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Kendro, Akbary, & Jarvis Poster Presentation HDLSC Nov 2022

Kelly Kendro MA, Mary Akbary PhD, and Prof. Scott Jarvis have been accepted to present abstract entitled "Internet-influenced shifts in compound word formation and usage frequency" at the 15th biennial High Desert Linguistics Society Conference November 11th-13th 2022. 

Abstract: Most empirical work investigating how the internet has influenced and affected language is constrained to novel tools for linguistic analysis and concerns about how abbreviations, acronyms, and other common characteristics of “textspeak” may be detrimental to language knowledge and production, particularly in younger speakers (e.g., Crystal, 2009; Guan, 2014; Strambi & Castro, 2022). However, an understudied intersection of internet and language development is the adoption of new words into the common lexicon. In this study, we track and compare the emergence and standardization of new words both pre-Internet and in the Internet

In English, compound words historically follow a typical progression during development and usage, wherein a two-word phrase begins functioning as a single lexical item, which may present as a hyphenated word before ultimately emerging as a single-word compound. Though there are some exceptions or variations to this pattern, it can largely be identified through analyses of historical corpora. We performed searches of the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA; Davies, 2015) for 32 compound words, which were normed and compiled by Li et al. (2015) and adapted from Balota et al. (2005). We then performed a search of the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA; Davies, 2008-) for 32 compound words that came into use around or after 1990 to investigate how emergence during the Internet era differed from pre-Internet word emergence. whether there are era-based differences in: i) form frequency such that newer words do not follow the historical orthographic sequence, and ii) how quickly words become widely-used? Our preliminary results show that there are indeed statistically significant era-based differences in the patterns of compound word formation found in the data (Fisher-Freeman-Halton Exact Test coefficient = 31.009, p < .001). Only one of the pre-Internet compounds and four of the Internet era compounds follow a three-stage formation pattern; most frequently, we observe a stable one-word compound for pre-Internet words and a two-word to one-word diachronic transition for Internet era compounds. Regarding how quickly the dominant form of a compound word reaches its peak frequency, we also found significant differences between the two eras (t = -15.393, df = 33.258, p
< .001, Cohen’s d = 33.66). In the historical era, the dominant forms of compound word show a mean of 145.94 (SD = 46.76) years from lexical emergence to peak usage frequency, whereas the Internet era shows a mean of only 16.41 (SD = 8.93) years from emergence to peak.

These results demonstrate clear differences in the process of compound word formation between pre-Internet and Internet era words. More broadly, we see these results as representative of larger trends related to the emergence of new words as a result of widespread global connectivity and growing accessibility to diverse language patterns, which allows for innovations to more rapidly spread and quickly enter common usage. Future research must investigate how the current emergence of new words differs from previously identified patterns of pre-internet word introduction in order to refine theories of communication and language usage.


Last Updated: 9/6/22