Statistical Laws Governing Fluctuations in Word Use from Word Birth to Word Death

Scientific Reports 2, 313 (2012). DOI: 10.1038/srep00313

22 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2011 Last revised: 22 Jun 2012

See all articles by Alexander Michael Petersen

Alexander Michael Petersen

University of California Merced, Ernest and Julio Gallo Management Program

Joel Tenenbaum

Boston University

Shlomo Havlin

Bar Ilan University

H. Eugene Stanley

Boston University - Center for Polymer Studies

Date Written: July 20, 2011

Abstract

We analyze the dynamic properties of 10^7 words recorded in English, Spanish and Hebrew over the period 1800--2008 in order to gain insight into the coevolution of language and culture. We report language independent patterns useful as benchmarks for theoretical models of language evolution. A significantly decreasing (increasing) trend in the birth (death) rate of words indicates a recent shift in the selection laws governing word use. For new words, we observe a peak in the growth-rate fluctuations around 40 years after introduction, consistent with the typical entry time into standard dictionaries and the human generational timescale. Pronounced changes in the dynamics of language during periods of war shows that word correlations, occurring across time and between words, are largely influenced by coevolutionary social, technological, and political factors. We quantify cultural memory by analyzing the long-term correlations in the use of individual words using detrended fluctuation analysis.

Keywords: quantitative linguistics, competition, growth dynamics, birth rate, death rate, culturomics

Suggested Citation

Petersen, Alexander Michael and Tenenbaum, Joel and Havlin, Shlomo and Stanley, H. Eugene, Statistical Laws Governing Fluctuations in Word Use from Word Birth to Word Death (July 20, 2011). Scientific Reports 2, 313 (2012). DOI: 10.1038/srep00313 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1890569 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1890569

Alexander Michael Petersen (Contact Author)

University of California Merced, Ernest and Julio Gallo Management Program ( email )

School of Engineering
Science & Engineering 2, Suite 315
Merced, CA 95343
United States

Joel Tenenbaum

Boston University ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Shlomo Havlin

Bar Ilan University ( email )

Ramat Gan
Ramat Gan, 52900
Israel

HOME PAGE: http://havlin.biu.ac.il/

H. Eugene Stanley

Boston University - Center for Polymer Studies ( email )

Boston, MA 02215
United States

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