Lexical Borrowing in the Middle English period: A multi-domain analysis of semantic outcomes

Sylvester, L.M., Tiddeman, M. and Ingham, R. Forthcoming. Lexical Borrowing in the Middle English period: A multi-domain analysis of semantic outcomes. English Language and Linguistics. Advanced online publication.

TitleLexical Borrowing in the Middle English period: A multi-domain analysis of semantic outcomes
TypeJournal article
AuthorsSylvester, L.M.
Tiddeman, M.
Ingham, R.
Abstract

The Middle English period is well known as one of widespread lexical borrowing from French and Latin, and scholarly accounts traditionally assume that this influx of loanwords caused many native terms to shift in sense or to drop out of use entirely. The study analyses an extensive dataset, tracking patterns in lexical retention, replacement and semantic change, and comparing long-term outcomes for both native and non-native words. Our results challenge the conventional view of competition between existing terms and foreign incomers. They show that there were far fewer instances of relexification, and far more of synonymy, during the Middle English period than might have been expected. When retention rates for words first attested between 1100-1500 are compared, it is loanwords, not native terms, which are more likely to become obsolete at any point up to the nineteenth century. Furthermore, proportions of outcomes involving narrowing and broadening (often considered common outcomes following the arrival of a co-hyponym in a semantic space) were low in the Middle English period, regardless of language of origin.

Keywordslexical borrowing
lexical replacement
semantic shift
co-hyponyms
JournalEnglish Language and Linguistics
ISSN1360-6743
1469-4379
Year2021
PublisherCambridge University Press
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)

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