Are all languages equal?
There is a general orthodoxy in linguistics that all languages are equal. Only in the past 10-15 years have linguists started critiquing this claim. In this thesis I critically examine structural interpretations of the thesis that all languages are equal. I argue that the claim should be interpreted as a claim about the equi-complexity of language structure, language as abstracted away from usage. There are two structural interpretations of the claim for which there is tentative evidence, but more linguistic research needs to be done to test these properly. The weak equilibrium hypothesis and the double threshold hypothesis both claim that language varieties, when measured according to a commensurable metric, fluctuate around a norm. I also claim that languages with writing systems are more complex than languages without such systems. I conclude that if either of the structural interpretations are true, all languages are equal. However taking written language into account, then not all languages are equal.
Advisor: Maclaurin, James; Dawes, Greg
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Philosophy
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: equality of languages; equi-complexity
Research Type: Thesis