Language Design and Efficient Communication

Alternative solutions to a language design problem: The role of adjectives and gender marking in efficient communication
Published: 16 Dec 2017

This paper uses insights from Information Theory to investigate how the grammatical properties of a language affect information processing.

Petar, who has made significant contributions to an Information Theoretic approach to language (Milin et al 2009, see link below), worked with Melody Dye to design a method that compares the efficiency of languages that mark nouns for gender, such as German, and languages like English that do not do this.

The paper, co-authored with Melody Dye, Richard Futrell, and Michael Ramscar, was awarded the Marr Prize at the 2017 Cognitive Science Society conference. The Marr Prize, named in honor of the late David Marr, is given to the best paper with a student as first author.

Further information:

Petar’s 2009 paper shows how relative entropy can be used to capture the effects that morphological complexity has on processing:

Milin P, Filipović Đurđević D & Moscoso del Prado Martín F (2009) The simultaneous effects of inflectional paradigms and classes on lexical recognition: Evidence from Serbian. Journal of Memory and Language, 60(1), 50-64.

If you are new to the area, Petar’s accessible introduction to Information Theory and morphological processing is a great place to start:

Milin P, Kuperman V, Kostic A & Baayen RH (2009) Words and paradigms bit by bit: An information-theoretic approach to the processing of inflection and derivation. In Blevins JP & Blevins J (Ed.), Analogy in Grammar: Form and Acquisition (pp. 214-252). Oxford: Oxford University Press.