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"Frequency Effects in the Lexical Diffusion of Phonological Change". Betty S. Phillips, Indiana State U. [email protected] LSA Summer Institute Workshop on Variation, Gradience, and Frequency in Phonology, 6-8 July 2007, Stanford U. Lexical Diffusion.

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frequency effects in the lexical diffusion of phonological change

"Frequency Effects in the Lexical Diffusion of Phonological Change"

Betty S. Phillips, Indiana State U. [email protected] Summer Institute Workshop on Variation, Gradience, and Frequency in Phonology, 6-8 July 2007, Stanford U.

lexical diffusion
Lexical Diffusion
  • Definition:Chen and Wang (1975): “a phonological rule gradually extends its scope of operation to a larger and larger portion of the lexicon, until all relevant items have been transformed by the process.”
slide3
That lexical diffusion is sporadic
  • That it always affects the most frequent words first.
  • That lexically diffused changes show no clear phonetic conditioning
  • That phonetically regular changes are productive, whereas lexically diffused changes are not.
slide4
That lexical diffusion affects only phonetically abrupt changes associated with lexical rather than postlexical rules
  • That word frequency is independent of word class.
  • That analogy and borrowing suffice to account for lexical diffusion
slide5
That age of acquisition or discourse factors account for patterns of lexical diffusion.
  • That frequency effects are found over a population of speakers but not within individual speakers.
  • That either lexical diffusionis the diffusion of a completed sound change OR "all phonological change starts with lexical diffusion and most ends up Neogrammarian, given enough time"
misunderstanding 1
Misunderstanding #1
  • That lexical diffusion is "sporadic"
  • E.g., Hinskens (1998: 169): "Although variable by nature, Neogrammarian sound change is pre-eminently 'systematic and recurrent' i.e. regular, as there are no lexical exceptions. Lexically diffuse and lexicalized sound change bring about 'non-systematic but recurrent' facts (Lloret 1997), which are only partially regular, hence 'sporadic'."
one clear way in which lexical diffusion is not at all random word frequency effects
One clear way in which lexical diffusion is not at all random: Word Frequency Effects

"Rarely-used words drag behind; very frequently used ones hurry ahead. Exceptions to the sound laws are formed in both groups." -- Schuchardt (1885: 58)

slide8
“A cursory glance at the newspapers suggests that adultery is on the increase in this century. If you think slavery has been abolished, go and look at the factory at the end of the road. Every mother will tell you that nursery schools are a mixed blessing.” (Aitchison 2003)
  • Which retain the medial schwa, and which lose it?
misunderstanding 2
Misunderstanding #2
  • That lexically diffused changes always affect the most frequent words first. E.g., Krug (2003): “It has become a linguistic commonplace that high-frequency words and constructions tend to lead phonological change. . . .”
misunderstanding 3
Misunderstanding #3
  • That lexically diffused changes show no clear phonetic conditioning (Kiparsky 1995).Blevins (2004: 260): "lexical diffusion (without clear phonetic conditioning) is the diffusion of a completed sound change.”
misunderstanding 4
Misunderstanding #4
  • That phonetically regular changes are productive, whereas lexically diffused changes are not
  • Bakken 2001: " A phonetically regular process is characterized by general productivity, and such productivity seems to be incompatible with lexical exceptions, i.e. lexical diffusion. Lexical diffusion and phonetic regularity are therefore truly mutually exclusive.”
labov yaeger and steiner 1972
Labov, Yaeger, and Steiner (1972)

“We find no strong evidence for lexical diffusion in the (æh) patterns of Detroit and Buffalo and Chicago.”. . . .

Despite some initial oscillations the (æh) word class seems to move upward as a whole, with fine phonetic conditioning in the process. There is some indication that the word mad is lower than its phonetic class would justify for several speakers. . . .the low position of mad as compared to bad, ads, etc. , seems to be lexically determined." (93 – my bold).

misunderstanding 5
Misunderstanding #5
  • That lexical diffusion affects only phonetically abrupt changes associated with lexical rather than postlexical rules (Labov 1994; Kiparsky 1995).
reduction across word boundaries by definition post lexical
Reduction across word boundaries(By definition "post-lexical")

Alba (2003): la 'the' or una 'a' + vowel-initial nouns (e.g., iglesia 'church', hija 'daughter') in 20 hours of tape-recorded interviews with 20 native speakers of Spanish.

