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The Evolution of Language

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the everything-can-be-measured dept.

Math 528

TaeKwonDood writes "We all know language has evolved but mathematicians are trying to take how it has changed in the past to predict what it will be like in the future." From the article: "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 Lieberman, a graduate student in applied mathematics in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, and an affiliate of Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. "We measured something no one really thought could be measured, and got a striking and beautiful result.""

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Of course it's all about the verbs (3, Funny)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935619)

It's fuck that, suck this, screw that.

Verbs, verbs, verbs, that's all anyone thinks about.

Re:Of course it's all about the verbs (4, Funny)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935663)

Fuck is actually much more than a verb, you dumb fuck. Now fucking give me the money or I'll blow your fucking brains out.

Re:Of course it's all about the verbs (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935737)

This seems to be an appropriate time to link the Penny Arcade "The F Word" animation. But I can't find a link. :/

Re:Of course it's all about the verbs (3, Funny)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935825)

The fucking fucker's fucking fucked. Fuck!

Queue Ocatavio Paz... (1)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935951)

and all his analysis of the word "chingar" in El laberinto de la soledad.

Some love for prepositions (1)

Inf0phreak (627499) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935703)

I'm sure some people are thinking about prepositions too.

Quite a few are probably thinking about German group sex according to the words 'an', 'auf', 'hinter', 'in', 'neben', 'über', 'unter', 'vor' and 'zwichen'.

Sorry, o(oooo)ld joke, but it just seemed to fit in.

Re:Of course it's all about the verbs (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20935799)

It's fuck that, suck this, screw that. ...that's all anyone thinks about.


Fucking and so on is all niggers think about, anyway.

And they are really influencing the language, yo. Did them scholars be accountin' for that? The destructive nigger influence on language, y'know whut I'm sayin' holmes?

Re:Of course it's all about the verbs (1)

Heddahenrik (902008) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935927)

In the future it will be that I fuck now, yesterday I feck and I'm fooken.

Interesting that the article never mentioning something about verbs going the other way. Guess that doesn't happen in English at the moment. But in Swedish there seems to be less uncommon with things like "simma, sam, summit" (swim, swam, swum), maybe due to English influence, or maybe because that word is getting more common again.

Re: Of course it's all about the verbs (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936307)

It's fuck that, suck this, screw that.
Reminds me of a funny line by one of the veterans in the recent Ken Burns documentary on WWII - "In a war you forget all your adjectives except one or two."

That's Sick (-1, Troll)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935621)

N/T

Bawstan Habah? (2, Interesting)

v_1_r_u_5 (462399) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935625)

All I'd like to know is how in the hell did Boston become Bawstan and Chowder become Chowda? And what's with the cities around Massachusetts, anyway? Worcester is pronounced Wusta ... ?!?!? They haven't just evolved - they've completely morphed!

Re:Bawstan Habah? (1)

cez (539085) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935791)

there's something in the water... at least they still spell it the same. I'm trying to prevent my goddaughter from becoming an unfortunate victim of trans morphed vernaculars.


OT, this article is pretty cool, but doesn't take into account the evolution of symbolic representation in language, and the r00tshell.com effect. STFU n00b.


HAND =)

So we'll be talking like this soon? (1)

Inf0phreak (627499) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935627)

Larp no! Why the loomp would I be quinking of Gundam?

Re:So we'll be talking like this soon? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936223)

...and the borogroves all slithy in the wabe.

Hari Seldon... (3, Interesting)

beav007 (746004) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935653)

...is that you?

Re:Hari Seldon... (1)

geekboy642 (799087) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936075)

I was just thinking that. Really, a thorough understanding of language would be the first cornerstone to thoroughly understanding societies in a predictable way.

I, for one... (4, Funny)

exploder (196936) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935657)

am glad I getted the chance to welcome our new, regularly-conjugated overlords.

