Linguistic dark matter

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 17 20:31:32 UTC 2010

I'll take a crack, although the terminology baffled me as well. I
suspect, they mean the ranges between the deciles, not including the
first and the last. So the 10-9 - 10-8 decile range might imply
everything that is contained between the 80th and 90th percentile, so
it's not quite the same thing as 90th percentile proper. So, "below
10-6" means the lowest 60% in frequency. In fact, being a mathematician
likely disqualifies you from understanding statistical gibberish in most
fields, Joel.

Since I was never employed as a "mathematician" and nearly completed an
MS in stats (without so much as applying to the department), just having
a math degree may not be fully disqualifying. But it does hurt, apparently.


On 12/17/2010 2:07 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> ...
> 2)   I once was a mathematician, but I find myself mightily confused
> by the "eight deciles (ranging from 10-9 - 10-8 to 10-2 -
> 10-1)".  I've never seen such a notation for deciles, which are
> usually referred to as "the 90th percentile" or similarly.  What does
> the notation in the "ranging ..." explanation mean?  The "eight" I
> might understand as omitting two from their study, but which two, and why?
>        And which end is up (high frequency) vs. down (low
> frequency)?  They write "Both dictionaries had excellent coverage of
> high frequency words, but less coverage for frequencies below 10- 6:
> 67% of words in the 10-9 - 10-8 range were listed in neither
> dictionary (Fig. 2B)."  "Frequencies below 10- 6" suggests that the
> smaller numbers are the lower frequencies, but to refer to the "10-9
> - 10-8 range" as the "but less coverage" confuses me.
> Joel

The American Dialect Society -

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