Rank-frequency distribution of natural languages: A difference of probabilities approach

TitleRank-frequency distribution of natural languages: A difference of probabilities approach
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsCocho, G, Rodríguez, RF, Sánchez, S, Flores, J, Pineda, C, Gershenson, C
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
KeywordsFokker–Planck equation, Languages, Master equation, Rank dynamics

In this paper we investigate the time variation of the rank k of words for six Indo-European languages using the Google Books N-gram Dataset. Based on numerical evidence, we regard k as a random variable whose dynamics may be described by a Fokker–Planck equation which we solve analytically. For low ranks the distinct languages behave differently, maybe due to the syntax rules, whereas for k>50 the law of large numbers predominates. We analyze the frequency distribution of words using the data and their adjustment in terms of time-dependent probability density distributions. We find small differences between the data and the fits due to conflicting dynamic mechanisms, but the data show a consistent behavior with our general approach. For the lower ranks the behavior of the data changes among languages presumably, again, due to distinct dynamic mechanisms. We discuss a possible origin of these differences and assess the novel features and limitations of our work.