Towards a rigorous motivation for Ziph's law
Alday, P. M.
Towards a rigorous motivation for Ziph's law. In S. G. Roberts, C. Cuskley, L. McCrohon, L. Barceló-Coblijn, O. Feher, & T. Verhoef (Eds.
), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference (EVOLANG11)
. Retrieved from http://evolang.org/neworleans/papers/178.html.
Language evolution can be viewed from two viewpoints: the development of a communicative
system and the biological adaptations necessary for producing and perceiving said system. The
communicative-system vantage point has enjoyed a wealth of mathematical models based on
simple distributional properties of language, often formulated as empirical laws. However, be-
yond vague psychological notions of “least effort”, no principled explanation has been proposed
for the existence and success of such laws. Meanwhile, psychological and neurobiological mod-
els have focused largely on the computational constraints presented by incremental, real-time
processing. In the following, we show that information-theoretic entropy underpins successful
models of both types and provides a more principled motivation for Zipf’s Law