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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2022

Indestructible Insights

Mariana Montes, Karlien Franco and Kris Heylen


In this paper, we revisit Geeraerts’ (1985, 1988, 1997) case studies on the 19th century Dutch near-synonymous verb pair vernielen/vernietigen (‘to destroy’) in which he developed his Diachronic Prototype Semantics theory for explaining language variation and change. Using the statistical, corpus-based methodology of distributional semantics, we analyze the prototypical semantic structure of vernielen and vernietigen in contemporary Dutch and we discuss how the semantic change since the 19th century can be explained within a Cognitive- Sociolinguistic framework - and very much in line with the original studies - as resulting from the interaction of prototypicality effects and sociocultural factors.

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