Re:I, for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20936207)

> I, for one, am glad I getted the chance to welcome our new, regularly-conjugated overlords.

You fucking maded me roll on the floor laughing!

Easy- a lot of it will go (4, Funny)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935661)

I predict we will "loose" a lot of words and have them replaced by ones with similar spelling.

Re:Easy- a lot of it will go (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20935699)

It's already happening with commas and lists of words. The final comma in a list, the one before "and", is too often left out when it should be present. (Bugs the crap out of me, too.)

Re:Easy- a lot of it will go (2, Funny)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935771)

As much as that annoys me, I must say that they taught that as a valid way of doing things in my elementary school English classes. Then again, I'm one of those Americans that prefers the British style of punctuating quotes. In other words, I write something like:
Johnny said, "Bill went to the store".
whereas the American style is:
Johnny said, "Bill went to the store."
Obviously the former makes more sense because it nests properly: (sentence begins) (quote begins) (quote ends) (sentence ends).
That said, I refuse to put unnecessary u's in words like armor. ;)

Programming does that to you (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20935857)

You learn to use the ." format if you program.

Re:Programming does that to you (2, Insightful)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935947)

Like what?

System.out.println("Hello, world."); // ?

Because in that case it makes perfect sense.

(code begins) (open paren) (String begins) (sentence begins) (sentence ends) (String ends) (close paren) (code ends)

I have no problem with a sentence like:

Bill said, "Go to the store."

Because in that case, it's logical. Well, almost. You could argue that it should read:

Bill said, "Go to the store.".

Because there's really two sentences there (the narrator's sentence as well as Bill's) but actually putting two periods is redundant and I have no problem with the internal period in that case.

Re:Programming does that to you (2, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936161)

"(code begins) (open paren) (String begins) (sentence begins) (sentence ends) (String ends) (close paren) (code ends)"

It may "make sense" but as is common in programming it does not fit the original simple requirement, in other words: where has the quote gone?

Re:Easy- a lot of it will go (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935885)

I was going to call you on that last apostrophe but by gosh you used it properly. You learn something every day.

Re:Easy- a lot of it will go (2, Insightful)

AoT (107216) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936093)

Yes, I cry and cry when people forget the Harvard comma [wikipedia.org] .

Oh wait, no I don't, it's a useless extra comma that isn't necessary.

Re:Easy- a lot of it will go (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20936275)

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

"Why?" asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"Well, I'm a panda," he says at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. "Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

Re:Easy- a lot of it will go (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936241)

"we will "loose" a lot of words"

Why would the words fall apart? I guess you already lost "lose"... ;)

Re:Easy- a lot of it will go (1)

CodyRazor (1108681) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936267)

I prdct nglsh lnguge n grmr bcm mre efcnt n snsbl lk txt msgs

Seriously thongh i think this is what will happen. As everyone starts using mobile phones and internet messaging theyl get so used to it they'l wonder why they dont do it all the time, and then as the majority of the population is less educated and doesnt understand the beauty and possibility a complex language creates eventually knowledge of english as we know it today will be restricted to a select few with people with the others either ignoring it or bastardizing the words. the same has already happend. e.g. There are four meanings to the word "Imperative". Most people will struggle to give you one.

Also watch idiocracy, it shows you what will probably happen in the near future.

"Whycome you dont have a tattoo?" lol

As suggested by Mark Twain (5, Funny)

Wizarth (785742) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935667)

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

Generally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeiniing voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivili.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev alojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (3, Insightful)

wanderingknight (1103573) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935725)

Actually, written English hasn't changed much since the Middle Ages. It's the pronunciation the one that's changed a lot, and that's why us non-native English speakers are sometimes baffled by the incoherence of the English spelling.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (4, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935923)

I'm not sure what you mean when you say "Middle Ages", but written English certainly did change quite a bit from the 8th century to the 16th century, and most people place the Middle Ages somewhere in there, if not starting before that. Here are some examples of the change:

8th century - Beowulf, which is unreadable for modern English speakers.
1066 - Norman conquest - Old French would have a massive influence on English. Introduction of lots of Latin roots into English.
14th century - Chaucer, somewhat readable for modern English speakers with modernized spellings.
16th century - Shakespeare, more or less readable for modern English speakers without much editing.


