The Role of Entropy in Language and Communication

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Working Group Abstract

Mark Johnson and Katherine Demuth

The Role of Entropy in Language and Communication

The focus of this workshop will be on developing an understanding of human language that is firmly grounded in modern information theory, and exploits recent theoretical developments such as maximum entropy models. The key questions we wish to pursue in this workshop are: What aspects of human language and communication can be properly understood in terms of information theory and entropy? Are there aspects of human language and communication that can't be described in information-theoretic terms, and do these suggest ways in which the notion of information might need to be developed or re�ned? Does information theory primarily describe the use of language for communication, or does it also provide insights into the way that languages are acquired and change in the course of time? What are the consequences of the broad-tailed Zipan distributions that characterize natural languages? Is information theory and entropy only relevant to linguistic processes such as acquisition, processing and language change, or does it influence the fundamental competence" structure of language itself?