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Running out of alphabet

  1. Dec 30, 2008 #1
    English alphabet has 26 letters. A word is just a finite sequence of letters. A sentence is just a finite sequence of words. A paragraph is a finite sequence sentences. It only suffices to say that there exists only a finite number of paragraphs possible (could be billions) but fewer yet exist which have been accepted to represent ideas phonetically by the spoken language.

    As the number of creative people grows, each producing a unique quality work in form of a set of paragraphs, it suffices to SAY, that the pool of available paragraphs will start to deplete. As a result it will be harder to come up with something more creative and original, plagiarism will rise (whether intentional or not) and the language as a whole will become stagnant.

    It still may take a couple hundred years, but do you think something like this will happen? Or will new words introduced in the dictionary be enough to revitalize the language?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 30, 2008 #2
    Really, I don't think I run out of words at all, I can express the same terminology "prostitution" in at least 6 different words and multiple statements. I am learning some more. Tomorrow on I will write up in this thread if you still wish.
    Because I think I was born with a tongue and now my tongue is still in my mouth, so I can speak.
     
  4. Dec 30, 2008 #3

    Gokul43201

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    ZFD01r6ersw[/youtube]
     
  5. Dec 30, 2008 #4

    DaveC426913

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    Try doing the math. To make it easy, just start with how many possible paragraphs there are now. To get you started, there are something like 30,000 common words in the English language.
     
  6. Dec 30, 2008 #5
    To some extent the answer is of course. Language changes...
     
  7. Dec 30, 2008 #6

    russ_watters

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    Billions? You seriously underestimate the possible number of combinations. Lets limit this to just words that are commonly used in most peoples' vocabularies. Perhaps that's 10,000. There are a hundred billion billion combinations of five word sentences available. Even if only a miniscule fraction of them make any sense - say, one in a billion - that's still a hundred billion sentences of five words.
     
  8. Dec 30, 2008 #7

    CRGreathouse

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    The number of finite paragraphs is countably infinite.
     
  9. Dec 30, 2008 #8
    If a paragraph has 200 words and you know 10,000 words (10^4), then you have 10^800 possibilities, and that's limiting it to HAVE to be 200 words. If you make it so a paragraph is anywhere from 150-250 words, you get even more. Now of course only a tiny amount of those make sense, but a tiny percentage of such an impossibly giant number is still HHHUUUUGGGGEEEE. If everyone on earth were to write unique paragraphs all day every day, at the rate of 1 every 5 minutes (so 288 paragraphs in 24 hours), for 80 years, that would only be around 5.5*10^16.
     
  10. Dec 30, 2008 #9
    I'm not saying that people should fill all the possibilities, but only those that are very unique such as poems, lyrics or short stories. That reduces the 10^800 possibilities to a much smaller number. So theoretically it should be harder to come up with an original poem, or lyrics for a song because the combination of words has already been taken.
     
  11. Dec 30, 2008 #10

    DaveC426913

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    Yes. In principle - given unlimited time and no dynamicism in the language - it will run out.

    But you are drastically underestimating the scale.

    In practice, the timescale to run out is larger than the duration of modern languages so there will be change. And that means it will not run out.
     
  12. Dec 31, 2008 #11
    I wonder if anyone has bothered to compute a database of all possible permissible 5-word sentences. (100 billion*5*10 thousand) bits = 560 terabytes is not an outrageous number given modern storage space.
     
  13. Dec 31, 2008 #12
    English alphabet has 26 letters. A word is just a finite sequence of letters. A sentence is just a finite sequence of words. A paragraph is a finite sequence sentences. It only suffices to say that there exists only a finite number of paragraphs possible (could be billions) but fewer yet exist which have been accepted to represent ideas phonetically by the spoken language.

    As the number of creative people grows, each producing a unique quality work in form of a set of paragraphs, it suffices to SAY, that the pool of available paragraphs will start to deplete. As a result it will be harder to come up with something more creative and original, plagiarism will rise (whether intentional or not) and the language as a whole will become stagnant.

    It still may take a couple hundred years, but do you think something like this will happen? Or will new words introduced in the dictionary be enough to revitalize the language?
     
  14. Dec 31, 2008 #13

    BobG

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    You can't just look at the number of words available. There has to be a certain structure to each sentence. You need a subject, verb, etc and you can't just stick a noun where a subject goes.

    There are exceptions, of course - Sarah Palin constantly provided a slew of good examples. If you don't restrict yourself to real sentences, then I guess the number of nonsense phrases that could be uttered becomes very large.

    If we run out of alphabet, we could just switch to the Cyrillic alphabet. That has 40 letters (I think).
     
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