Pronunciation of course also changed drastically, and this was reflected in orthography as well.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

c_forq (924234) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936177)

Readable if the letters are reformatted I will give you, but have you ever tried reading material from the American Revolution that was written in cursive? Even in print the whole "s" looking a lot like an "f" thing at the beginning and middle of words gets real annoying, along with the goofy connector of "c" and "t" when they appear next to each other.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20936309)

The 's' in print looked a lot like an 'f' because it actually was an 'f'. It was a lot cheaper and easier than trying to get an 's' carved into a block.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935741)

Damn, I hope not. That "improvment" is like retard english or schizophrenic rambling.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935775)

In case you missed the subject line, it was a joke--by none other than Mark Twain.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (5, Informative)

Repton (60818) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935835)

Actually, apparently this is widely misattrbuted [alt-usage-english.org] to Mark Twain; it's actually from a letter by a guy named M. J. Shields.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935881)

Interesting! I had always seen it attributed to Mark Twain.. learn something new every day.. thanks for the heads up!

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935745)

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev alojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.
I think I speak for us all when I say, OMGWTFBBQ.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935787)

Actually, 'y' functions as a real consonant in words like "year", whereas 'i' only works as a vowel.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936197)

Can you give an example where globally replacing "y" with "i" would be ambiguous?

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (2, Interesting)

siddesu (698447) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935893)

The trend for simplification is positively there, and the math is right -- the more complex and often-used it is, the bigger the pressure to simplify.

Just look at them damned Chinese characters and the reform they underwent last century -- compare the characters used in Taiwan or Hong Kong, those in Japan (that were adopted after the Chinese simplified them once) and those that are used in China now (which were simplified gradually even more). The more them characters evolve, the more they look the same.

Probably in the end it'll all end up where Korea is -- they have more or less given up on characters and switched to alphabet. Which is where English was back then ;)

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935957)

Japanese has a phonetic "alphabet" of sorts that they use when writing things that don't have a symbol, such as foreign words or placenames.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katakana [wikipedia.org]

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

bishop32x (691667) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936139)

Interestingly enough TFA has the opposite correlation, the time it takes an irregular verb in English to become regular is inversely proportional to the square of it's frequency within usage.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

AoT (107216) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936147)

Did you read the article?

The whole point is that the less commonly used irregular verbs are more likely to become regularized. It might be different with spelling, but I doubt we'll see much of it in print given the way we have standardized spelling over the past hundred or two hundred years.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (4, Informative)

Jimmy_B (129296) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936299)

The trend for simplification is positively there, and the math is right -- the more complex and often-used it is, the bigger the pressure to simplify.
No, that is the OPPOSITE of what happens (and what this paper says)! The more often something is used, the LESS likely it is to be simplified. These simplifications aren't the result of someone deciding to change the way they speak; rather, they're the result of successive generations learning their parents' language imperfectly. If an irregular verb is used all the time, you have to learn it or you'll sound like an idiot. Thus, all native English speakers know all of the conjugations of 'to be'. On the other hand, if you only use an irregular verb twice in your lifetime, you probably won't remember its conjugation, so you'll fall back on general rules. When everyone does this, the regular conjugation becomes the standard.

Re:As suggested by Mark Twain (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936137)

As usual the response to your post should be..

OH NOES NOT GERMAN...

1984 (0, Troll)

borgasm (547139) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935673)

double plus ungood ?

The Left has already started this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20935755)

PC language is just another example of Orwell's NewSpeak.

a new word (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935677)

I predict they're gonna make a new word for how useless and impossible it is to predict how language will change. The most common basic causes of changes in language are unpredictable circumstances and events.

