Are Words the Quanta of Human Language? Extending the Domain of Quantum Cognition

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Abstract

In previous research, we showed that ‘texts that tell a story’ exhibit a statistical structure that is not Maxwell–Boltzmann but Bose–Einstein. Our explanation is that this is due to the presence of ‘indistinguishability’ in human language as a result of the same words in different parts of the story being indistinguishable from one another, in much the same way that ’indistinguishability’ occurs in quantum mechanics, also there leading to the presence of Bose–Einstein rather than Maxwell–Boltzmann as a statistical structure. In the current article, we set out to provide an explanation for this Bose–Einstein statistics in human language. We show that it is the presence of ‘meaning’ in ‘texts that tell a story’ that gives rise to the lack of independence characteristic of Bose–Einstein, and provides conclusive evidence that ‘words can be considered the quanta of human language’, structurally similar to how ‘photons are the quanta of electromagnetic radiation’. Using several studies on entanglement from our Brussels research group, we also show, by introducing the von Neumann entropy for human language, that it is also the presence of ‘meaning’ in texts that makes the entropy of a total text smaller relative to the entropy of the words composing it. We explain how the new insights in this article fit in with the research domain called ‘quantum cognition’, where quantum probability models and quantum vector spaces are used in human cognition, and are also relevant to the use of quantum structures in information retrieval and natural language processing, and how they introduce ‘quantization’ and ‘Bose–Einstein statistics’ as relevant quantum effects there. Inspired by the conceptuality interpretation of quantum mechanics, and relying on the new insights, we put forward hypotheses about the nature of physical reality. In doing so, we note how this new type of decrease in entropy, and its explanation, may be important for the development of quantum thermodynamics. We likewise note how it can also give rise to an original explanatory picture of the nature of physical reality on the surface of planet Earth, in which human culture emerges as a reinforcing continuation of life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalEntropy
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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