Linguistics 105 * Words and Sounds
Lecture Number Twenty One
Tracking Linguistic Drift: The Comparative Method


  1. Linguistic Drift

    1. Causes
      1. Imperfect transfer between generations
      2. Heavy lexical borrowing: English /Ś/: garage, rouge, arbitrage
      3. Foreign accents (from heavy immigration)

    2. Phonological Change
      1. Syncope:

        courtesycurtsy
        aeroplane airplane
        camera [k└mr¤]
        Latin fem[i]na French femme
        Latin num[e]rumFrench nombre

      2. Haplology: probably : probly

      3. Phonesthemes (or blends):

        glow + beam gleam
        glow + twitter glitter
        glow +stare glare

      4. Epenthesis:

        Latin Spanish French
        scola escuela ec▓le
        stella estrella et▓ile
        status estado etŠt

      5. Lenition:

        Latin French
        vitellus 'calf' veaux
        Latin vita 'life' French vie
        Latin pater 'father' French pŇre
        Latin nativum 'native' French na«f 'naive'

      6. Metathesis (especially liquids):

        English gard-enSerbian grad 'city'
        German bergSerbian breg 'shore, bank'
        Latin plen-usRussian poln-yj

      7. Tendency to Open Syllables (ending on vowels); e.g., French:

        long cabinet veaux (veal)
        dans les vous

    3. Morphological Change

      1. Analogical Leveling:
        1. Russian: Nominative-Accusative okno
        2. English:

          help : holp : holpen help : helped : helped
          get : got : gotten get : got : got
          prove : proved : proven prove : proved : proved

      2. Bilingual speaker, e.g. French influence on English more beautiful

    4. Syntactic Change and its Causes
      1. Loss of case system frees prepositions
      2. The bed in which he slept The bed he slept in
        John looked up a friend in New York John looked a friend in New York up

      3. Case loss also makes word order more important
        Ivan udaril Borisa John hit Boris
        Borisa udaril Ivan Boris hit John

    5. Semantic Change and its Causes
      1. Semantic Narrowing
        1. Red Square: Russian krasnyj = "colorful > "red"
        2. drugs, disease, deer, meat, golden
        3. dress > to dress "put on clothes"
        4. dress > a dress
      2. Semantic Broadening:
        1. holy day > holiday
        2. Lady > lady
        3. a park > to park "put in park" > "put in any place"
        4. a ship > to ship "send by ship" > "send (large object)", ship by bus
      3. Pejoration:
        1. drugs
        2. dope(head)
        3. wench
        4. silly
        5. disease
        6. (not to mention the words for 'cat' and 'rooster')

      4. Amelioration:
        1. pretty 'sly, cunning'
        2. knight 'boy'

      5. Metaphorical drift:
        1. Drive carefully, the road is oily (has oil > is slippery)
        2. Look out for him, he's an oily character (is slippery > untrustworthy)
    6. Lexical Change and its Causes
      1. Loss:
        dolgbot 'compensation for wounding someone'
        flytme 'blood-letting instrument'
        ■eox: 'hunting spear'
      2. Borrowing
        1. Words:
          • HINDI: thug, punch, cummerbund, shampoo
          • ARABIC: algebra, orange (narange)
          • SLAVIC: robot, polka, galoshes;
          • FRENCH: tax, revenue, government, parliament, royal, slave, prince, prayer, sermon, religion, chaplain, priest, judge, defendent, jury, evidence, jail, crime, medicine, physician, pharmacy, art, sculpture, fashion, music, literature (boccr└ft), poetry
          • SCANDINAVIAN: anger, cake, call, egg, fellow, get, his, sky, husband, low, ski, they, their, ugly, window, wing, raise, root, score
          • AMERINDIAN: toboggan, opossum, wigwam, chipmunk, muskrat, tobacco, potato, chili, coyote (coyotl)
        2. Calques (particularly in Latin, Greek, Russian, German):
          • German Ńbermensch > superman
          • Latinate compassion > Russian sostradanie, influence > v-li-anie
          • Greek sympathy > Russian so˝uvstvie, English feel for
      3. Taboo words:
        1. cock(erel) [clipping] > rooster
        2. urs > medv-ed 'honey-eater' (Eng mead)
        3. crap, tinkle, doo-doo, whiz
        4. "p" > pee (Initialism, initialization)
        5. pissed off > "p"-ed off > teed off (golf)
        6. gee, gee whiz, golly, gosh, darn
      4. Folk etymology:
        1. crevise > crayfish > craw(l)fish
        2. chaise longue > chaise lounge (French)
        3. outr-age > out-rage (French)
        4. m'aidez > May Day! (French)
        5. mousseron > mushroom (French)
        6. berfrey "bell-tower" > belfry
        7. bride-gome "bride-man" from bryd and guma > bridegroom
        8. musquash (Algonquian) > muskrat
        9. otchek (Algonquian) > woodchuck
      5. Lexical Stock Expansion
        1. Commonization: a watt, an ohm, a quisling, malapropism
        2. Clipping: van, flu, phone
        3. Phrase Reduction:
          • jet propelled airplane > jet
          • toboggan cap > toboggan
        4. Blends: motor + hotel > motel
          • smoke + fog > smog
          • happening + circumstance > happenstance
          • melt + weld > meld
          • guess + estimate > guesstimate

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