How much memory does it take to store a language in the brain? New research has quantified it.
To store all the information necessary to learn and use the English language, the brain needs 1.56 megabytes, according to University of Rochester cognitive scientist Francis Mollica and University of California-Berkeley psychologist Steven T Piantados, who report their findings in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
They reached their conclusion by assigning storage size to various aspects of the English language.
For phonemes (the sounds that distinguish one word for another), they assigned 15 bits each, so that the brain requires 750 bits to store the 50 phonemes required to know English.
They estimated that 40,000 unique words are essential to knowledge of the language, which would require 400,000 bits.
Semantics require the most storage space, at 12 million bits. Other elements are word frequency (80,000 bits) and syntax rules (700 bits). All this adds up to 12.5 million bits, or 1.56 megabytes of information.