Language is Simpler Than Previously Believed

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A new Cornell study indicates that language is made of small sequential structures that string together to make meaning.

The study may debunk the 50 year old belief that language is hierarchical — that a sentence is made of small parts that are in turn made of smaller parts. If language is sequential, then it may mean that human language skills are much more closely related to other animals’ and may help us better situate the species in our place in nature. The discovery may also have a large impact on natural language processing in computer science, which will effect speech recognition and translation technology.


Graham Todd is an intern at The Rumpus. He spends his mornings writing post-apocalyptic, vaguely biblical sci-fi horror comedy, his evenings tutoring the wide-eyed youth of the Palo Alto area, and his Thursdays at The Rumpus office, effectively “off the streets”. Beyond this weekly ritual, he enjoys karaoke, the movies, and jogging. More from this author →