How new words become part of a language
WHEN unwanted email first came along, people invented different words for it, such as unsolicited email and junk email. But eventually “spam” became the word of choice to describe the phenomenon.
It’s a process that happens each time a new thing needs a name, but language researchers have struggled to model how it happens without a central decision maker. Now a computer model shows the process at work – and may give insights into how the first human languages emerged.