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A scrutinence of newies: corpus-based and experimental analyses of derivational word-formation in British English

Ryder, C. (2019) A scrutinence of newies: corpus-based and experimental analyses of derivational word-formation in British English. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This thesis is a comprehensive study of the mechanisms involved in the creation, recognition and understanding of new words in present-day British English formed by derivational suffixation. It is particularly interested in the formation of disposable words that are coined for a single use and thus do not gain official entries in dictionaries of English. An analysis of the use of the term “Productivity” and its attention in the literature revealed that it is inconsistent and in some cases incomplete; therefore a rationale was formed for a more comprehensive analysis through the examination of neologisms formed by suffixation. The research adopted two different but complementing methodologies to examine the Creativity of 145 suffixes in terms of the number of neologisms they create relative to their category size. Firstly, a corpus-based approach was taken, which considered twelve factors that could affect the number of neologisms a suffix creates; these included Derivative Factors of Prevalence, Opacity, Regularity, Convertibility and Distinguishability, and Base Factors of Stress Transfer, Sound Change, Truncation, Semantic Shift, Atypical PoS, Complexity and Allomorphic Variant. These factors were compared diachronically and across registers using databases formed from components of the original British National Corpus and the new Spoken BNC2014 (Love et al. 2017) to determine changes in the nature of Creativity over time and between contexts. It was concluded that two of the most influential factors on Creativity are the suffix’s frequency in the language (Prevalence), and the density of non-transparent members of its category (Opacity). Secondly, an experimental approach was taken to examine the ability of speakers to recognize and understand neologisms based on these factors through a Semantic Decision Task and Judgement Task, with reference to dual-route models of complex-word processing (Frauenfelder & Schreuder 1992; Schreuder & Baayen 1995) that predict faster processing times when the dual route is employed. To examine their ability to extract consistent meanings from neologisms, participants also participated in a follow-up study in which they were required to define neologisms. This study has shown that speakers generally have an extensive knowledge of suffixes and suffixation processes; the results of the Semantic Decision Task have provided support for theories of dual-route processing, where the employment of both direct and parsed routes increases the speed with which recognition and understanding can occur. The findings also have strong implications for the changing style of conversational speech towards patterns typical of more formal registers through suffixational Creativity; further study could examine present-day material of more formal registers to investigate whether these trends are one-way or if it is instead the case that register differences are becoming obscured by derivational Creativity and a move towards a common register for a wider variety of contexts.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Laws, J. and Jaworska, S.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Literature and Languages
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Language and Applied Linguistics
ID Code:84840
Date on Title Page:2018

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