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From speaker innovation to lexical change

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Applying a sociolinguistic approach to the study of neologisms, this paper discusses the actuation and diffusion of new words in Early Modern English (EModE; 1500–1700) and draws some parallels with word coining in the comparable but more recent period of Early Modern Finnish (EModF; 1810–1880). The success of this exercise ultimately depends on the data and tools available for ascertaining the status of neologisms in a broader synchronic and diachronic context. The use of historical dictionaries and digital databases shows that many words that were earlier considered particular innovations in EModE are now up for re-evaluation. Determining their actual moments of coinage and entry into the language may be beyond historical lexicology and lexicography, but the new tools make it possible to better monitor their provenance and process of diffusion over time.

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Keywords: Early Modern English; Early Modern Finnish; codification; diffusion; neologism detection; speaker innovation; standardization; vernacularization

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2018

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