This paper introduces a new, concept-based method for measuring variation in the use and success of loanwords by presenting the results of a case-study on 149 English person reference nouns (i.e. common nouns used to designate people, such as manager) in Dutch. With this paper, we introduce four methodological improvements to current quantitative corpus-based anglicism research, based on the general tenets of Cognitive Sociolinguistics (Geeraerts 2005; Kristiansen and Geeraerts 2007; Geeraerts 2010; Geeraerts et al. 2010): (1) replacing raw frequency as a success measure by a concept-based onomasiological approach; (2) relying on larger datasets and semi-automatic extraction techniques; (3) adding a multivariate perspective to the predominantly structuralist orientation of current accounts; (4) using inferential statistical techniques to help explain variation. We illustrate our method by presenting a case-study on variation in the success of English person reference nouns in Dutch. Generally, this article aims to show how a Cognitive Sociolinguistic perspective on loanword research is beneficial for both paradigms. On the one hand, the concept-based approach provides new insights in the spread of loanwords. On the other hand, attention to contact linguistic phenomena offers a new expansion to the domain of cognitive linguistic studies taking a variationist approach.
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