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The term “analogy” as used in linguistics has a specific and a general meaning. In historical linguistics it usually applies to morphological change, more specifically, change within morphological paradigms; that is what this chapter is about. The broader use of the term applies in syntax and refers to a process by which innovative expressions are based on existing expressions rather than on rules, a point we return to in Chapter 8.
This chapter is concerned with changes in morphological form (rather than meaning, which we get to in the next two chapters). The definition of morphological analogy I will use is the following: the re-making of a word based on similarity to other existing words in the language. In the preceding chapter we saw that sound change introduces alternations and irregularities into morphological paradigms. Analogical changes are often a response to these alternations, either working to eliminate them or, less often, to extend them to new lexical items.
Analogical change is rarely lexically regular the way sound change often is. That is, while sound change tends to affect all the lexical items that have the appropriate phonetic conditions for the change, analogical change clearly works one item at a time and most commonly does not affect all lexical items or paradigms that have the requisite conditions.