The role of grammar in transition-probabilities of subsequent words in English text

Hanel, R. & Thurner, S. (2020). The role of grammar in transition-probabilities of subsequent words in English text. PLoS ONE 15 (10) e0240018. 10.1371/journal.pone.0240018.

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Sentence formation is a highly structured, history-dependent, and sample-space reducing (SSR) process. While the first word in a sentence can be chosen from the entire vocabulary, typically, the freedom of choosing subsequent words gets more and more constrained by grammar and context, as the sentence progresses. This sample-space reducing property offers a natural explanation of Zipf’s law in word frequencies, however, it fails to capture the structure of the word-to-word transition probability matrices of English text. Here we adopt the view that grammatical constraints (such as subject–predicate–object) locally re-order the word order in sentences that are sampled by the word generation process. We demonstrate that superimposing grammatical structure–as a local word re-ordering (permutation) process–on a sample-space reducing word generation process is sufficient to explain both, word frequencies and word-to-word transition probabilities. We compare the performance of the grammatically ordered SSR model in reproducing several test statistics of real texts with other text generation models, such as the Bernoulli model, the Simon model, and the random typewriting model.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 08:44
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:33

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