May 30, 2019

Guest speaker: Susanne Vejdemo (QualiTest/College of Staten Island, CUNY)

The Language, Cognition, and Computation (LCC) group welcomes Susanne Vejdemo (QualiTest/College of Staten Island, CUNY), who works on empirical approaches to semantics and the lexicon across languages and across time. She will be giving a talk on Friday, May 31, at 10:00 AM, in room 266 of the Pratt Building (note the updated location): "Processes of lexico-semantic birth, death and zombie-hood in the color domain: Cross-linguistic and intergenerational data." She will also discuss computational approaches to the detection of semantic change in diachronic corpora.

How does lexico-semantic change proceed? The color domain is an excellent arena for studies of lexico-semantic processes: the lexical battles that happen when a new concept emerges in a language; the way a new concept can make older concepts shift in semantic space as it grows; the way a dying concept loses both denotational reference area and collocational ability.

I will combine cross-linguistic data from seven Germanic languages, with inter-generational data from two generations of Swedish speakers. I will chart the birth and subsequent lexical and semantic upheaval for two young color categories (PINK and PURPLE) that did not exist a few centuries ago in the languages. The two perspectives help elucidate different part of the process. Lexicosemantic change often starts and ends in category peripheries, as 'defeated' color terms get marginalized and die - or remain as shadows of their former selves.

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