Optimal Growth in Phrase Structure


  • David P. Medeiros


This article claims that some familiar properties of phrase structure reflect laws of form. It is shown that optimal sequencing of recursive Merge operations so as to dynamically minimize c-command and containment relations in unlabeled branching forms leads to structural correlates of projection. Thus, a tendency for syntactic structures to pattern according to the X-bar schema (or other shapes exhibiting endocentricity and maximality of ‘non-head daughters’) is plausibly an emergent epiphenomenon of efficient computation. The specifier-head-complement configuration of X-bar theory is shown to be intimately connected to the Fibonacci sequence, suggesting connections with similar mathematical properties in optimal arboration and optimal packing elsewhere in nature.