Language statistics at different spatial, temporal, and grammatical scales

Statistical linguistics has advanced considerably in recent decades as data has become available. This has allowed researchers to study how statistical properties of languages change over time. In this work, we use data from Twitter to explore English and Spanish considering the rank diversity at different scales: temporal (from 3 to 96 hour intervals), spatial (from 3km to 3000+km radii), and grammatical (from monograms to pentagrams). We find that all three scales are relevant. However, the greatest changes come from variations in the grammatical scale. At the lowest grammatical scale (monograms), the rank diversity curves are most similar, independently on the values of other scales, languages, and countries. As the grammatical scale grows, the rank diversity curves vary more depending on the temporal and spatial scales, as well as on the language and country. We also study the statistics of Twitter-specific tokens: emojis, hashtags, and user mentions. These particular type of tokens show a sigmoid kind of behaviour as a rank diversity function. Our results are helpful to quantify aspects of language statistics that seem universal and what may lead to variations.

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