[b-hebrew] Zipf and B-Hebrew
pporta at oham.net
pporta at oham.net
Sun Oct 14 01:23:53 EDT 2007
> 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
> 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
> 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.
I'm afraid you should be more precise if you would like to get some answers
to your question. Every human language has words with a single meaning and
words with two, three... meanings. I think the true is that this fact is
quite independent from speaker's and hearer's will: that is why the context
is so necessary to make the meaning of a given word clear and unambiguous.
Let us consider
1. the noun )B: it means "father" everywhere in the Bible.
2. the noun N"BEL: --it means "skin-bottle" in 1Sa 1:24 and --it means "a
musical instrument" in 1Sa 10:5
3. the verb XFBAL: --it means "to bind" in Ez 18:16 and --it means "to act
corruptly" in Ne 1:7
And so on.
And this applies, I feel, to every human language: English, Russian,
French... and Hebrew.
Perhaps you should make Zipf's law more understandable so that list members
may show their thoughts.
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