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Semantic Factors Predict the Rate of Lexical Replacement of Content Words
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, General Linguistics.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7206-1759
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, General Linguistics.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0897-8911
2016 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, E-ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 11, no 1, e0147924Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The rate of lexical replacement estimates the diachronic stability of word forms on the basis of how frequently a proto-language word is replaced or retained in its daughter languages. Lexical replacement rate has been shown to be highly related to word class and word frequency. In this paper, we argue that content words and function words behave differently with respect to lexical replacement rate, and we show that semantic factors predict the lexical replacement rate of content words. For the 167 content items in the Swadesh list, data was gathered on the features of lexical replacement rate, word class, frequency, age of acquisition, synonyms, arousal, imageability and average mutual information, either from published databases or gathered from corpora and lexica. A linear regression model shows that, in addition to frequency, synonyms, senses and imageability are significantly related to the lexical replacement rate of content words–in particular the number of synonyms that a word has. The model shows no differences in lexical replacement rate between word classes, and outperforms a model with word class and word frequency predictors only.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 11, no 1, e0147924
Keyword [en]
lexical semantics, language change, regression analysis, Swadesh list
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-126494DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147924ISI: 000369528400055OAI: diva2:900465
Available from: 2016-02-04 Created: 2016-02-04 Last updated: 2018-01-10Bibliographically approved

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