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Maps, meanings and loanwords: The interaction of geography and semantics in lexical borrowing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 August 2019

Karlien Franco*
Affiliation:
Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
Dirk Geeraerts
Affiliation:
Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
Dirk Speelman
Affiliation:
Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
Roeland van Hout
Affiliation:
Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
*
Author for correspondence: Karlien Franco, Email: karlien.franco@kuleuven.be

Abstract

The use of loanwords is generally attributed to a social feature, like social prestige, and to semantic features, like the need to fill a lexical gap. However, few studies take into account variation in the use of loanwords within a speech community, and directly compare the frequency of loanwords from more than one source language. This paper contributes to research on lexical borrowing by comparing the distribution of loanwords from three different source languages in two large databases of dialect data. We take an onomasiological perspective, which allows us to gauge the frequency of borrowed lexical items vis-à-vis alternative expressions. Using Generalized Additive Mixed Modeling, we show that the usage of loanwords can only be explained by taking into account the interaction between semantics and geographical diffusion. Our analysis confirms that the patterns that occur almost exclusively reflect changes in socio-cultural history.

Type
Articles
Copyright
© Cambridge University Press 2019 

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