Linguists discover ‘pause’ in use of unmodified adjective by climate scientists

An international team of linguists recently discovered that climate scientists have stopped using the unmodified adjective “unexpected.”

Team leader Lars Hedby, a Norwegian who speaks 23 languages, said the word is now preceded by an adverb in 97 percent of all scientific papers published since 2012.

AdverbFrequency

“We studied the scientific literature of climate change in five languages,” said Hedby. “Scientists stopped using the word by itself in 2012. We don’t know if – or when – unmodified usage will return, so we think this is just a pause in the language.”

The findings indicate that the most-frequently used adverbĀ  is “absolutely,” which occurs in 13.1 percent of all cases, closely followed by “altogether” which occurs 12.8 percent of the time.

“We were all shocked by the results,” said Hedby. “But the real gobsmacker came when my Australian colleague, Matthew Flinders, sorted the list by percentage. It also appears that the adverb frequency inadvertently occurs in alphabetical order. We’re still trying to figure out how that happened.”

The full list of adverbs, and the percentage of times used, as reported by Hedby’s team:

absolutely – 13.1%
altogether – 12.8%
comprehensively – 10.3%
consummately – 9.4%
entirely – 9.1%
exactly – 7%
exclusively – 6.2%
flat out – 5.5%
fully – 5.1%
just – 4.4%
perfectly – 3.7%
quite – 3.1%
thoroughly – 2.6%
unconditionally – 2.3%
unmitigatedly – 1.9%
utterly – 1.7%
wholeheartedly – 1.1%
wholly – 0.7%

 

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