English language doubles over last century.
The English language is enjoying unprecedented growth causing it to have nearly doubled in size over the last century, claims a new study. Researchers at Harvard University and Google found that the language was expanding by 8,500 words a year in the new millennium and now stands at 1,022,000 words.
The rate of increase over the years is shown by the fact the language has grown by more than 70 per cent since 1950, according to the study.
The previous half century it only grew by a tenth.
But nearly half of the new words are not included in any dictionary and are dubbed lexical “dark matter”. They are either slang or invented jargon.
The findings came from the computer analyse of 5,195,769 digitised books (approximately four per cent of all the books ever printed) published between 1800 and 2000.
Jean-Baptiste Michel and colleagues refer to this experiment as “culturomics,” and they say their study can be used to inform fields as diverse as the evolution of grammar, collective memory, the adoption of technology, the pursuit of fame, the effects of censorship and historical epidemiology—just to name a few.
“Now that a significant fraction of the world’s books have been digitised, it’s possible for computer-aided analysis to reveal undiscovered trends in history, culture, language, and thought,” says Jon Orwant, engineering manager for Google Books.
Other findings were that humanity is forgetting its past faster with every passing year, that fame has become more fleeting and inventions enter the public consciousness much more quickly than they did in the 19th century and 20th century.
Modern celebrities are younger and more famous than their 19th-century predecessors, but their fame is shorter-lived, the computer analysis shows.
Celebrities born in 1950 initially achieved fame at an average age of 29, compared to 43 for celebrities born in 1800.
But their fame also disappears faster, with a “half-life” that is increasingly short.
“People are getting more famous than ever before,” the researchers write, “but are being forgotten more rapidly than ever.”
The most famous actors tend to become famous earlier (around age 30) than the most famous writers (around age 40) and politicians (after age 50).
But patience pays off – Top politicians end up much more famous than the best-known actors.
The four-year effort was published in the journal Science.