Corpus-driven Approach to Lexical Semantic Change: A Case Study

Abstract

Research on the change of different linguistic aspects has a long-standing tradition, whereas studies of lexical semantic change have moved inside our field of vision only after the last century because of lexical irregularities and technical limitations. Seeking to understand and explain why and how semantic change happens, we chose our words of interest——English migrant and its Spanish counterpart migrante——to investigate the issue, which was creatively approached from a corpus-driven perspective with the assistance of dictionary resources. Analysis of the frequency information, collocational profile, and statistical tests of Eng. migrant and Sp. migrante in historical corpora has revealed that both words have undergone a meaning change in their respective histories and illustrated a close connection behind these changes. Based on a qualitative interpretation of the corpus results, socio-historical and linguistic factors, accompanied by mechanisms of semantic change such as metaphor and language borrowing, are involved in accounting for the respective cases. The findings and interpretations presented in the present study can not only shed new light on the causes, mechanisms, and consequences of lexical semantic change, but also test the possibility of implementing an innovative approach to this subject.

Gang Yao
Gang Yao
PhD student

My research interests include corpus linguistics, Spanish as a Foreign Language, and academic writing.