Re:a new word (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935693)

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Or the Slashdot Effect. Or Fark. Or lollercoaster/roflcopter/lmaonade/whatever the latest /b/tard neologism is. Technology is driving language now.

Re:a new word (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935761)

No. People are driving language now, as they always have. Technology just allows those people to express themselves differently. Admittedly, changing to primarily text-based and later, image-based (ytmnd, lolcats, whatever) communication has given people new opportunities to make up silly things, but it's still the people that have made those things up.

Re:a new word (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935811)

Technology requires new words to be invented. Modern technology has also provided a medium, but seriously, new inventions need words for them. "Camera". "Car". "Truck". "Computer". "Ethernet". "Firewire". Toss in a dictionary of TLA's and you've got an absurd number of words that were invented out of necessity for technology. Granted, some of them (such as FireWire) are trademarked brand names that expanded to the generic term (let's face it, IEEE 1394 just isn't as catchy to the layman) in meaning.

With all that said, if "I can has" lolcat-speak hits mainstream speech I'm going to have to strangle someone.

Re:a new word (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935847)

With all that said, if "I can has" lolcat-speak hits mainstream speech I'm going to have to strangle someone.
I'm in ur IRL. Speekin liek dis. (Well, I did just get bitched at by a cow orker for saying "stfu" in as many letters. God save the Queen's English! :( )

I did it! (1)

valkabo (840034) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935681)

Population: China = 1 billion gatrillion of em. China > all other numbers. Thus we will all speak chinese. OR Engrish

Shit (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20935701)

Rape Dead Dog Fuck Nigger

Werd Up (4, Funny)

da3dAlus (20553) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935713)

I for one welcome our cromulent new verbs!

Re:Werd Up (1)

tool462 (677306) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935939)

Cromulent verbs like "embiggens?"

Efforts to stamp out irregularity (1, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935733)

FTA:

Lieberman, Michel, and their co-authors project that the next word to regularize will likely be "wed."
Maybe, but Zonk is doing his best [slashdot.org] to make sure that it's "weave" instead.

(Zonk has, of course, given up hope on regularizing "to be".)

That link got -1:Troll ?!???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20935955)

Jesus Fuck, your linked post should have been +5 Funny/Informative.
Best grammar Nazi post seen yet.

Now if you'll pardon me I have to get to what I was "beed" doing.

this isn't really news (4, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935769)

This isn't really news. We linguists have known this for a long time, as the article mentions, and we've known why: a child learning a language tends to regularize irregular forms. If he or she then hears the irregular form enough, the child reverts to the irregular form. This is why you'll hear children learning English go through a stage in which their knowledge of verb forms is skimpy but they have irregular forms like "brought", because they are memorizing individual forms, then through a stage in which they produce incorrect but regular forms, which they could not have learned from adults, like "bringed", because they have learned the rule, and through a third stage in which they learn the exceptions to the rule and the irregular forms like "brought" return. Irregular forms will only be learnable if they are sufficiently frequent. The only novelty of this research is the computational ability to carry out an accurate simulation.

As for predicting the future of the language, that's silly. There is a lot more to language change than what happens to irregular verbs.

Re:this isn't really news (3, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935823)

More interesting to me than irregular verbs is my son's usage of opposites. He wants me to "plug out" the vacuum cleaner, "buckle out" of his car seat, and-- my favorite-- "shut up" the computer (the opposite, of course, of "shut down"). Also the usages of "hot" or "warm"... the difference between something that is too hot such as food, and something that is too hot like a thick blanket in summer. (When I told him the blanket was too warm for summer, he asked me to cool down the blanket.) The other day he tried Tabasco sauce for the first time, and learned another usage of "hot".

So are these usages converging the same way as verb irregularity?

