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Furiously fast: on the speed of change in formulaic language

Buerki, Andreas ORCID: 2019. Furiously fast: on the speed of change in formulaic language. Yearbook of Phraseology 10 (1) , pp. 5-38. 10.1515/phras-2019-0003

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Addressing a topic that has been marginal to discussions within historical linguistics, this study looks at how extent and speed of language change can be quantified meaningfully using corpus data. Looking specifically at formulaic language (understood here as word sequences that instantiate typical phrasings), a solidly data-based assessment of the speed of change within a 100-year time window is offered. This includes both a relative determination of speed (against the speed of change in lexis which is generally thought to be the fastest type of linguistic change, cf. Algeo 1980:264; Trask and Millar 2010:7) as well as a new independent measure of speed which is easy to interpret and therefore of high validity, while also robust and potentially applicable to any linguistic feature that can be counted in corpus data. Using data from a diachronic reference corpus of 20th century German, it is shown that change in formulaic language is very notably faster than lexical change, that the extent of change over a century is comparable in extent to contemporary inter-genre variation and that overall, the rate of change does fluctuate somewhat at the level of temporal granularity employed in this study. It is also argued that quantifying the speed of linguistic change can play an important role in building a deeper understanding language change in general.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Publisher: De Gruyter
ISSN: 1868-632X
Funders: Swiss National Science Foundation
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 June 2019
Date of Acceptance: 23 June 2019
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2022 05:21

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