Evidence for Efficiency in Chinese Abbreviations

  • Yanting Li (University of California, Irvine)
  • Gregory Scontras (University of California, Irvine)
  • Richard Futrell (University of California, Irvine)


In Mandarin Chinese, abbreviation happens commonly to compound words across different syntactic categories. What is the motivation behind this shortening of words? This paper presents an investigation of this phenomenon from an information-theoretic point of view. A corpus study was conducted to measure the average amount of information contained in the full (long) form and the abbreviated (short) form of words given certain contexts. The amount of information was then compared between the long and short forms of a word, revealing that the short one usually contains less information, and therefore is more likely to be used in more predictive contexts. This result indicates that speakers of Chinese can choose to use shorter words when the context is more predictive, in accordance with considerations of efficiency.

Keywords: information theory, communicative efficiency, surprisal, Chinese

How to Cite:

Li, Y., Scontras, G. & Futrell, R., (2023) “Evidence for Efficiency in Chinese Abbreviations”, Society for Computation in Linguistics 6(1), 383-384. doi: https://doi.org/10.7275/n2d3-4f72

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Published on
01 Jun 2023