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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2022

Can frequency predict length? A crosslinguistic investigation of Zipf’s law for European adpositions

From the book Maltese

  • Maike Vorholt


The aim of this crosslinguistic investigation is to shed light on European adpositions. The proportion of adpositions in press corpora is compared for the sample languages. Additionally, a relationship between length and frequency as stated by Zipf’s law of abbreviation (Zipf 1935) will be examined. Languages were chosen from different language families in Europe, which led to a convenience sample of 16 languages, including Maltese. The comparison reveals that adposition inventories are quite divergent, both in terms of size and composition. Moreover, it will be shown that adposition proportions vary significantly across corpora. The results show that length can be predicted by frequency for the majority of languages in the sample, Maltese being one of them.

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