Human language is unique amongst animal communications systems not only for its structural complexity but also for its diversity of every level of structure and meaning. There are about 7,000 extant languages, some with complex patterns of word formation, others with simple words only, some with the verb at the beginning of the sentence, some in the middle, and some at the end. Understanding this diversity and the systemic constraints on it is the central goal of linguistics...
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... of the world 's approximately 7,000 languages. We focused our analyses on the 'word-order universals ' because these are the most frequently cited exemplary candidates for strongly correlated linguistic features, with plausible motivations for interdependencies rooted in prominent formal and functional theories of grammar.
To test the extent of functional dependencies between word-order variables, we used a Bayesian phylogenetic method implemented in the software BayesTraits. For eight word-order features we compared correlated and uncorrelated evolutionary models. Thus, for each pair of features, we calculated the likelihood that the observed states of the characters were the result of the two features evolving independently, and compared this to the likelihood that the observed states were the result of coupled evolutionary change. This likelihood calculation was
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