Karen Keune, Mirjam Ernestus, Roeland van Hout, R. Harald Baayen
November 4, 2005
In Dutch, high-frequency words with the suffix -lijk are often highly reduced in spontaneous unscripted speech. This study addressed socio-geographic variation in the reduction of such words against the backdrop of the variation in their use in written and spoken Dutch. Multivariate analyses of the frequencies with which the words were used in a factorially contrasted set of subcorpora revealed significant variation involving the speaker’s country, sex, and education level for spoken Dutch, and involving country and register for written Dutch. Acoustic analyses revealed that Dutch men reduced most often, while Flemish highly educated women reduced least. Two linguistic context effects emerged, one prosodic, and the other pertaining to the flow of information. Words in sentence final position showed less reduction, while words that were better predictable from the preceding word in the sentence (based on mutual information) tended to be reduced more often. The increased probability of reduction for forms that are more predictable in context, combined with the loss of the suffix in the more extremely reduced forms, suggests that high-frequency words in -lijk are undergoing a process of erosion that causes them to gravitate towards monomorphemic function words.