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Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

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Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

Postby datdo » Sun 10.21.2007 8:19 pm

This is kind of old but I thought some people might have not come across this slashdot article. It talks about how a Harvard scientist found a pattern to the way irregular verbs turn into regular ones. Apparently there is a direct relationship between frequency in use and time it takes to become regularized.

I would have shouted this if it would have fit...

edit: after posting this I kinda realized the comments on the article aren't the greatest...
Last edited by datdo on Sun 10.21.2007 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

Postby EvanT » Mon 10.22.2007 7:31 am

Very intriguing article Datdo. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. It doesn't leave me entirely convinced. First of all it's focusing on English which isn't the purest of Celtogermanic languages (too many irregularities are drawn from other languages). Second, these mathematicians fail to recognize the influence of social factors; religion, political administration, education level, cultural traits etc.

Will irregularities vanish with the same lifespan in a country with a high level of education? Probably not... Will they vanish quickly if a government institutes an educational reform that roots many of them out? Of course and a lot more quickly, but then again they might not if the speakers decide to actively resist it. How are they influenced by foreign linguistic infiltration? Do different dialects of the same language follow the same patterns? (e.g. British, US and Australian English?)

I belive this article is an interesting start, but unless the mathematicians get some linguists and sociologists involved in this project of theirs, it's doomed to fail...miserably.
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RE: Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

Postby datdo » Mon 10.22.2007 9:31 pm

pshhh...linguists who needs them when you have math?

Oh and srry about the whole posting in the wrong forum thing...it seems I'm out of TJP shape....
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RE: Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 10.22.2007 10:18 pm

Somehow I think if non-specialists could demolish the argument/paper in a three paragraph message board post, it would have never even been written.
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RE: Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

Postby Gundaetiapo » Mon 10.22.2007 10:24 pm

Good article. It makes sense because common words are more enforced through experience while less common ones are more likely to have grammar rules extended on to them. The words they predict will never regularize are indeed the ones that sound the most unnatural if done so.

This phenomenon of irregularities congregating among the common words is something I've noticed in Japanese before having read about it wrt English. Afterall I've spent more time in my life studying Japanese than English.

pshhh...linguists who needs them when you have math?


Why wouldn't linguists use mathematics?
Last edited by Gundaetiapo on Mon 10.22.2007 10:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

Postby EvanT » Tue 10.23.2007 5:35 am

Somehow I think if non-specialists could demolish the argument/paper in a three paragraph message board post, it would have never even been written.


What? Am I the only one that noticed that the guys who wrote this stuff are evolutionary biologists and not linguists? If anyone is a non-specialist in this case it's them running rampant in someone else's field of expertise. As far as I'm concerned when it comes to linguistics, they're as laymen as I am. To be honest, if the article was about what the human race will look like in 10.000 years, I would be more inclined to believe their conclusions.

Futhermore the article is badly written and misleading, since these guys merely did a statistical analysis to try and predict the future of the PAST TENSE. The article's preface almost implies these guys squeezed the entire english language in a mathematical formula (which is obviously not the case).

Additionally, I'm mentioning a whole bunch of common sense factors that are known to affect the evolution of a language; factors these evolutionary scientists do not appear to have taken into consideration (or, at the very least, the article fails to mention if they did or not).

Finally, they're doing research. The fact that they found an aspect of English that can be quantified doesn't mean they'll be able to generalize it to the entire language. After all the point of research is to see if an assumption is correct or not. The answer could be either. The fact they're doing research should not and cannot be seen as conclusive evidence that their original hypothesis is valid.
Last edited by EvanT on Tue 10.23.2007 6:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

Postby JaySee » Tue 10.23.2007 8:36 am

I must also say I'm fairly skeptical about this research. Of course some linguistic phenomena can be captured in a formula (sound shifts for example tend to be very regular), but things like the regularisation of past tenses are something else.

If verb usage stays the same for the coming 2000 years then maybe the formula will hold out, but societies change over time, so this is unlikely to be the case. If "It regularizes them at a rate that is inversely proportional to the square root of their usage frequency" is true, does that mean that verbs like "to walk" and "to work" are/were used less often than verbs like "to fling" or "to grind"? That seems a bit odd. Clearly other factors play a role too.

To EvanT: Perhaps I'm being slightly nitpicky here, but there is no such thing as a "Celtogermanic" language. English is a Germanic language which only borrowed a handful of words from the Celtic languages, most of which are geographical names.
Last edited by JaySee on Tue 10.23.2007 8:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

Postby AJBryant » Tue 10.23.2007 1:24 pm

Why is this in "Movies and Music"?

I'm moving it to "General."


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RE: Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

Postby two_heads_talking » Tue 10.23.2007 2:02 pm

Gundaetiapo wrote:

Why wouldn't linguists use mathematics?


We wouldn't have math without linguists either. come on. let's just pull our heads out huh?
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RE: Predicting Evolution of Irregular Verbs

Postby EvanT » Tue 10.23.2007 6:50 pm

To Jay See:
To EvanT: Perhaps I'm being slightly nitpicky here, but there is no such thing as a "Celtogermanic" language. English is a Germanic language which only borrowed a handful of words from the Celtic languages, most of which are geographical names.


Feel free to be nitpicky. I was in fact quite wrong. I know that English's linguistic definition isn't Celtogermanic. but I find myself using the term even if inaccurate. It seems that people forget easily the historical background of England. I typically use the term to stir things up a bit. You'd be surprised how many people aren't quite happy with the "-germanic" part either :P
Last edited by EvanT on Tue 10.23.2007 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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