links for 2009-04-11

  • In which some Harvard mathematicians conceive of linguistic development in terms of natural selection. "Just as genes and organisms undergo natural selection, words — specifically, irregular verbs that do not take an '-ed' ending in the past tense — are subject to powerful pressure to 'regularize' as the language develops." And they come up with an algorithm. A verb used a hundred times less frequently, they say, will evolve 10 times as fast – a squeezing, conforming effect. Result: all new verbs entering the English language (googled, facebooked, delicious'd) are universally regular.

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