Re:this isn't really news (3, Informative)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935921)

More interesting to me than irregular verbs is my son's usage of opposites. He wants me to "plug out" the vacuum cleaner, "buckle out" of his car seat, and-- my favorite-- "shut up" the computer (the opposite, of course, of "shut down").

One can also expand their English vocabulary by working with Indians. Took me a while to figure out WTF 'prepone' meant. As in (say with your best Apu imitation), "We need to prepone the meeting an hour or so." Prepone being the opposite of postpone.

Re:this isn't really news (1)

demi (17616) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936143)

We've been preponing meetings this way since long back.

Re:this isn't really news (1)

MentlFlos (7345) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935833)

What kind of linguist are you? Cunning perhaps...

Re:this isn't really news (2, Interesting)

meburke (736645) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935965)

Rudolf Flesch wrote some books back in the '50's implying that the most modern language we have is...CHINESE! Since Chinese is a spoken language rather than a written language (The writing is mostly pictorial representing whole concepts), it wasn't frozen in place with a bunch of affixes (suffixes, prefixes, etc.) or genders and all that other stuff that makes English hard to learn. Subject, verb, predicate .. That's all there is? You can't regularize verbs better than that! My last girlfriend was Cantonese (from Hong Kong) and since Cantonese doesn't really exist in a written form, it constantly changes patterns and vocabulary. I once had a book that showed 50 common patterns of Chinese language (VERY helpful book!), but it's getting harder to distinguish linguisitc patterns as Chinese "modernizes".

In Flesch's book, "How to Write, Speak and Think more effectively" he suggests getting clear communication by pretending you were composing in Chinese. Hmmmm..I need to find that book...

All that just goes to show... (1)

Estanislao Martínez (203477) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936209)

...that Rudolf Flesch doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

Since Chinese is a spoken language rather than a written language (The writing is mostly pictorial representing whole concepts),

Um, Chinese is no more of a spoken language than English is, and no less of a written language either. Chinese script isn't "pictorial," either; it's logographic, with characters representing words. For mnemonic reasons, characters are related to others in a set of ways that I will not explain. (Because I don't in fact understand it well enough to explain it. See, it is possible to refrain from speaking about what one does not know.)

it wasn't frozen in place with a bunch of affixes (suffixes, prefixes, etc.) or genders and all that other stuff that makes English hard to learn.

Oh, yes, of course, because Chinese has no complicated stuff [wikipedia.org] . Oh, no, none at all [wikipedia.org] .

How is that relevant? (1)

Estanislao Martínez (203477) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936233)

This isn't really news. We linguists have known this for a long time, as the article mentions, and we've known why: a child learning a language tends to regularize irregular forms.

Are you aware of any historical linguistics research that makes quantitative hypotheses about the relationship between word frequency and morphological regularization? I don't know if there are any (and I wouldn't be surprised either way), but whether this study is "news" depends on the answer to that question, not on the all-too-well known fact that children learn regular inflectional paradigms before they learn irregular ones.

Re:How is that relevant? (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936283)

I think you need to reread my comment, which you haven't understood. Yes, it has long been known that only common verbs remain irregular. The description I gave of the stages in child language acquisition was part of the explanation of why this is the case. So, as I said, the basic observation is not news. The virtue of the study is in providing a more precise quantitative model.

Psychohistory? (4, Interesting)

Xgamer4 (970709) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935801)

Admittedly, while it doesn't directly relate to the mathematical analysis of language the ideas behind the study of them are similar. After all, before now mapping out the general patterns of human civilization through mathematical formulas sounded just as absurd as mapping out language patterns using math. And yet, here's an article describing how scientists may have discovered patterns to language. Any thoughts?

Brief history of psychohistory for those who haven't read The Foundation Trilogy by Asimov:

Psychohistory is the name of a fictional science, which combined history, sociology, and mathematical statistics, in Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe, to create a (nearly) exact science of the actions of very large groups of people, such as the Galactic Empire.

