Linguistic Change in Open Source Software. M. Tushev, S. Khatiwada, A. Mahmoud, International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution (ICSME), 2019
In this paper, we seek to advance the state-of-the-art in code evolution analysis research and practice by statistically analyzing, interpreting, and formally describing the evolution of code lexicon in Open Source Software (OSS). The underlying hypothesis is that, similar to natural language, code lexicon falls under the remit of evolutionary principles. Therefore, adapting theories and statistical models of natural language evolution to code is expected to provide unique insights into software evolution. Our analysis in this paper is conducted using 2,000 OSS systems sampled from a broad range of application domains. Our results show that a) OSS projects exhibit a significant shift in their linguistic identity over time, b) different syntactic structures of code lexicon evolve differently, c) different factors of OSS development and different maintenance activities impact code lexicon differently. These insights lay out a preliminary foundation for modeling the linguistic history of OSS projects. In the long run, this foundation will be utilized to provide support for basic software maintenance and program comprehension activities, and gain new theoretical insights into the complex interplay between linguistic change and various system and human aspects of OSS development.