Statistical patterns of word frequency suggesting the probabilistic nature of human languages

Shuiyuan Yu, Chunshan Xu, Haitao Liu

Traditional linguistic theories have largely regard language as a formal system composed of rigid rules. However, their failures in processing real language, the recent successes in statistical natural language processing, and the findings of many psychological experiments have suggested that language may be more a probabilistic system than a formal system, and thus cannot be faithfully modeled with the either/or rules of formal linguistic theory. The present study, based on authentic language data, confirmed that those important linguistic issues, such as linguistic universal, diachronic drift, and language variations can be translated into probability and frequency patterns in parole. These findings suggest that human language may well be probabilistic systems by nature, and that statistical may well make inherent properties of human languages.

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