# STATISTICS IN LINGUISTICS

Patrick C. Ryan proto-language at email.msn.com
Sat Feb 6 04:44:44 UTC 1999

```[ moderator re-formatted ]

Dear Steve and IEists:

-----Original Message-----
From: X99Lynx at aol.com <X99Lynx at aol.com>
Date: Friday, February 05, 1999 1:11 AM

<snip>

>Remember that if you use probability to predict, you cannot ever be 100%
>certain that the next event will match your prior events, no matter how many
>incidences you have measured.  And the number of incidences will affect your
>percentage of certainty especially in a random distribution.  All probability
>is basically measured against random distribution.

>By your logic, if I flip a coin three times and it is always heads, then "the
>probability of the cause (flipping) creating the same effect (heads) is 100%."
>I don't need to tell you that is not the probability of getting heads next
>time.

What is so damnably frustrating is that an intelligent man can write such a
thing and actually believe it.

If you flip a coin three times, and it comes up heads all three times, the
probability of it coming up heads is 100%.

Based on the *limited* trial you have made, that is the correct probability
whether you acknowledge it or not.

Now, to take your objection into consideration, let us say that the same
coin is tossed 1000 times. I expect, unless the coin is defective or has
been altered, that heads will come up 50% of the time but until an extended
test is made, and these new statistics experimentally established, the
statistic you have from the first experiment is that the probability of

<snip>

Pat

[ Moderator's comment:
The *probability* is still 1/2 for each coin toss.  The *experimental result*
may differ wildly from the predictions of probability theory.  Using the
statistics from the experiment, a different prediction may be made (and a
search for why the probabilistic prediction failed begun), but that differs
from saying that the *probability* is 100%.

No further posts on this topic will be posted to the Indo-European list.
-rma ]

```