Frequency as a cause of semantic change

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This study argues for a reinterpretation of the linguistic evolution of personal pronouns in the history of Japanese, with special focus on the second person form <i>omae</i>. While prior research has found certain syntactic and semantic differences between Japanese pronouns and Western counterparts, no research projects have analyzed Japanese pronouns from the perspective of grammatical distribution. This study takes a frequency-based approach to reveal the distributional patterns of <i>omae</i> at several historical stages, and shows that frequency serves as a cause of semantic change, providing evidence for the correlations between referential shifting and grammatical roles on the one hand and between frequency and semantic depreciation on the other.


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