Word frequencies and Zipf’s law

There is a well-known relationship between the frequency of words in a text and the ranking of those frequencies. The relationship is known as Zipf’s law and is one example of a relationship called a power law. Power laws crop up in many other settings. For example, they arise in investigating the distribution of populations…… Continue reading Word frequencies and Zipf’s law

When the machines started hallucinating

The Cambridge Dictionary—an online dictionary for learners of English—has added a new meaning to its definition of ‘hallucinate’ and has picked ‘hallucinate’ as its Word of the Year for 2023. Cambridge Dictionary names ‘Hallucinate’ Word of the Year 2023 | University of Cambridge Hallucinating ‘false information’ This year has seen a surge in interest in…… Continue reading When the machines started hallucinating

Nynorsk writer wins Nobel literature prize

The winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature was someone who writes in Norwegian, Jon Fosse. That award is notable not just because Fosse is the first winner known best for his plays since Harold Pinter (2005). And not just because he is the first winner who writes in Norwegian since Sigrid Undset (1928).…… Continue reading Nynorsk writer wins Nobel literature prize

Accounting is not a language

It has become a cliché to say that accounting is the language of business. That metaphor is helpful because it emphasises that accounting conveys vital information about business. But the metaphor can be unhelpful because, although accounting is a system for conveying information, accounting lacks most features of real human languages, such as Arabic, Chinese,…… Continue reading Accounting is not a language

How many nouns are there in Finnish?

How many nouns are there in Finnish? A paper by Fred Karlsson investigates that question. The paper also considers their sound structure. Karlsson used a machine-readable version of the Reverse Dictionary of Modern Standard Finnish (RDF, Suomen kielen käänteissanakirja). This lists 72,785 entries. Of those, 34,673 (47.6 %) have the code ‘S’, short for noun…… Continue reading How many nouns are there in Finnish?

Solvenian, Croatian and Serbian words in context

I came across an on-line tool that generates lists of similar words (or phrases) and synonyms for 3 languages: Slovenian (SL), Croatian (HR) and Serbian (SR). Here’s how to use it: go to https://www.kontekst.io select the language you want. enter a word in the search box and hit enter (or select one of the small…… Continue reading Solvenian, Croatian and Serbian words in context

English Grammar Day

I went along yesterday to an event at University College London (UCL) called English Grammar Day. This was the first time I have been, though it has been held for the last 10 years. The event seems to be aimed mainly at school teachers and academics. I give below summaries of the 6 talks, which…… Continue reading English Grammar Day