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Discovering Global Patterns in Linguistic Networks through Spectral Analysis: A Case Study of the Consonant Inventories

Animesh Mukherjee, Monojit Choudhury and Ravi Kannan
Arxiv ID: 901.2216Last updated: 1/18/2009
Recent research has shown that language and the socio-cognitive phenomena associated with it can be aptly modeled and visualized through networks of linguistic entities. However, most of the existing works on linguistic networks focus only on the local properties of the networks. This study is an attempt to analyze the structure of languages via a purely structural technique, namely spectral analysis, which is ideally suited for discovering the global correlations in a network. Application of this technique to PhoNet, the co-occurrence network of consonants, not only reveals several natural linguistic principles governing the structure of the consonant inventories, but is also able to quantify their relative importance. We believe that this powerful technique can be successfully applied, in general, to study the structure of natural languages.

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