Today's Elites

Saturday, January 22, 2011

More Chaotic Babble

Viz, what passes for professional linguistics these days! Perhaps its savantry...When Heine attacked the political Chaoten in his day, little did he imagine that they would emerge as such garrulous scientific types. Wilhelm Von Humboldt said the measure of a language is its ability to enhance intellectual capabilities of its speakers. Here and now our post moderns will turn poor Humboldt on his head! Hey presto! What marvelous meretricious palaverous blather is this? They know not whereof they speak...

"Human languages evolve continuously, and a puzzling problem is how to reconcile the apparent robustness of most of the deep linguistic structures we use with the evidence that they undergo possibly slow, yet ceaseless, changes. Is the state in which we observe languages today closer to what would be a dynamical attractor with statistically stationary properties or rather closer to a non-steady state slowly evolving in time? Here we address this question in the framework of the emergence of shared linguistic categories in a population of individuals interacting through language games. The observed emerging asymptotic categorization, which has been previously tested - with success - against experimental data from human languages, corresponds to a metastable state where global shifts are always possible but progressively more unlikely and the response properties depend on the age of the system. This aging mechanism exhibits striking quantitative analogies to what is observed in the statistical mechanics of glassy systems. We argue that this can be a general scenario in language dynamics where shared linguistic conventions would not emerge as attractors, but rather as metastable states."

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