Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
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This short paper discusses shortcomings of the capture-recapture (CR) method of estimating vocabulary size (Meara & Olmos Alcoy, 2010; Williams, Segalowitz & Leclair, 2014). When sampling from a population generated by a power-law process (e.g., a Zipf distribution), the probability that any given member is selected is dependent on its rank, such that higher frequency rank (i.e., 1st, 2nd, 3rd) members are much more likely to be selected than lower rank (i.e., 100th, 1000th) members. Because of this, sampling is much more likely to select from the same limited group of words. The CR measure, however, assumes a uniform distribution, and so drastically underestimates the size of the vocabulary when applied to power-law data. Work with simulated data shows ways that the degree of underestimation may be lessened. Applying these methods to real data shows effects parallel to those in the simulations.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): corpora; measurement; vocabulary; Zipf’s law
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