From Wikipedia, obviously:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychohistory/ [wikipedia.org]

Re:Psychohistory? (1)

Xgamer4 (970709) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936009)

And I broke the link. My bad. Here's what it should link to for those too lazy to delete the slash on the end of the above post.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychohistory [wikipedia.org]

Re:Psychohistory? (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936079)

The Wikipedia link you want is this [wikipedia.org] one.

Predicting the future using language (4, Interesting)

Repton (60818) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935855)

Stanislaw Lem wrote a book -- I think it was _The Futurological Congress_ -- which included people who predicted future inventions by predicting possible words. The theory being: things won't be popular unless they have a good name, so by thinking of good names, and then considering what might have those names, you can predict future developments.

Re:Predicting the future using language (3, Funny)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935997)

So you're saying that Stanislaw Lem "invented" internet domain squatting?

Squatting (1)

Mark_MF-WN (678030) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936259)

I shudder to think what someone from 50 years ago would have imagined if they heard the phrase "Internet domain squatting". It sounds like some kind of hobby for fecephiliac landowners.

Love! (0, Offtopic)

Xanthanov (1116109) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935911)

HAHAHA, I'm in love, you bastards! I'm going on another date with the most wonderful girl I could possibly imagine tomorrow, and I want to tell the whole world!!!!!!!! I've never felt so happy in my whole bloody life!!! HAHAHAHAHAAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Re:Love! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20935941)

Unless she reads this. Then she may suddenly fall ill and need to wash her hair.

Re:Love! (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936055)

Why must you people continue making up new words... go and look up 'love' and 'girl' in the dictionary. I'm quite sure you won't find them there. And your use of the word 'date' makes no sense at all.

Re:Love! (1)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936083)

Wait a minute, I know the most wonderful girl you could possibly imagine! You bastard, I was gonna ask her out! Dammit, I'll get you for this...

Great (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935929)

Neat discovery, but it's hardly the first time researchers have been able to view trends in linguistic evolution. Check out Grimm's Law [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Great (1)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936099)

You do know the entire field of historical linguistics is based around trends in linguistic evolution? A wikipedia link about Grimm's Law is hardly the best way to demonstrate your point.

what language are they studying? (1)

quest(answer)ion (894426) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935931)

the missing point in TFA, i think, is where these researchers are drawing their data from. one of the things that's a recurrent problem in charting/predicting linguistic evolutionary trends is what you base whatever new Model #234a you've come up with on. most researchers doing this kind of modeling work use one or a few of the existing databases of english language text, but the question to ask is where exactly this text is drawn from. some databases draw heavily on samples of textual english--books, magazines, websites, etc--to put together their information on forms and usage, simply because it's the easiest way to go.

for example: the problem with that kind of sampling, as most any linguist will probably tell you, is that while it gives you a bloody enormous body of coherent linguistic data to work with, textual language is 1) different in a bunch of important contextual ways from spoken language and 2) is not actually where linguistic innovation and change often happens. linguistic change is almost always a bottom up phenomenon; lower class influences upper class, spoken language is both a hotbed of innovation (think about street slang), and one of the most powerful influences in what actually becomes accepted as normal usage over time. so what happens in great frequency off of the radar of these databases of recorded text could be running counter to the trends they identified, or might even underline those trends and reinforce them.

i have no idea whether or not this study is actually drawing on text-only data, or what kind of sampling they used, but it sure would be helpful to know, yeah?

But only for English? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20935937)

As I gather from the TFA, they have studied 177 irregular verbs from Old English. What I am interested in:

1) How did they measure the frequency of use of these verbs? Especially now when English is being used as a second language for almost every literate person?
2) What about other languages? Explicitly German, from which English derived, and where a lot of irregular verbs are still being used? (borrowing of verbs from English is not as common in German as it is in other languages)

Re:But only for English? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20936135)

Now, now, there's upwards of 250 million people in the United States, and quite a few in parts of Europe that use English as a mother tongue.

