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The Zipf Mystery

andreasmaaan

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#21
And is the Russian language the richer or poorer on that account?
This is the best explanation of it I've found. (I guess there are technical explanations out there that are more precise, ofc.)

NB: there are actually many languages that omit articles, so a more pertinent question might in fact be, "Why does English need them?"
 

andreasmaaan

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#22
Much of the greatest work throughout history was achieved when scholars had as much space as they required to express and examine their ideas i.e. within sensible limits, a book could be made as large as necessary. Imposing a limit of a few hundred characters could end up becoming the biggest step backwards since an ancient scribe had to fit his entire treatise on one side of a slab of stone.
I actually tend to disagree with this. The cheaper words are, the less need there is for clarity and precision.

If I'm sitting down to inscribe my philosophical treatise onto stone tablets, I'm likely to take more care to express myself clearly and succinctly than if I'm sitting in front of a typewriter. And the cost is even lower when I can cut/paste, delete and revise infinitely on a computer or tablet/smartphone.

The real problem today is not Twitter's 128-character limit, but quite the opposite: It's the fact there are no limits on the number of tweets I can write, or the number of times I can re-write them.
 

Killingbeans

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#25
I remember watching that video a few years ago when I had a minor Vsauce addiction. In the end I grew tired of his wordplay transition gimmick, and these days I mostly use Veritasium for my mindf##k science phenomena needs :)

Zipf's law is a freaky thing for sure. The more I think about the "mystery of existence", the more I'm convinced that it's nothing more than a huge jumble of statistics and entropy. We won a gigantic lottery where the jackpot was the fine-structure constant :D
 
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#26
And that is exactly my point. There appears to be little encouragement to speak, or write, with succinct accuracy.

Society appears to value efficiency in most things apart from the use of language.
A quick look around a large car park will tell you efficiency in vehicles is similarly not prized. Every other vehicle an oversized behemoth some days.
 

pkane

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#27
I remember watching that video a few years ago when I had a minor Vsauce addiction. In the end I grew tired of his wordplay transition gimmick, and these days I mostly use Veritasium for my mindf##k science phenomena needs :)

Zipf's law is a freaky thing for sure. The more I think about the "mystery of existence", the more I'm convinced that it's nothing more than a huge jumble of statistics and entropy. We won a gigantic lottery where the jackpot was the fine-structure constant :D
On the contrary, a simple law that underlies all reality points to an intelligent design and some basic, simplistic algorithm — we are obviously living in a computer simulation!
 

scott wurcer

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#29
If you have a few spare moments there are some polyglots doing Youtube videos. They can be stunning, ie. 6 African languages, 4 Chinese dialects with perfect accents, and most major Asian languages.
 

Martin

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#30
Proof of a higher power at work or everything stemming from random happenstance? My 17 year old son and I have another theory. The omniscient aliens who wrote the code for this matrix are lazy and keep reusing the same subroutine.

Martin
 

Newk Yuler

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#32
Haha! Schrodinger's cat or anything in a mysterious package that could be anything until someone opens it. Gravity. The super weird ways electrons behave. The sound a tree makes or doesn't make falling when there is nothing to hear it. It's all because of the way the existential simulation is programmed. One day humans will be smart enough to figure it out and there will a collective simulated soiling of pants when we realize we don't actually exist. Good times at ASR! :)
 

amirm

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#33
"The" is a definite article whereas "a/an" is an indefinite article. I spend a non-trivial amount of time at work correcting the/a/an errors.

Edit: this could use a better explanation and some examples. The choice of definite or indefinite article is contextual.
Alice: "I'm taking the car to the mall."
Bob: "Ok."

Alice: "I'm taking a car to the mall."
Bob: "Huh? Whose car?"
Wrong examples:

"I am taking car to Mall." Adding two "the"s to the sentence did not help communicate more yet it made it longer. Indeed there are languages where the word "the" does not exist. You think they won't be able to ever say they are taking their car to Mall? :)

I fully know how we use these words in English and justify their existence. But they really are fillers that could have been done without.
 

pkane

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#34
Haha! Schrodinger's cat or anything in a mysterious package that could be anything until someone opens it. Gravity. The super weird ways electrons behave. The sound a tree makes or doesn't make falling when there is nothing to hear it. It's all because of the way the existential simulation is programmed. One day humans will be smart enough to figure it out and there will a collective simulated soiling of pants when we realize we don't actually exist. Good times at ASR! :)
There's not much difference in existing in a simulation or in some "real" universe, whatever that means... That is, until someone turns off the computer.
 
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#35
Hmm I partially agree--realizing some languages don't have an equivalent to "the", yes it's possible to convey the same meaning without that definite article. I believe that is more a function of the rules of grammar of that language, though. For example, the default is to refer to something specific; the listener/reader is required to use context or other semantic clues (e.g., verb choice) to infer otherwise.

Regardless of whether "the" is filler or not, there's still clearly a distinction in meaning between the two sentences in English. One is specific and the other is not.
 

Wombat

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#36
So Amir is not the man re ASR?
Don't%20tell%20anyone.gif
 

amirm

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#37

Wombat

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#38
I understand that those with different backgrounds may find English to be a structural mine-field.
English keeps evolving. I can't imagine the use of definite and indefinite articles being dropped and I can't see allocating gender to objects being adopted, though.

Unlike the French, English users are somewhat tolerant to misuse or new input of/to their language(historical/evolution), although the missing apostrophe crowd can get noisy.

Being understood is what is important. ;)


One difference amuses me:

English: "I dropped the glass"

Another language: "The glass, it dropped".

Very different.
 
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