Strings with high ratio frequency underwent hiatus resolution 87 per cent of the time, compared to 48 per cent for strings with low ratio frequency. That is, high string frequency positively impacted vowel reduction.

don t
"Don't"
  • Phonetic reduction ranges from initial /do/ to /ɾo/ to /ɾə/ to /ə/ depending on the frequency of the phrases in which it appears. --Bybee and Scheibman (1999) and Scheibman (2000)
  • cf. "I don't know/think/have (to)/want/like" vs. "I don't need/follow/make contact"
misunderstanding 6
Misunderstanding #6
  • That Word Frequency is independent of Word Class in the lexical diffusion of a sound change.
modern dutch diphthongization of wgmc
Modern Dutch diphthongization of WGmc /î/

"We do not find a relationship between token frequency and diphthongization....[H]ighly frequent items such as krijgen, tijd (>200) do not behave differently. . . from items such as vijg (0) and vijl (2). And among the items showing diphthongs rather often, such as vrijdag, vrijen, vrij, fijn and vijf, both low and high frequencies occur."

-- Goeman et al. (1993)

function words as a special case
Function words as a special case
  • Certain sound changes tend to affect word categories with low sentence stress, such as function words, but this does not correlate necessarily with word frequency.
other word classes
Other Word Classes
  • Word frequency effects have been shown to be clearest inside of word classes –since in production word class is accessed before the word form.
  • Specificially, the retrieval of a word's syntactic informationprecedesthat of phonological informationby approx. 40 msec. -- Turennout et al. (1998)
misunderstanding 7
Misunderstanding #7
  • That analogy and borrowing suffice to account for lexical diffusion (Kiparsky 1995; Janda and Joseph 2003).
attribution of lexical diffusion effects to analogy borrowing
Attribution of Lexical Diffusion effects to Analogy & Borrowing
  • “[D]iffusionary effects in the spread of phonological change through the lexicons of speakers... are actually epiphenomenal, being the result of already-needed mechanisms of analogical change and dialect borrowing."

--Janda and Joseph (2003)

the problem with lexical diffusion as analogical change
The Problem with Lexical Diffusion as Analogical Change
  • Analogical changes affect the LEAST FREQUENT words first--"where memory fails"-- e.g., cows, dragons, aliens BUT mice, geese, teeth; Regular verbs (correspond, irrigate, elucidate) vs. irregular verbs (be, go, see)
  • whereas, Lexical Diffusionoften affects the MOST FREQUENT words first.
lexical storage
Lexical Storage

Bybee, J. 2001. Usage-Based Phonology. p. 22:

