Social factors in semantic change

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This study traces the semasiological development of the verb <i>afeitar</i>, taking into account probable intervening social and cognitive factors that contributed to several shifts in the verb&#8217;s prototypical meaning. Data collected from electronic corpora suggest the existence of three phases in the semantic development of the verb. Literary evidence from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries suggests that the social &#233;lite increasingly viewed the act of applying cosmetics in a negative light. The study argues that positive connotations were a conventionalized, requisite component to the meaning suggested by the verb, and that the verb was therefore increasingly viewed as inappropriate for reference to the act of applying cosmetics, while it remained perfectly suitable for reference to the act of shaving.


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