The structure of the lexicon reflects principles of communication

Molly LewisStanford University
Elise SugarmanStanford University
Mike FrankStanford University

Abstract

We explore a previously undescribed regularity in language: a bias for longer words to map to relatively more complex meanings. While theories of communication make the more general prediction that longer utterances should be associated with more complex meanings, this prediction has not yet been explored at the level of words. Through norming and experimental studies, we find evidence in support of a complexity bias in word meanings. We conclude by discussing hypotheses about the nature of this bias.

Files

The structure of the lexicon reflects principles of communication (347 KB)



Back to Table of Contents