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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 12, 2019

Concept characteristics and variation in lexical diversity in two Dutch dialect areas

Karlien Franco ORCID logo, Dirk Geeraerts, Dirk Speelman and Roeland Van Hout
From the journal Cognitive Linguistics


Lexical diversity, the amount of lexical variation shown by a particular concept, varies between concepts. For the concept drunk, for instance, nearly 3000 English expressions exist, including blitzed, intoxicated, and hammered. For the concept sober, however, a significantly smaller number of lexical items is available, like sober or abstinent. While earlier variation studies have revealed that meaning-related concept characteristics correlate with the amount of lexical variation, these studies were limited in scope, being restricted to one semantic field and to one dialect area, that of the Limburgish dialects of Dutch. In this paper, we investigate whether the impact of concept characteristics, viz. vagueness, lack of salience and proneness to affect, is manifest in a similar way in other dialects and other semantic fields. In particular, by extending the scope of the earlier studies to other carefully selected semantic fields, we investigate the generalizability of the impact of concept characteristics to the lexicon as a whole. The quantitative approach that we employ to measure concept characteristics and lexical diversity methodologically advances the study of linguistic variation. Theoretically, this paper contributes to the further development of Cognitive Sociolinguistics by showcasing how meaning can be a source of lexical diversity.


The authors are grateful to three anonymous reviewers and to the Editor-in-Chief and the Outgoing Editor-in-Chief for their useful suggestions to an earlier version of this paper. This study was supported by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO, grant no. G042114N).


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Received: 2017-12-10
Revised: 2018-08-27
Accepted: 2018-09-07
Published Online: 2019-01-12
Published in Print: 2019-02-25

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