Head movement is an artefact of optimal solutions to linearisation paradoxes

Mark de Vos


Head movement, while endemic in natural languages, has long been a thorn in the sides of syntacticians as it does not seem to be logically necessary nor does it follow from first principles. I will argue that head movement is not only necessary – it is indispensable. It is an intrinsic part of the language-computational system. Converting two-dimensional “trees” into uni-dimensional linearizations is mathematically difficult and in doing so, losing information is a distinct possibility. If too much information is lost then it would prove difficult for a hearer or a child acquiring the language to infer the original syntactic information from the signal and the system would become unlearnable. Linearization is the strategy of choosing an optimal ordering and head movement is a logical response to an optimization puzzle.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5842/44-0-640


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 2224-3380 (online); 1726-541X (print)

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Powered by OJS and hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2011.


This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.

SUNJournals Help