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English Department

Guest Lecture by Justyna Robinson

"Concept-led approach to semantic change" by Justyna Robinson, University of Sussex (2 May 2023)

Semantic change is usually discussed from the angles of semasiology or onomasiology. Semasiology focuses on different meanings expressed by the same word across time, such as girl ‘child, young person’ (c1300) versus girl ‘female young person’. Onomasiology asks how a given meaning has been represented by different words across time. For instance, the OED tells us that the meaning ‘young person’ has been expressed by nouns child, girl, baby. These traditional approaches assume that the meaning lies in data that is conceived of in categorical and linear terms. In this talk I present a perspective on semantic change in terms of paradigmatic relations across a text that form discursive concepts. I discuss the findings from the
Linguistic DNA research project which analysed concepts in discourse of 55,000 Early Modern English books. I present the most recent theoretical and methodological innovations, which include bottom-up modelling of prosodic meaning.