Complexity of Human Language Comprehension
The goal of this article is to reveal the computational structure of modern principle-and-parameter (Chomskian) linguistic theories: what computational problems do these informal theories pose, and what is the underlying structure of those computations? To do this, I analyze the computational complexity of human language comprehension: what linguistic representation is assigned to a given sound? This problem is factored into smaller, interrelated (but independently statable) problems. For example, in order to understand a given sound, the listener must assign a phonetic form to the sound; determine the morphemes that compose the words in the sound; and calculate the linguistic antecedent of every pronoun in the utterance. I prove that these and other subproblems are all NP-hard, and that language comprehension is itself PSPACE-hard.