Following the evolution of language

Nature has put a couple of short video interviews online to accompany two papers published in this week’s edition that explain how certain aspects Indo-European languages have evolved over time.

The first study is by the inimitable Erez Lieberman and looks at why the used of ‘ed’ to make past tense verbs in the English language (e.g. ‘juggled’) has become so widespread despite historical competition with other irregular versions, only a few of which now exist.

The researchers found that the more frequently the a verb is used in the language, the less quickly it becomes regularised in the language.

A similar technique was used in a study by Mark Pagel and colleagues, who found that in Indo-European languages, the more frequently a word is used the less likely it is to be replaced.

The video interviews are with two members of the Pagel lab, who describe their findings and their significance.

Link to Nature video interviews on the evolution of language.
Link to Nature editorial with links to studies.
Link to write-up from Nature News.

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