Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Elements of Penguins

The BBC reports that “new research suggests” penguin speech follows rules of human language:

The animals follow two main laws – that more frequently used words are briefer (Zipf’s law of brevity), and longer words are composed of extra but briefer syllables (Menzerath-Altmann law). Scientists say this is the first instance of these laws observed outside primates, suggesting an ecological pressure of brevity and efficiency in animal vocalisations.
Omit needless sounds!

Related reading
All OCA Elements of Style posts (Pinboard)

[I know, of course, that the laws in play here describe the workings of language. They have nothing to do with William Strunk Jr.’s “Omit needless words,” which stresses concision in the sentence. I’m just having fun.]

comments: 2

Richard Abbott said...

This is really interesting... very glad you spotted it and brought it to our attention!

Michael Leddy said...

Happy to share it!