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A Web of New Words

A Corpus-Based Study of the Conventionalization Process of English Neologisms


Daphné Kerremans

This book presents the first large-scale usage-based investigation of the conventionalization process of English neologisms in the online speech community. The study answers the longstanding question of how and why some neologisms become part of the English lexicon and others do not. It strings together findings and assumptions from lexicological, sociolinguistic and cognitive research and supplements the existing theories with novel data-driven insights. For this purpose a webcrawler was developed, which extracted the occurrences of the neologisms under consideration from the Internet in monthly intervals. The book shows that the different courses conventionalization processes may take result from the interplay between speaker-based sociopragmatic accommodation-induced aspects and factors facilitating cognitive processing of novel linguistic material.
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3. Investigating English neologisms on the Internet


As mentioned above, most empirically-driven studies of nonce-formations and neologisms have focused on a particular genre or text type for which large corpora were available (Baayen and Renouf 1996; Fischer 1998) or being compiled by the researcher (Hohenhaus 1996, 2007). One notable exception which explores the potential of the Internet for monitoring the behavior of neologisms is Hohenhaus’ case study of bouncebackability (2006) discussed in 2.1.3.

Hohenhaus, however, only investigated an isolated case. In contrast, the present study aims to investigate the behavior of neologisms systematically, which requires a more complex and advanced methodology. The following chapter72 will discuss previous approaches to the use of the Web as a linguistic corpus (section 3.1), introduce a new tool for discovering and monitoring English neologisms online (section 3.2) and describe in detail how the present set of neologisms was collected and processed (section 3.3).

3.1. The Web as a corpus? Static and dynamic applications

3.1.1. General problems

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