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The placement of the head that maximizes predictability. An information theoretic approach

by   Ramon Ferrer-i-Cancho, et al.

The minimization of the length of syntactic dependencies is a well-established principle of word order and the basis of a mathematical theory of word order. Here we complete that theory from the perspective of information theory, adding a competing word order principle: the maximization of predictability of a target element. These two principles are in conflict: to maximize the predictability of the head, the head should appear last, which maximizes the costs with respect to dependency length minimization. The implications of such a broad theoretical framework to understand the optimality, diversity and evolution of the six possible orderings of subject, object and verb are reviewed.


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