About this Research Topic
Word meaning is known to be highly unstable and difficult to define. Meaning can change from one generation to another, and the usage and meaning of a word may deviate from one speaker to another. This is the particular reason why evolution of word meaning has been a highly complicated scientific domain. Nevertheless, with new large-scale data (Rzymski et al 2020) and new models and methods for analyzing them (List et al. 2016, 2017, Dellert and Busch 2018, Dubossarsky 2018, Hamilton et al. 2018, Bowern 2019, Georgakopoulos et al. 2021, Tahmasebi et al. 2021), we are now in a position to approach the topic of semantic evolution in a renewed fashion. This collection will deal with the evolution of word meaning from various perspectives, with a focus on quantitative and computational models and their advantages and shortcomings for assessing general trends in the evolution of meaning.
We especially welcome studies that contribute to one of the following themes:
• Quantitative approaches to aspects of meaning change, especially those that focus on understudied families (Jordan 2011), understudied semantic fields (Georgakopoulos & Polis 2021), and the evolutionary process itself, such as studying rate (Verkerk 2015, Vejdemo & Hörberg 2016, Gast & Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2021), sources of variation (Georgakopoulos et al. 2021), universal attractors, etc. This includes quantitative and/or phylogenetic work on polysemy and semantic shift.
• Computational approaches to semantic change using word embeddings (Xu & Kemp 2015, Dubossarsky 2018, Hamilton et al. 2018, Yao et al. 2018, Tahmasebi et al. 2021), especially those that use diachronic corpora and address understudied languages and language families. Work on diachronic corpora could focus on how much word embeddings of the same word change over time. Work on one or more sets of cognates could focus on how much word embeddings of the same etymon change over time within a set of language families.
• The role of semantic change in phylogeny building, including work on etymologies (Wilkins 1996, List 2016).
Keywords: language typology, meaning, lexicon, quantitative methods, large data, etymology, semantic change, semantic evolution
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