Revisiting Statistical Laws of Semantic Shift in Romance Cognates
Yoshifumi Kawasaki | Maëlys Salingre | Marzena Karpinska | Hiroya Takamura | Ryo Nagata
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics
This article revisits statistical relationships across Romance cognates between lexical semantic shift and six intra-linguistic variables, such as frequency and polysemy. Cognates are words that are derived from a common etymon, in this case, a Latin ancestor. Despite their shared etymology, some cognate pairs have experienced semantic shift. The degree of semantic shift is quantified using cosine distance between the cognates’ corresponding word embeddings. In the previous literature, frequency and polysemy have been reported to be correlated with semantic shift; however, the understanding of their effects needs revision because of various methodological defects. In the present study, we perform regression analysis under improved experimental conditions, and demonstrate a genuine negative effect of frequency and positive effect of polysemy on semantic shift. Furthermore, we reveal that morphologically complex etyma are more resistant to semantic shift and that the cognates that have been in use over a longer timespan are prone to greater shift in meaning. These findings add to our understanding of the historical process of semantic change.