11. Complexity in Language and in Law
Geoffrey Sampson [+]
Sussex University, Professor Emeritus
Now that the invariant-complexity idea has been given up, many linguists have become happy to try to measure complexity differences among languages. But some have taken a different tack, arguing that it is meaningless to assert either that languages are or that they are not equal in complexity, because their complexity is incommensurable. There are no units in terms of which they can be compared. This idea is much more persuasive than the earlier equal-complexity axiom. But it is mistaken nevertheless. I use a parallel with the history of legal systems in order to show that, although language complexity cannot be counted in units comparable to the units familiar from the physical sciences, it nevertheless makes good sense to suggest that some languages, as cultural creations, may be more complex than other languages.