[b-hebrew] Zipf and B-Hebrew

biblical hebrew jcr.bhebrew at gmail.com
Sat Oct 13 14:37:21 EDT 2007


Hi all,

I was wondering what people's opinions about one of Zipf's  ideas  are.
Zipf, best  known  for  Zipf's law, suggests  that  there is a playoff
between ease of speaking and ease of understanding that forces the
distribution of words which have single unambiguous meanings and words that
have multiple meanings discerned from context. That is to say that the
optimal situation for the speaker would be that language consisted of one
word which could express every possible meaning while the optimal situation
for the hearer would be that every word had a unique meaning so that no
ambiguities need be resolved. He further suggests that these conflicting
interests create linguistic forces which cause any given language to, in a
manner of compromise between the needs of the speaker and of the hearer,
have a mix of unambiguous words and words with multiple meanings with the
rarest words typically having a very specific and unambiguous meaning and
the most common words having the most possible semantic meanings
disambiguated by context.

I was wondering what the list members feelings about Zipf's proposal are
with respect to b-hebrew. Are his ideas supported by the evidence in the
b-hebrew corpus? Are there any examples which contradict his proposal?

Thanks in advance for any help.

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James Christian Read - BSc Computer Science
http://www.lamie.org/hebrew       Thesis 1 - Aleppo codex machine translation
http://www.lamie.org/lad-sim.doc  Thesis 2 - language acquisition simulation


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