19 ottobre 2012

Institutionalization of a neologism

How does a new form innovated on the basis of word formation rules come to be conventionalized as part of the accepted vocabulary of a community?

This question is usually answered in terms of "Institutionalization", which is sometimes regarded as a precursor of lexicalization, sometimes identified with it.

The institutionalisation of a new term comprises the following stages:
  1. Frequency: A neologism can start being used in an increasingly recurring way. We can notice that its use reaches a peak while the previous word form wanes. Abrupt frequency changes can occur. Stability of the extent of occurrence observed or an occurrence drop after a peak may point to the end of the institutionalisation course. Moreover, the relationship between the occurrence frequency of a word in certain texts – termed text frequency – and its full frequency – termed total frequency – should also be observed. The institutionalisation degree of a term can be shown by the ratio of the first frequency to the second one. 
  2. Text type and variety of texts in general: If a term is found in different kinds of texts, this can lead us to infer the institutionalisation degree of said term. If a term is used nowhere but in certain social or geographical environments, its institutionalisation degree is likely to be limited. 
  3. Intra-linguistic justification: When different writing formats (upper case, lower case, first letter uppercase, hyphen) are simultaneously present, they denote an ongoing institutionalisation course. A form which gradually stabilises in lieu of another indicates a standardisation process. 
  4. Meaning: If an unknown word’s meaning is clarified through definitions, rephrasing, synonyms, opposites and so forth, this means that the term still has a low degree of institutionalisation. The context in which the new term is placed can also be an indicator for its degree of institutionalisation, e.g. an article which has the neologism as its title or topic. A doubtless increase in the degree of institutionalisation exists if the neologism doesn’t appear any longer in the article core (where further explanations are usually provided), but in its peripheral part. 
  5. Word formation and productivity: A term or a fragment of it can become the starting point to contrive further neologisms. When this takes place, the initial term or its fragment can be regarded as being institutionalised. 

The above distinction marks referring to the institutionalisation course of a neologism have to be observed over a long time. In order to gain further information on the term origin and diffusion, gathering of information from several newspapers and journals, magazines, specialists’ magazines, web sites and dictionaries is required.

Neologisms originate through various formation mechanisms, i.e. suffixing, prefixing, compounding, new creation, metaphors, fixed phrases comprising two or more words. The various origin categories of neologisms cannot always be precisely discerned, though.

Excerpt from my article on Englishfor: Jurno Neologism - 
Lexicalization and Language Change, by Laurel J. Briton
Lexical Change in Present-Day English: A Corpus-Based Study of the Motivation, Institutionalization, and Productivity of Creative Neologisms, Roswitha Fischer.

15 ottobre 2012

Recession makes us richer.. in words

The only one who is gaining benefits from the recession is the English language: as we are growing poorer, the English language is growing richer.

The latest trend in the most famous online dictionaries (Collins, Merriam-Webster , Cambridge, etc) is to stay current with language changes, word usage, slangs, jargons, and neologisms.

Each year the dictionaries add new words that have been accepted by the common parlance and competitions are being launched each year in order to find the word of the year.

The “word of the year” competition, abbreviated WOTY, is a competition for voting the most important word o in the public sphere during a specific year.

In the last five years, the list of new, officially recognized words by Merriam Webster’s WOTY include a number of terms that are a true product of our times.

  • In 2008 the word was bailout, “a rescue from financial distress.”
  • In 2009, staycation, “a vacation spent at home or nearby.”
  • In 2010, austerity, “enforced or extreme economy.”
  • In 2011, boomerang child, “a young adult who returns to live at his or her family home especially for financial reasons.”
  • Finally, in 2012 underwater, “a mortgage loan for which more is owed than the worth of the property.”

This competition proves how words are our windows to the world. These five words are a reflection of our concerns and worries since the beginning of the “Great Recession”.

Recession language isn’t a new phenomenon. Thanks to the Great Depression we have terms like: dirt poor, and baloney (to mean ridiculous, not the mystery sandwich meat). Even the term "depression" has been attributed to Herbert Hoover, who is thought to have wanted to avoid using the more common, but more alarming terms "panic" or "crisis" to describe what subsequently became known as the Great Depression.

