I read this paper and something that I am not sure about is:

Inspired by Pattern Theory [41], we attempt to model three important and pervasive patterns in natural signals: sparse discreteness, low dimensional manifold structure and hierarchical composition.

Is pervasive an appropriate word here? Isn't it only to be used in negative connotations?

For example: does "important and pervasive" is a valid conjunction?

  • 1
    It's worth noting that important can be used to describe positive or negative things; your question seems to imply that you might think it is only for describing positive things... although I could be wrong.
    – tmgr
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 16:00
  • Is it only used in the negative - no. Is it appropriate here - no, and how sparse discreteness can be pervasive is left as an exercise for the reader. Related
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 18:44

1 Answer 1


You're quite right that pervasive is often used when describing the extent of something negative. Looking at pervasive in Oxford Living Dictionaries:

pervasive (adjective)

(especially of an unwelcome influence or physical effect)
spreading widely throughout an area or a group of people.

Looking at the first few example sentences in the same dictionary entry, let's decide for each if the thing pervasive refers to is positive 😊 , negative ☹ , or if it's hard to say [?] :

Ageism is pervasive and entrenched in our society.’ ☹

Knowledge networks have become pervasive because they can be simple to implement.’ 😊 [?]

‘He exercised a pervasive influence on European drama by challenging the conventions of naturalism.’ [?]

‘But it's the pervasive humour that wins through, thanks to a nicely crafted script.’ 😊

‘Nevertheless, their influence is pervasive within the history of science.’ [?]

It has become so pervasive that it influences how people write for the Web.’ ☹ [?]

It's difficult to determine with sentences in isolation, but, roughly, out of six example sentences, one is definitely positive (and another, the first, very probably is), one is definitely negative (and another, the last, very probably is), and the other two sentences are difficult to classify as either negative or positive.

Not conclusive, it would seem, but that's good enough for us to be able to say:

Pervasive is often used with a negative slant (and may carry a presumption of negativity), but is also often used to describe positive effects without any difficulty at all.

Pervasive is fine in your context.

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