages, 2024, 47(3): 40-52.
Citation: LIU Jinlu, YANG Nan. A Quantitative Exploration on the Syntactic Complexity of English Complex Sentences[J]. Journal of Foreign Languages, 2024, 47(3): 40-52.

英语复句句法复杂性的计量研究

A Quantitative Exploration on the Syntactic Complexity of English Complex Sentences

  • 摘要: 句子是语言中最高层级的语法单位,而复句是最复杂的句子类型(Quirk et al. 1985:47)。英语复句包含一个或多个从句作为其核心成分,其句法复杂性可以通过两个指标来衡量,即从句密度和嵌入深度。本研究借助Brown与LOB语料库,使用从句密度和嵌入深度两个指标,探索了英语复句的句法复杂性。研究发现,从句密度的阈值为9,而嵌入深度的阈值为4;从句密度和嵌入深度在不同语体或文本类型之间不存在显著性差异,即两个指标对不同语体中的英语复句句法复杂性的差异区分不敏感;Altmann-Fitter的拟合数据显示,从句密度与嵌入深度的分布符合右截断修正的Zipf-Alekseev模型,这表明英语复句的句法复杂性存在最小化趋势。以上发现表明,人类普遍的认知因素即认知负荷在语言的实际使用中起着某种限制性作用。本研究有助于英语复句的教学实践,同时为英语复句的句法复杂性的进一步研究提供了借鉴和启示。

     

    Abstract: Sentences are the highest-level grammatical units, of which complex sentences are the most complicated ones (Quirk et al. 1985: 47). English complex sentences contain one or more subordinate or dependent clauses embedded as sentence constituents. Their syntactic complexity could be measured by two indicators, i.e., clausal density and embedding depth. In the present study, with the aid of Brown and LOB corpus, we made use of the above two indicators to explore the syntactic complexity of English complex sentences. The study found that the threshold of clausal density (CD) was 9 and that of embedding depth (ED) was 4; there existed no differences among different genres or text types, which indicated that the above two indicators were insensitive to the differentiation of syntactic complexity of sentences between different genres; with the help of Altmann-Fitter, we found that the distributions of clausal density and embedding depth fitted the right-truncated modified Zipf-Alekseev model, demonstrating the existence of minimization trend of syntactic complexity. These findings indicated that the universal cognitive factor, namely cognitive load, played a restrictive role in the practical use of human language. This study has great implications for the teaching of English complex sentences and meanwhile, it might provide reference and inspiration for further research on the syntactic complexity of English complex sentences.

     

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