The constants e and π in linguistics

What can I say? It doesn't fit above, put it here. Also the location of board rules/info.
Post Reply
User avatar
eldin raigmore
fire
fire
Posts: 6184
Joined: Sat 14 Aug 2010, 18:38
Location: SouthEast Michigan

The constants e and π in linguistics

Post by eldin raigmore » Tue 11 Sep 2018, 03:47

I have recently noticed patterns in linguistics related to the transcendental consonants e (the base of the natural logarithms) and π (the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter).
I have not yet been able to figure out how these constants should be part of universal grammar; but the tendencies are too widespread to be mere coincidences.
Maybe someone better-versed than I in universal grammar can figure it out.

In very many languages, the number of values of some grammatical feature, is some whole number between e and π.
For instance:
The number of persons;
The number of tenses;
The number of genders;
The number of voices.

Why do you suppose that would be?
Edit: this is a joke.
Last edited by eldin raigmore on Wed 17 Oct 2018, 15:56, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Thrice Xandvii
darkness
darkness
Posts: 3829
Joined: Sun 25 Nov 2012, 10:13
Location: Carnassus

Re: The constants e and π in linguistics

Post by Thrice Xandvii » Tue 11 Sep 2018, 05:23

People really seem to gravitate toward the number 3, both in the way in which we interloquate, as well as just in terms of structural organization, etc. As such, any significant constants that are in the range of 3 will seem more significant than they actually are, at least, IMO.
Image
User avatar
gach
MVP
MVP
Posts: 707
Joined: Wed 07 Aug 2013, 00:26
Location: displaced from Helsinki

Re: The constants e and π in linguistics

Post by gach » Tue 11 Sep 2018, 10:44

To make this more rigorous, you certainly need a comparison with the amount of languages where the number of values that these grammatical features get is a whole number below e. For instance, how common are three gender systems when compared to two gender systems or the lack of gender (i.e. "one gender systems")? That's a nice idea for someone to play with WALS for an evening, looking through different grammatical features.

You'll have to deal with a fair bit of small number statistics when doing this, but I wouldn't be surprised to still find a good number of power laws out there. Some years ago I played a bit with the Princeton University WordNet database to figure out the distribution of polysemy in the English lexicon. What you find there, is that the distribution of definitions per word follows a fairly neat decreasing power law for all the major word classes, with an exponent -3.8 for nouns, -3.4 for adjectives, -3.5 for adverbs, and -2.7 for verbs. In other words, verbs are more polysemous than the other lexical word classes. The amount of data I had to work with here is significantly larger than what's possible when numbering the values of grammatical features, but I would suspect the underlying processes to be fairly similar there as well.
User avatar
sangi39
moderator
moderator
Posts: 3111
Joined: Thu 12 Aug 2010, 00:53
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Re: The constants e and π in linguistics

Post by sangi39 » Tue 11 Sep 2018, 22:57

eldin raigmore wrote:
Tue 11 Sep 2018, 03:47
@shimobaatar: this is a joke.
Eldin, try not to put words in other people's mouths, or single someone out and assume their reaction to your thread unnecessarily. Thank you.
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
User avatar
Lambuzhao
earth
earth
Posts: 7611
Joined: Sun 13 May 2012, 01:57

Re: The constants e and π in linguistics

Post by Lambuzhao » Sat 15 Sep 2018, 11:35

Why not just ask "Why do you suppose that there are there between 2-4 / mostly 2 or 3 of the following…?"

I mean, statistically, it's prolly much closer to use e and π as parameters, but IMHO √-1 natlangs
would have π number of tenses, or e number of tenses.

:wat:

Then again, I wasn't all that good with higher maths anyway.
[:$]
User avatar
Lambuzhao
earth
earth
Posts: 7611
Joined: Sun 13 May 2012, 01:57

Re: The constants e and π in linguistics

Post by Lambuzhao » Sat 15 Sep 2018, 11:41

sangi39 wrote:
Tue 11 Sep 2018, 22:57
eldin raigmore wrote:
Tue 11 Sep 2018, 03:47
@shimobaatar: this is a joke.
Eldin, try not to put words in other people's mouths, or single someone out and assume their reaction to your thread unnecessarily. Thank you.
I think he's trying to tell Shimo that the underlying proposition of e < # of x natlang verb tenses, etc < π is more quip or witticism than ad hominem.

But might have misread/misunderstood the spoiler.
Post Reply