At least some of the British are bound to be literate. Also, I would SWEAR I saw a 'merikan laboriously reading a street sign the other day. So, there's hope for that.

You're missing the big one (1)

Estanislao Martínez (203477) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936163)

1) How did they measure the frequency of use of these verbs? Especially now when English is being used as a second language for almost every literate person?

TFA is short on details, but they must've used a historical corpus (that's linguistese for "a database of texts").

This of course raises the question of what kind of language the corpus is representative of, and what kind of language is is not representative of. The bodies of text we have for Old and Middle English are far less representative than what we have for contemporary English; e.g., we don't have a lot of transcribed recordings of phone conversations between family members from back in Chaucer's day.

Of course, it's kind of hard to criticise this study without looking at it. The only thing that strikes me so far: none of the authors seems to be a linguist.

Bellyfeel! (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935975)

Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc...

Keep the 'mitten' in 'smitten' (2, Interesting)

xPsi (851544) | more than 6 years ago | (#20935993)

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.

I'm not sure what fancy-pants sources these guys are using, but 'shirve' and 'smite' are definitely not low frequency verbs in my crowd. I say keep the 'mote' in smote. They will rue the day when 'smitted' crosses my lips!

Re:Keep the 'mittens' in The Kittens (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936203)

Smitten Zie Deutsche?

Grocken Zie Greek?

Seriously folks, now all they need is a study to predict which comes first - the "regularization" of irregular verbs (you'd think they'd just eat-all bran) versus their seriously overdue death.
  • smite
  • shrive
Aside from their archive of "least used verbs throughout history" where else do you find these words?

Re:Keep the 'mittens' in The Kittens (2, Informative)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936281)

Aside from their archive of "least used verbs throughout history" where else do you find these words?

That is a grievous insult to the English language - shrive yourself or I will smite your ass!

(ok, so I don't have occasion to use "shrive" too often, but "smite" is a very useful word)

In the future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20936131)

...everyone will speak as lolcats.

I can haz language?

Re:In the future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20936183)

You realize those thieving bastards just ripped off all our cat macros and made a site about it, right? Fuckin' a, they even put Longcat on their site with a damn watermark, like they fucking came up with it.

Yes, well...however...there are other methods. (0)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936153)

Languages are 'derived', sure - they evolve as derivations of other languages and/or common usage that pushes some words into popularity while others fall into history. All languages but one...

The Korean language that has been in use for the last four hundred years is the only 'human' invented language on the planet. At one time, when the country was unified by one King, it became clear that the multiplicity of dialects in use around the country were barriers prohibiting trade, mobility, communication, learning from each other, etc.

The top thinkers were gathered and ordered to design a language that was simple to learn and speak...read and write. Once this was done, the King simply decreed that all citizens adopt it, shedding their separate dialects.

Of course, foreigners still need to train their tongues to make correct sounds, but if you already speak Chinese or Japanese, as examples, you can pick Korean up in short order. Reading and writing are similarly learned.

My point is that the future of language lies not only in continued evolution. What say we follow the Korean lead and build a new one everyone can use...or perhaps just use Korean :)

Re:Yes, well...however...there are other methods. (5, Interesting)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936249)

Sorry, but this is absolutely false. Korean has dialects that differ significantly from each other - there is no single unified language. Nor did the king ever standardize the language. Korean is no more artificial than any other human language. This appears to be a garbled version of the development of the Hangul alphabet by king Sejong and his advisors. This was a great development, but it was just a writing system, not a standardization of the language itself.

Furthermore, it is not true that someone who speaks Chinese or Japanese can quickly pick up Korean. Chinese and Korean are not only unrelated but of radically different types. Chinese speakers find Korean quite difficult. Japanese speakers find Korean somewhat easier because the two languages are very similar in grammatical type, but even so most of the vocabulary is quite unfamiliar and the morphology, though similar in a general typological way, is quite different in detail.

