Why we need a gradient approach to word order

Levshina, N., Namboodiripad, S., Allassonnière-Tang, M., Kramer, M., Talamo, L., Verkerk, A., Wilmoth, S., Garrido Rodriguez, G., Gupton, T. M., Kidd, E., Liu, Z., Naccarato, C., Nordlinger, R., Panova, A., & Stoynova, N. (2023). Why we need a gradient approach to word order. Linguistics, 61(4), 825-883. doi:10.1515/ling-2021-0098.
This article argues for a gradient approach to word order, which treats word order preferences, both within and across languages, as a continuous variable. Word order variability should be regarded as a basic assumption, rather than as something exceptional. Although this approach follows naturally from the emergentist usage-based view of language, we argue that it can be beneficial for all frameworks and linguistic domains, including language acquisition, processing, typology, language contact, language evolution and change, and formal approaches. Gradient approaches have been very fruitful in some domains, such as language processing, but their potential is not fully realized yet. This may be due to practical reasons. We discuss the most pressing methodological challenges in corpus-based and experimental research of word order and propose some practical solutions.
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