Changes in frequency as a measure of language change

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Samples of Pennsylvania German (PG) are compared with samples of Standard German (SG) and Palatinate (PL) dialects. Analyses of the frequency of the occurrence of extraposition show that all dialect groups differ significantly from each other. PG has the highest rate of extraposition. However, the PL group also has a higher extraposition rate than SG. Concerning adverbials, speakers of PG extrapose significantly more elements than the two comparison samples. SG and PL are not different from each other in this respect. A high frequency of event-related adverb placement that corresponds to an English surface order (‘mirror order’) and a low frequency of the order corresponding to unmarked German in PG is presented. This frequency distribution is not found in the comparison samples. Crucially, the mirror orders do occur, abeit rarely, in PL. It is argued that PG is displaying frequency changes in which previously marked variants corresponding to English surface structure rise in frequency which is possibly facilitated by pre-existing tendencies in PL.


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