Quantifying Cognitive Factors in Lexical Decline

David Francis, Ella Rabinovich, Farhan Samir, David Mortensen, Suzanne Stevenson


Abstract
Abstract We adopt an evolutionary view on language change in which cognitive factors (in addition to social ones) affect the fitness of words and their success in the linguistic ecosystem. Specifically, we propose a variety of psycholinguistic factors—semantic, distributional, and phonological—that we hypothesize are predictive of lexical decline, in which words greatly decrease in frequency over time. Using historical data across three languages (English, French, and German), we find that most of our proposed factors show a significant difference in the expected direction between each curated set of declining words and their matched stable words. Moreover, logistic regression analyses show that semantic and distributional factors are significant in predicting declining words. Further diachronic analysis reveals that declining words tend to decrease in the diversity of their lexical contexts over time, gradually narrowing their ‘ecological niches’.
Anthology ID:
2021.tacl-1.91
Volume:
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 9
Month:
Year:
2021
Address:
Cambridge, MA
Venue:
TACL
SIG:
Publisher:
MIT Press
Note:
Pages:
1529–1545
Language:
URL:
https://aclanthology.org/2021.tacl-1.91
DOI:
10.1162/tacl_a_00441
Bibkey:
Cite (ACL):
David Francis, Ella Rabinovich, Farhan Samir, David Mortensen, and Suzanne Stevenson. 2021. Quantifying Cognitive Factors in Lexical Decline. Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, 9:1529–1545.
Cite (Informal):
Quantifying Cognitive Factors in Lexical Decline (Francis et al., TACL 2021)
Copy Citation:
PDF:
https://aclanthology.org/2021.tacl-1.91.pdf