Search queries as a reduced register: Implications for the grammar architecture
Search queries, such as most home runs player 1975 age, present a striking diversion from the linguistic norm: they lack the core building blocks of a sentence, show flexible word order, and omit function words. The fundamental questions are: (i) What is the status of these expressions in the language? and (ii) What do we need to assume about the grammar that generates them? A corpus analysis shows that queries have systematic syntactic properties, albeit different from the baseline. Since these properties arise in a specific situational context, queries fall squarely into the definition of a register. Based on the parallels with telegrams, headlines, Navy messages, notes, and labels, I argue that queries are a type of ‘reduced’ register. I then present results of a production experiment that sheds light on the debate about the type of grammar responsible for queries generation. The results provide empirical support for the Linear Grammar model (Jackendoff & Wittenberg, 2017). Under this approach, queries are generated by a qualitatively different, more rudimentary grammar than the grammar that generates full-fledged expressions in the standard language.