etaoin shrdlu

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brogine
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etaoin shrdlu

Postby brogine » Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:09 pm

N is the second most common consonant in English. And yet, relatively few words begin with ‘N’. Admittedly a rough measure, but surely not insignificant that ‘N’ occupies less real estate in my old Webster’s than the other consonants except J, K, Q, V, X, Y, and Z*. Next time won't you sing with me? Oh, sorry!
What explains the aversion evidenced by English against words beginning with ‘N’?

* This recalls the discovery of Benford’s Law, and that reminds me, bringing us back to linguistics, of Zipf’s Law, as evidenced in language. Lots of interesting stuff.

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Slava
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Re: etaoin shrdlu

Postby Slava » Sun Sep 12, 2021 7:20 pm

Isn't P the most common first letter? Yet it's not in the top 12 for usage.
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brogine
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Re: etaoin shrdlu

Postby brogine » Sun Sep 12, 2021 7:35 pm

S seems to be the champ, followed by C, then P. This includes the vowels.

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Slava
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Re: etaoin shrdlu

Postby Slava » Sun Sep 12, 2021 7:40 pm

Another reason for N not taking up space in the dictionary is that the 'non-' compounds are usually simply listed, without definitions for them. We look up the word, and then add 'not' to the definition.
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brogine
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Re: etaoin shrdlu

Postby brogine » Mon Sep 13, 2021 2:42 pm

Misunderstood you at first. Better, possibly . . . .

That, I think, would not be the entire explanation. I’m just thinking, a large factor could be that N doesn’t allow a second consonant to start a word. Even then, it’s whupped, and handily, by H, M, R, and (weak on the combo side) W.
I do think there’s some kind of aversion in evidence.

Another factor, quite minor probably, is the shift of ‘napron’ to ‘apron’ and the like.

brogine
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Re: etaoin shrdlu

Postby brogine » Sat Sep 18, 2021 3:47 pm

Is this thing on?
Anyhoo, looking at a bilingual dictionary, I see N an even bigger loser in Spanish than in English. As to overall frequency, according to a couple of websites, overall distribution is pretty close in the two. Surely food for thought.


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