Volume 2, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2210-2116
  • E-ISSN: 2210-2124
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Notions of constant rates of language change, whether relative or absolute, are widespread but controversial. Lieberman et al. (2007: 713) posit a frequency-based principle for verb regularization, tested against English historical data: “a verb that is 100 times less frequent regularizes 10 times as fast”. We present similar data from German, a closely related language. Until the Early Modern period, regularization was relatively uncommon, while the modern period shows a dramatic upswing in strong verbs becoming weak. As Lieberman et al. and others have found, frequency plays a clear role in regularization. We show that regularization also interacts with verb class membership (type frequency), and suggest that greater regularization in and since the Early Modern period correlates with socio-historical changes in language acquisition and use. While the notion of a general half-life for verb regularization proves challenging, more nuanced quantitative research on verb regularization can advance our understanding of language change, structurally and in its socio-historical context.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): frequency; German; Germanic; rate of change; regularization; strong verbs
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