Identifying Trends in Word Frequency Dynamics

Eduardo G. Altmann, Zakary L. Whichard, Adilson E. Motter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The word-stock of a language is a complex dynamical system in which words can be created, evolve, and become extinct. Even more dynamic are the short-term fluctuations in word usage by individuals in a population. Building on the recent demonstration that word niche is a strong determinant of future rise or fall in word frequency, here we introduce a model that allows us to distinguish persistent from temporary increases in frequency. Our model is illustrated using a 108-word database from an online discussion group and a 1011-word collection of digitized books. The model reveals a strong relation between changes in word dissemination and changes in frequency. Aside from their implications for short-term word frequency dynamics, these observations are potentially important for language evolution as new words must survive in the short term in order to survive in the long term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-288
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Statistical Physics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Fluctuations
  • Internet communities
  • Statistical model
  • Word dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics


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