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120413 Drastic increase in the death rate of words | by Ian Bunn
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120413 Drastic increase in the death rate of words

Joel Tenenbaum the 28 year old doctoral student in physics at Boston University is part of a team undertaking a scientific analysis of language usage over the past two centuries in literature. In an article by Alison Flood published in the Guardian, Tenenbaum’s team states in their report “words are competing actors in a system of finite resources" with a "drastic increase in the death rate of words… Most changes to the vocabulary in the last 10 to 20 years are due to the extinction of misspelled words and nonsensical print errors, and to the decreased birth rate of new misspelled variations and genuinely new words… The words that are dying are those words with low relative use. We confirm by visual inspection that the lists of dying words contain mostly misspelled and nonsensical words… Analogous to recessions and booms in a global economy, the marketplace for words waxes and wanes with a global pulse as historical events unfold, and in analogy to financial regulations meant to limit risk and market domination, standardisation technologies such as the dictionary and spellcheckers serve as powerful arbiters in determining the characteristic properties of word evolution."

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Taken on April 11, 2012