Running out of alphabet

  • Thread starter waht
  • Start date
  • #1
1,497
3
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?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
18
0
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.
 
  • #3
Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,083
18
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?

ZFD01r6ersw[/youtube]
 
  • #4
DaveC426913
Gold Member
19,754
2,996
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?
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.
 
  • #5
239
0
To some extent the answer is of course. Language changes...
 
  • #6
russ_watters
Mentor
20,865
7,373
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.
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.
 
  • #7
CRGreathouse
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
2,824
0
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.

The number of finite paragraphs is countably infinite.
 
  • #8
505
0
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.
 
  • #9
1,497
3
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.
 
  • #10
DaveC426913
Gold Member
19,754
2,996
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.

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.
 
  • #11
659
3
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.
 
  • #12
1,031
16
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?
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?
 
  • #13
BobG
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
223
82
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).
 

Related Threads on Running out of alphabet

  • Last Post
Replies
8
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
10
Views
3K
Replies
56
Views
6K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
29
Views
4K
  • Last Post
8
Replies
188
Views
31K
  • Last Post
Replies
12
Views
2K
Replies
12
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
14
Views
4K
Replies
11
Views
1K
Top