borrowing
Borrowing
  • Lexical diffusionists "see sound change . . . as change affecting the sound in certain words and then diffusing gradually to other words in the lexicon. . . . This is like 'dialect borrowing', but with some words borrowing from others in the same dialect. It constitutes a different outlook on the transition problem." (Campbell 1998: 199)
but surely
But surely,
  • all change involves borrowing: “[W]e have no criteria for determining absolutely that there is an axiomatic distinction between sound change and borrowing (or contact change) because.. all changes must arise from contact between speakers.” -- Milroy (1992: 88)
wolfram and schilling estes 2003
Wolfram and Schilling-Estes (2003):
  • a change becomes propagated through social groups,
  • through phonological and morphological environments, and
  • through the lexicon.
  • All of these happen simultaneously, and even within individuals variation is to be expected.
slide39
"[T]he notion of variability . . . applies to both intra-speaker and inter-speaker variation. In other words, an individual speaker will go through a period of fluctuation between the old and new variant, and speakers within a given speech community will show variation from speaker to speaker with respect to the use of the new and old variant" --Wolfram and Schilling-Estes 2003: 717.
as for changes that clearly imitate an external dialect
As for changes that clearly imitate an external dialect:
  • With regard to word frequency, there is no difference between "borrowed" changes and internal changes.
  • In fact, the spread of a sound change from one dialect to another apparently follows the same direction of diffusion as the imitated dialect. E.g.,
spread of broad a to the u s
Spread of broad /a:/ to the U.S.
  • fashionable import from Britain in the eighteenth or nineteenth century.
  • A few words whose innovative pronunciations were not borrowed (haft; aster; rascal; vantage; ranch, stanchion; Alexander, Flanders, slander),but only one(alas) that underwent the shift in the Eastern U.S. but not in England.-- Phillips 1989
slide42
Supports Trudgill’s (1986: 58) observation that during accommodation people “modify their pronunciation of particular words,... with some words being affected before others” , which implies that the spread of a sound change from one group to another must of necessity proceed via lexical diffusion, affecting some words before others.
second point
Second point:
  • Of the subset of (already frequent) words that had the innovative vowel in British English, Eastern U.S. English borrowed the most frequent.
therefore
Therefore:
  • Since borrowing (i.e., imitation of other speakers) is inherent to the spread of an innovation from speaker to speaker
  • and since lexical diffusionis inherent in the spread of an innovation from one word to another
  • BOTH ARE INHERENT TO SOUND CHANGE--not at odds with it.
slide46
AND:
  • Since the spread of all changes depends on the similarities shared by lexical entries,
  • Analogy, too, is endemic to sound change.
misunderstanding 8
Misunderstanding #8:
  • That age of acquisition or discourse factors account for patterns of lexical diffusion.
slide49
Gerhand & Berry (1998): naming latencies in the reading by 33 British college students of 64 words, divided into the following 4 categories: (a) early-acquired, high frequency (win, cousin); (b) early-acquired, low-frequency (elf, rattle); (c) late-acquired, high-frequency (sex, union); (d) late-acquired, low frequency (cue, marvel) They found that the two effects , , , were "entirely additive: Participants were faster to read aloud early-acquired than late-acquired words and were also faster to name high-frequency than low-frequency words."
evidence from adult vocabulary
Evidence from Adult Vocabulary
  • Words for 'heaven', 'priest', and'devil' pattern with high-frequency words in the Ormulum ms., written by a monk.
  • Words that are frequent within a particular occupation under reduction typical of frequent words, as in boatswain /bosən/, coxswain /kaksən/, and kiln /kɪl/.
discourse influence as summarized by wright 2003
Discourse Influence, as summarized by Wright (2003):
  • "In these studies talkers have been shown to produce more reduced speech when contextual information within the utterance or in the environment can aid the listener in recognising what is said,
  • and to produce more careful speech when the talker is aware of conditions that may impede the listener's ability to understand what is said."
berg 1998 243
Berg (1998: 243)
  • "Frequency speeds up the word-recognition process . . . . If speakers exploit this principle, they can be more sloppy about the pronunciation of high-frequency words than about that of low-frequency items, while still achieving the same degree of communicative success. In fact, this is precisely what speakers do: the higher the redundancy of a word, the less accurately it is articulated (Lieberman 1963)."
shortcoming
Shortcoming:
  • Discourse considerations alone do NOT account for other types of changes, such as stress shifts or vowel shifts.
misunderstanding 9
Misunderstanding #9
  • That Frequency effects are found over a population of speakers but not within individual speakers.

“Labov’s (1994) assessment of the ‘neogrammarian controversy’ provides striking confirmation of regular sound change at the level of the individual, and lexical diffusion at the level of speech communities.” (Blevins 2004)

misunderstanding 10
Misunderstanding #10
  • that lexical diffusionis the diffusion of a completed sound change(Blevins 2004) OR
  • "all phonological change starts with lexical diffusion and most ends up Neogrammarian, given enough time" (Lass1997)
conclusions
Conclusions:
  • Phonological, morphological, semantic, social, pragmatic, and cognitive factors all influence which words are affected when.
  • But Word Frequency must also be recognized a key factor in how a sound change spreads through the lexicon.
  • And . . .
slide58
The growing evidence of word frequency effects in even very low-level phonetic output supports the view that what seem to be Neogrammarian/regular changes must actually be changes that diffuse very rapidly over words in the lexicon.
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