Consciousness and how it got to be that way

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Verb Regularization Rate in English

"The half-life of an irregular verb scales as the square root of its usage frequency: a verb that is 100 times less frequent regularizes 10 times as fast." From Lieberman et al in Nature. An interesting question is to what other morphosyntactic rules this generalizes to, like noun plurals (and to what extent is it influenced by phonetic realization. My guess: not very much.) Pinker and many others knew qualitatively that the less a verb is used, the more likely it is to become regular in a given time period. Now we have the quantitative rule.

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