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Say Goodbye to 'Savage': Language Trends Only Last For 14 Years, Researchers Say

Nov 28, 2016 05:17 AM EST
Language Trends Only Last For 14 Years, Researchers Say
Scientists have discovered that despite "end-of-year" lists and 2016's "post-truth" as Oxford Dictionary's word of the year, certain words just function for 14 years at a time.
(Photo : Photo by Putu Sayoga/Getty Images)

It appears there's more to culture than just "generations" and "millennials." Scientists have discovered that despite "end-of-year" lists and 2016's "post-truth" as Oxford Dictionary's word of the year, certain words just function for 14 years at a time.

This interesting find came from a study of the University of Manchester, UK and Argentina's National Council for Scientific and Technical Research. 

Researchers Marcelo Montemurro and Damian Zanette analyzed the popularity of 5,630 common nouns over the course of the last three centuries.

According to New Scientist, they wrote a code that lets Google Ngram scan through the words across its database of five million digitized books. They ranked the nouns in order of popularity and tracked the changes from the year 1700 to 2008.

Interestingly, they found out that English words rose and fell out of popularity in cycles of 14 years. This increased with one to two years over the past century. The same trend has been found in other words in French, German, Russian, Italian, and Spanish. Related nouns such as king, queen, and duchess even rose and fell over time.

Some words coincided with historical events, such as the two world wars. While the reasons for these is unclear, Montemurro said it might be because of political trends. 

Their research suggests that language does evolve according to the pattern, like how genes are transferred to children. However, future research will have to rule out to the possibility of statistical flukes with the data. 

However, the reason why the trends only last for a period of 14 years is a strange phenomenon. Earlier studies also suggest that baby names rise and fall out of popularity for about a generation. However, Montemurro thinks the 14-year cycles have more to do than just chance.

Regardless, future studies about this phenomenon may open up vast possibilities about human behavior and the nature of fashion and trends.

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