When we are creating a new catchword, we're controlling the situation for ourselves. We attempt to define and control and make sense of the world.

In particular, "clever words such as "staycation" help people approach grim realities - like not being able to afford a vacation -- through humor”, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

"When people start becoming playful with language, that's a coping mechanism," she said.

Source: Do you speak recession-ese?

Read other recession posts

12 ottobre 2012

Twitter: a valuable tool for linguists

The world of technology is shaping the English language, with innovative advances reflected in new terms.

Of course the explosion of social media has accelerated the creation of new words as different cultures and languages interact.

People are writing much more than we used to. The users of online social media produce an extraordinary amount of text each day. This increased use of electronic communication has given us new language forms and expressions largely driven by operational issues and a need to compensate for lack of non-verbal communication. 

Twitter and other social media offer records of language mutating in real time and space: an immense resource that can offer linguists the opportunity to explore how our words and phrases are changing.

Twitter claims that around 340 million tweets are sent every day. Following someone on Twitter, it is possible to see a word at the moment of its coinage. Because tweets tend to be rather informal, there are a lot of types of creative usages of words. 57% of neologisms on Twitter come from blends.

Networds: new terms coined in the environment of social networks (neologism invented by me).

11 ottobre 2012

Il processo di istituzionalizzazione di un neologismo

Il processo di istituzionalizzazione di un nuovo termine avviene secondo le seguenti fasi:
  1. Frequenza. Un neologismo può iniziare a essere usato con crescente ricorrenza. Si può osservare un suo picco e un declino della forma preesistente. Possono verificarsi improvvisi cambiamenti nella frequenza. La stabilità nel grado di occorrenza osservato o una recessione della stessa dopo un picco può indicare la fine del processo di istituzionalizzazione. Inoltre, bisogna osservare anche la relazione tra la frequenza con la quale una parola appare in certi testi e la frequenza totale di una parola. La prima viene definita text frequency e la seconda total frequency. Il rapporto tra i due valori può indicare il grado di istituzionalizzazione del termine. 
  2. Tipologia di testi e le varietà in generale. La presenza di un termine in differenti tipi di testi suggerisce il grado della sua istituzionalizzazione. Se un termine è usato solo in certi contesti sociali o geografici, è probabile che il suo grado di istituzionalizzazione sia limitato.
  3. Motivazione intra-linguistica. La presenza simultanea di differenti stili grafici (maiuscole, minuscole, prima lettera maiuscola, trattino) indicano un processo di istituzionalizzazione in atto. La graduale stabilità di una forma piuttosto che un’altra indica un processo di standardizzazione.
  4. Contenuto. Se il significato di una parola sconosciuta viene chiarito dall’uso di definizioni, parafrasi, sinonimi, contrari, ecc. vuol dire che il grado di istituzionalizzazione del termine è ancora basso. Anche il contesto nel quale il nuovo termine è inserito può essere un indicatore del grado di istituzionalizzazione, ad esempio se il neologismo è il titolo di un articolo o ne è l’argomento. Il grado di istituzionalizzazione è sicuramente aumentato se il neologismo non è più menzionato al centro dell’articolo (dove sono fornite in genere ulteriori spiegazioni), ma piuttosto nella sezione periferica.
  5. Formazione della parola e produttività. Un termine o un segmento di esso possono diventare il punto di partenza per la creazione di altri neologismi. Quando ciò avviene, il termine originario o il segmento del termine possono essere considerati istituzionalizzati. 
 I segni distintivi sopraelencati, relativi al processo di istituzionalizzazione di un neologismo, devono essere osservati per un lungo periodo di tempo ed è necessario, per ottenere ulteriori informazioni sulle origini e sulla diffusione del termine, raccogliere informazioni da più giornali, riviste, riviste specializzate, siti Internet e dizionari.
I neologismi presentano diversi meccanismi di formazione: suffissazione, prefissazione, termini composti (compounding), nuove coniazioni, metafore, locuzioni formate da due o più parole (fixed phrase).
Tuttavia, non sempre è possibile distinguere con precisione le varie categorie di formazione dei neologismi.

Excerpt from my article on Englishfor: Jurno Neologism - neologismi nelle news

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