Zipf's law of abbreviation as a language universal

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Dokumentart: ConferencePaper
Date: 2016-03-02
Language: English
Faculty: 5 Philosophische Fakultät
5 Philosophische Fakultät
Department: Allgemeine u. vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft
DDC Classifikation: 400 - Language and Linguistics
Keywords: Sprachstatistik , Sprachliche Universalien
Other Keywords:
Zipf's law
language universals
quantitative linguistics
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Words that are used more frequently tend to be shorter. This statement is known as Zipf’s law of abbreviation. Here we perform the widest investigation of the presence of the law to date. In a sample of 1262 texts and 986 different languages - about 13% of the world’s language diversity - a negative correlation between word frequency and word length is found in all cases. In line with Zipf’s original proposal, we argue that this universal trend is likely to derive from fundamental principles of information processing and transfer.

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