Category “Linguistics”

Zipf’s Law

“Zipf’s Law describes the power law patterning of the ordering of word frequencies. The frequency of a particular word in natural languages is found to be proportional with its rank: the most commonly used word is twice as frequent as the second most common word, three times as frequent as the third most common word, etc. Cancho and Solé were able to model the emergence of Zipf’s power law distribution in a network describing the effort required in mutual understanding between a hearer and a speaker. Language which relies upon maximum rigidity of word and meaning associations (such as computational machine language) requires too much work for the speaker, whereas language which allows maximum flexibility of associations (such as dream language) requires too much work for the hearer. Least effort is achieved at a point of creative ambiguity, a sudden transition point in which words are distributed in Zipf’s power law relation.”

– From a thesis on Hermeutic Gaia by Adam Croft

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