Topic: words in natural languages

topics > communication > Group: natural language


abstraction as part of language
abstraction by name
dictionary for natural language
meaning of words
names as rigid designators
number representation
philosophy of mind
pidgin and creole languages
pronoun reference
proper names
semantic networks
spelling errors
symbolic representation
thesaurus and information retrieval


A natural language is made up of words. These tend to be the entities relevant to meaning. A fluent English speaker knows tens of thousands of words.

Languages are reinvented when a community adopts a new language. The last developmental stage is an alphabetical language of words with a well- defined morphological structure. Newport and Supalla have found the same structure in mimetic sign language.

Nouns can be classified as count or mass nouns. English adjectives have a rank that determines their position under multiple adjectives. (cbb 5/94)

Subtopic: morphology up

Quote: natural languages use a simple morphology for words; e.g., singular vs. plural and shell-like word structure about the root [»newpEL_1982]
Quote: nouns are either count nouns with singular and plural forms or mass nouns without; e.g., 'bean' and 'beans' vs. 'rice' [»ziffP_1960]
Quote: pidgin grammars lack surface and morphological complexity. Pidgins use semantic transparency, a limited vocabulary, and limited function words [»sebbM_1997]
Quote: the use of a word depends on more than its meaning; also phonetic, syntactic, morphology and etymology [»ziffP_1960]
Quote: morphological dimensions in mimetic ASL for movement, handshape, orientation, manner, basehand, and process morphemes; e.g., FLY vs. AIRPLANE [»newpEL_1982]
Quote: the first step in understanding the unformalizable is dynamical models that are compatible with a given morphology [»thomR_1975]
Quote: the class of grammatical sequences must be predetermined, but can't simply list all of the morphemes as done with phonemes [»quinWV8_1951]
Quote: mimetic depiction in American Sign Language is like morphology in spoken languages; small number of discrete components and combinations [»newpEL_1982]
Quote: speech uses discrete words or morphemes for expressing concepts
Quote: Eskimo words use a synthetic morphology to build words by suffixation; choice of suffixes varies by speaker and situation [»martL6_1986]
Quote: Eskimo uses two roots for snow itself; qanik for snow in the air and aput for snow on the ground [»martL6_1986]
Quote: earliest reference to Eskimos and snow; four unrelated words for snow on the ground, snow drift, falling snow, and drifting snow [»martL6_1986]

Subtopic: type vs. token up

Quote: type-token--an utterance type is a set of utterance tokens, e.g., two utterances of 'A cow.' and 'A cow.'; ignores differences [»ziffP_1960]

Subtopic: noun vs. verb up

Quote: noun-verb interaction with generic commands mirrors natural languages: many nouns for data, a few verbs for data transformations that are inherently complex; e.g., Xerox Star and Apple Macintosh [»myerBA_1992]
Quote: three most popular verbs for each operation totaled a third of all responses [»landTK7_1983]
Quote: in ASL mimetic depiction there are 7 movement roots, i.e., verbs of motion and location; e.g., hold root to indicate "be stationary" [»newpEL_1982]

Subtopic: adjective up

Quote: English adjectives have relative ranks that order multiple occurrences; e.g., 'a red wooden table' [»ziffP_1960]

Subtopic: patterns as words up

Quote: a master chess player has between 25,000 and 100,000 schemata; similar to an educated person's vocabulary [»sowaJF_1984]

Subtopic: actions as words up

Quote: organized activity is performed in terms of clearly understood, repeatable units; e.g., 3/4" flat-head, pipette, McDonald's [»holtAW_1997]

Subtopic: number words up

Quote: numerals 1..9 are the first letters for number words in Sanskrit; universally used [»blisCK_1965]

Subtopic: strong names up

Quote: the identity of a CLI assembly consists of an originator key, name, version number, and optional cultural; variations via satellite assemblies [»meijE10_2002]

Subtopic: phoneme up

Quote: perhaps the phoneme is constructed, if at all, as a consequence of perception, not as a step of perception [»oettAG_1972]
Quote: every human language standardizes on a few dozen phonemes even though humans can produce an infinity of sounds [»sowaJF_1984]
Quote: the phoneme may be the consequence of perception instead of an intermediate form [»dreyHL_1979]
Quote: sounds are different phonemes if substitution changes the meaning [»quinWV8_1951]
Quote: the syntactic structure and phonemes of a sentence depends on its meaning [»oettAG_1972]
Quote: phonemes form a highly structured system; if one is lost in a dialect, all the others are shifted [»sowaJF_1984]

Subtopic: word frequency, Zipf's law up

Quote: human lexical access time depends on word frequency and polysemy (number of word senses); the two are also correlated [»beckR7_1990]
Quote: Zipf's law--the product of frequency rank and frequency is a constant in natural language discourse; Zipf provided an explanation [»blaiDC_1990]
Quote: Zipf's law--the size of a vocabulary in use is the frequency of its most used word
Quote: Zipf's law is from a vocabulary balance between speakers wanting to use the same word for all tasks and listeners wanting different words [»blaiDC_1990]
Quote: on average, subjects visited 60% of their pages only once, 4% four times, and a handful frequently [»tausL7_1997]
Quote: a word's rank in Ulysses times its frequency of occurrence is a constant; i.e. a 45 degree line on log-log paper with steps for low frequencies [»zipfGK_1949]
Quote: need the right sample size to get a hyperbolic relationship for rank vs. frequency in Zipf's law
Quote: the number of meanings for a word is the square root of the word's frequency; e.g., Thorndike's index of 10 million running words [»zipfGK_1949]
Quote: even distribution of interval sizes (logarithmic) for words that occur 6 to 24 times in Ulysses; demonstrates an even distribution of effort [»zipfGK_1949]
Quote: Law of Abbreviation: if arrange tools linearly away from an artisan, the tools will tend to increase in size, weight and distance as they decrease in frequency of use [»zipfGK_1949]
Quote: two examples of the inverse relationship between the length of a word and its frequency of use [»zipfGK_1949]
Quote: 27% of messages from posters who post once in six months; 25% of messages from 3% of posters [»whitS11_1998]
Quote: can use Zipf's law to determine retrieval system effectiveness; want Zipfian rank:frequency for context and subject description usage [»blaiDC_1990]

Related Topics up

Group: grammar   (8 topics, 181 quotes)
Group: naming   (32 topics, 789 quotes)
Group: philosophy   (60 topics, 2323 quotes)

Topic: abstraction as part of language (18 items)
Topic: abstraction by name (29 items)
Topic: dictionary for natural language (41 items)
Topic: entities (20 items)
Topic: meaning of words (21 items)
Topic: names as rigid designators (43 items)
Topic: number representation (16 items)
Topic: philosophy of mind (78 items)
Topic: pidgin and creole languages (31 items)
Topic: pronoun reference (23 items)
Topic: proper names (35 items)
Topic: semantic networks (42 items)
Topic: spelling errors (18 items)
Topic: symbolic representation (26 items)
Topic: thesaurus and information retrieval
(29 items)

Updated barberCB 7/05
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