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Languages 2018, 3(4), 39;

Refunctionalization and Usage Frequency: An Exploratory Questionnaire Study

Romanisches Seminar, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, 79085 Freiburg, Germany
Received: 9 October 2018 / Accepted: 19 October 2018 / Published: 23 October 2018
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This paper explores the relationship between refunctionalization and usage frequency. In particular, it argues that (a) refunctionalization is more likely for low-frequency construction than high-frequency constructions, and that (b) high-frequency patterns are more likely candidates as models for refunctionalization processes than low-frequency patterns. It proposes that folk etymology processes be characterized as a type of refunctionalization process because in folk etymology, obsolescent and semantically void morphemes are replaced with morphemes that actually serve a function in language. This assumption allows for an empirical investigation of refunctionalization using an exploratory questionnaire study. The results indicate that usage frequency indeed plays a role in folk etymology processes, and consequently, refunctionalization. In particular, participants were more likely to accept false etymologies when the proposed etymon had a high usage frequency than when it had a low usage frequency. In summary, the present study proposes a way to study refunctionalization processes in synchrony. View Full-Text
Keywords: language change; historical linguistics; refunctionalization; frequency effects; folk etymology; Spanish language change; historical linguistics; refunctionalization; frequency effects; folk etymology; Spanish

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Rosemeyer, M. Refunctionalization and Usage Frequency: An Exploratory Questionnaire Study. Languages 2018, 3, 39.

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