The learnability of constructed languages reflects typological patterns


A small number of the logically possible word order configurations account for a large proportion of actual human languages. To explain this distribution, typologists often invoke principles of human cognition which might make certain orders easier or harder to learn or use. We present a novel method for carrying out very large scale artificial language learning tasks over the internet, which allows us to test large batteries of systematically designed languages for differential learnability. An exploratory study of the learnability of all possible configurations of subject, verb, and object finds that the two most frequent orders in human languages are the most easily learned, and yields suggestive evidence compatible with other typological and psycholinguistic observations.

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