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Kauffman's adjacent possible in word order evolution

by   Ramon Ferrer-i-Cancho, et al.
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya

Word order evolution has been hypothesized to be constrained by a word order permutation ring: transitions involving orders that are closer in the permutation ring are more likely. The hypothesis can be seen as a particular case of Kauffman's adjacent possible in word order evolution. Here we consider the problem of the association of the six possible orders of S, V and O to yield a couple of primary alternating orders as a window to word order evolution. We evaluate the suitability of various competing hypotheses to predict one member of the couple from the other with the help of information theoretic model selection. Our ensemble of models includes a six-way model that is based on the word order permutation ring (Kauffman's adjacent possible) and another model based on the dual two-way of standard typology, that reduces word order to basic orders preferences (e.g., a preference for SV over VS and another for SO over OS). Our analysis indicates that the permutation ring yields the best model when favoring parsimony strongly, providing support for Kauffman's general view and a six-way typology.


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