A substantial proportion of our everyday language is 'formulaic', that is, it consists of oft-repeated chunks. From pause fillers such as you know, to phrases such as Many thanks!, Is this seat taken? or strong tea, they form a phenomenon central in language. This important new book investigates formulaic language from the point of view of language change. Employing a novel quantitative and data-led approach, it traces and analyses change in phraseology across 20th Century German as used in Switzerland. Drawing on nearly 20 million words of textual evidence, it shows that social and cultural change in the speech community is the predominant motivator of change, though other factors are also at play. The book demonstrates a close link between language change and the culture of the speech community, arguing that this has repercussions for the study of language in general, as well as the study of society and history.
Introduction; 1. Formulaic language; 2. Cultural context and diachrony; 3. The data, the community and a data-led identification of MWEs; 4. MWEs in written German; 5. Culture as motivator of change; 6. Cultural motivation in context; Conclusions; Appendix A. Filter entries; Appendix B. Rater guidelines on semantic unity.
Andreas Buerki is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Language and Communication Research, Cardiff University.
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