Re:Yes, well...however...there are other methods. (1)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936263)

I agree that the korean (0r ) alphbet is extreamly easy to learn, (I picked it up in 3 days) individual words are also quite easy to learn, as most words are short and easy to pronounce.

But when it comes to speaking Korean fluently, and being able to engage in conversation, it is like hitting a brick wall.

aside from , there are no sounds in Korean that we dont have in English. all you have to do is turn into two seperate symbols and sounds, say 'R' and 'L', and add an 'F' and a 'V', and your set.

also, in Korean, each block is one syllable, so you know exactly how to say a word by how it is written. '' is 'han-guk', there is no confusion with 'hang-uk' you know how to say it quite easily.

i'm not even going to go into detail of how each character representes the movement of the tounge inside the mouth. it is so logical and efficient, I'm surprized the Germans don't use it. :P

unfortunatly, multiple consonance tother just dont work. My land name, Clements, either becomes 'cle-men-te-su' or 'cle-men-chu'.

while it is a great example of a logical language in its written form, it does have its limitations.

Re:Yes, well...however...there are other methods. (3, Interesting)

Estanislao Martínez (203477) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936289)

Languages are 'derived', sure - they evolve as derivations of other languages and/or common usage that pushes some words into popularity while others fall into history.

Linguistics 101 lesson: a language is not a bag of words. Any generalization about language that treats it as if it is some bag of words (e.g., in this case, that language change consists of new words entering the bag, while other words fall out of it) shows a profound ignorance of the fundamental ideas of linguistics. A language is a grammar; people invent and adopt new words spontaneously all the time, but not, say, morphological paradigms, case agreement, or new forms of valence-changing rules like the passive or the causative alternation. (Yes, I'm using words that most people who read this won't understand, but that's the point--if you don't understand terms like that, your "insights" into laguage aren't very valuable.)

The Korean language that has been in use for the last four hundred years is the only 'human' invented language on the planet. At one time, when the country was unified by one King, it became clear that the multiplicity of dialects in use around the country were barriers prohibiting trade, mobility, communication, learning from each other, etc. The top thinkers were gathered and ordered to design a language that was simple to learn and speak...read and write. Once this was done, the King simply decreed that all citizens adopt it, shedding their separate dialects.

That sounds like a combination of myth and hyperbole about a perfectly ordinary language standardization process (e.g., the kind that happened in Spain during the reign of Alfonso X of Castile, and again after the publication of Antonio de Nebrija's grammar). I don't know what Korean king you're talking about here; my first thought was Sejong the Great, but the timeline is wrong (he lived about 600 years ago, not 400). At any rate, his great contribution was an orthography (Hangeul) that wasn't adopted until much later.

Question (1)

zobier (585066) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936181)

I mean no disrespect to the researchers involved here, however this seems an appropriate topic for this question.

I occasionally see algorithms used to predict future outcomes of a system where the algorithm appears to have been manipulated to fit the data rather than actually attempt to model the system in question. A prime example is one where the "novelty" of the universe is plotted over time and spikes appear in correlation with historic events. My question: Is there a specific term to describe this type of shenanigans?

idiocracy (1)

JazzyMusicMan (1012801) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936217)

I predict a language where some words take on many meanings, for example fuck will one day be more than a noun, an adjective, a verb, an adverb and pronoun.

What the fuck?
Stop fucking doing that!
I was fucking...
We were going fucking fast!
Thats fucking cool!

Wit da wordz dat survive, we'll abbr. dem, soz we can text fzter.

Eventually, we'll replace most common words with more common vulgar or shorter ones. And all our plants will get their electrolytes! Cuz its what plants need!

Too late for "wed" (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20936303)

According to half a dozen dictionaries [reference.com] , "wedded" is already an acceptable past tense for "wed", and is already in use.
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