The Language of the Future: Evolutionary Math Breaks the Code
Harvard mathematicians have found that words evolve in a concise manner directly related to frequency of usage. The research looked at the evolution of the English language over the past 1,200 years and found that it’s the infrequently-used words with the habit of changing.
Apparently, just as genes and organisms undergo natural selection, words are also subject to a similarly intense pressure to "regularize" as the language develops. The researchers quantified this trend and compare it with biological evolution.
"Mathematical analysis of this linguistic evolution reveals that irregular verb conjugations behave in an extremely regular way- one that can yield predictions and insights into the future stages of a verb's evolutionary trajectory," says Erez Lieberman, a specialist in evolutionary math at Harvard University. "We measured something no one really thought could be measured, and got a striking and beautiful result."
What they found is that the less often a word is said, the faster it will change over time, whereas more commonly uttered words are much more resistant to change. The researchers believe this is because often-used irregulars are easy to remember and get right, whereas seldom-used irregulars are more likely to be forgotten. Speakers often mistakenly apply the ‘-ed’ rule. The most commonly used word that they found this happened to was the verb ‘to help’ – the past tense was once ‘holp’, but is now ‘helped’.
"We're really on the front lines of developing the mathematical tools to study evolutionary dynamics," says Jean-Baptiste Michel, a graduate student in systems biology at Harvard Medical School. "Before, language was considered too messy and difficult a system for mathematical study, but now we're able to successfully quantify an aspect of how language changes and develops."
Lieberman, Michel, and colleagues built upon previous study of seven competing rules for verb conjugation in Old English, six of which have gradually faded from use over time. They found that the one surviving rule, which adds an "-ed" suffix to simple past and past participle forms, contributes to the evolutionary decay of irregular English verbs according to a specific mathematical function. Specifically, they are regularized at a rate that is strikingly inversely proportional to the square root of their usage frequency. That means a verb used 100 times less frequently will evolve 10 times as fast.
To develop this formula, the researchers tracked the status of 177 irregular verbs in Old English through linguistic changes in Middle English and then modern English. Of these 177 verbs that were irregular 1,200 years ago, 145 stayed irregular in Middle English and just 98 remain irregular today, following the regularization over the centuries of such verbs as help, laugh, reach, walk, and work.
Lieberman and Michel's group computed the "half-lives" of the surviving irregular verbs to predict how long they will take to regularize. The most common ones, such as "be" and "think," have such long half-lives (38,800 years and 14,400 years, respectively) that they will effectively never become regular. Irregular verbs with lower frequencies of use -- such as "shrive" and "smite," with half-lives of 300 and 700 years, respectively -- are much more likely to succumb to regularization.
Extant irregular verbs represent the vestiges of long-abandoned rules of conjugation; new verbs entering English, such as "google," are universally regular. Although fewer than 3 percent of modern English verbs are irregular, this number includes the 10 most common verbs: be, have, do, go, say, can, will, see, take, and get. Lieberman, Michel, and colleagues expect that some 15 of the 98 modern irregular verbs they studied will regularize in the next 500 years, but the top 10 probably never will.
The paper, published in Nature makes a quantitative, astonishingly precise description of something linguists have long suspected: The most frequently used irregular verbs are repeated so often that they will likely never die.
"Irregular verbs are fossils that reveal how linguistic rules, and perhaps social rules, are born and die," Michel says.
"If you apply the right mathematical structure to your data, you find that the math also organizes your thinking about the entire process," says Lieberman, whose unorthodox projects as a graduate student have ranged from genomics to bioastronautics. "The data hasn't changed, but suddenly you're able to make powerful predictions about the future."
Lieberman, Michel, and their co-authors project that the next word to regularize will likely be "wed."
"Now may be your last chance to be a 'newly wed'," they quip in the Nature paper. "The married couples of the future can only hope for 'wedded' bliss."
Source: The Language of the Future: Evolutionary Math Breaks the Code
Origin of language
Dee's 007, Tubal-Cain and the Rune of the "Original Language"
The Power Of Symbolic Language And UFOs
Russian DNA Discoveries Explain Human 'Paranormal' Events
Spiritual Science - DNA is influenced by Words and Frequencies
Deciphering of earliest Semitic text reveals talk of snakes and spells
Secrets of the Hebrew Letters
Latest News from our Front Page
The Viking ”Maine Penny” Mystery
In 1957, during his second year of digging at the Goddard site; a large prehistoric Indian trade village in Penobscot Bay on the central Maine coast, local resident and amateur archaeologist Guy Mellgren found a small silver coin. The coin is later identified by experts as a Norse silver penny dating to the reign of Olaf Kyrre, king of Norway ...
The Sagas of the (Viking) Icelanders Shed Light on Golden Age
The Sagas of the Icelanders have long been preserved as the most comprehensive specimen of the literary culture of the 13th and 14th centuries of Iceland. In writing these sagas, many attributes of the 10th and 11th centuries were conserved, particularly individual biographies, the history of family feuds, and the overall evolution of the one of the greatest settlements ...
Benjamin Netanyahu's Full Speech to Congress
Here is the full speech of Pathological Zionist Liar Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States Congress.
"And the Oscar goes too ...."
Description from YouTube: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel used one of the most prominent platforms in the world on Tuesday to warn against what he called a “bad deal” being negotiated with Iran to freeze its nuclear program, bringing ...
The FDA Admits That Prior to 2011 Over 70% of U.S. Chickens Contained Cancer-Causing Arsenic
Prior to 2011, the cancer-causing toxic chemical Roxarsone, which in high doses could kill you, was being added to chicken feed on purpose, giving store-bought chicken the illusion of healthy coloring and plump appearance. Shockingly, this was the case with more than 70 percent of all U.S. chickens! A recent article was published stating that this continued to be the ...
The Truth About Starbucks New Coconut Milk: It Isn’t Really Coconut Milk
In an attempt to appeal to the non-dairy crowd, Starbucks is bringing “coconut milk” to the masses. After a successful trial run in select cities at the behest of their customers, Starbucks has decided to push forward with their dairy alternative.
Providing a non-dairy alternative to dairy and soy is the second most requested customer idea of all time from MyStarbucksIdea.com, ...
|More News » |