Synonym Selection as a Strategy of Stress Clash Avoidance

Faculty/Professorship: English and Historical Linguistics  ; English and American Studies  
Author(s): Schlüter, Julia  ; Knappe, Gabriele  
Publisher Information: Bamberg : Otto-Friedrich-Universität
Year of publication: 2020
Pages: 27
Source/Other editions: Corpora and lexis / edited by Sebastian Hoffmann, Andrea Sand, Sabine Arndt-Lappe, Lisa Marie Dillmann. Leiden : Brill Rodopi, 2018. - (Language and computers ; 81). - S. 69-105. - ISBN 978-9-004-36112-6
is version of: 10.1163/9789004361133_005
Year of first publication: 2018
Language(s): English
DOI: 10.20378/irb-47926
Licence: German Act on Copyright 
URN: urn:nbn:de:bvb:473-irb-479264
In this paper we argue that (near) synonymy can result in syntactic specialization, and we test the hypothesis that one major factor underlying such fixation may be rhythmic in nature. Thus, the analysis extends the study of the preference for alternating stressed and unstressed syllables (Schlüter, 2005) to lexical choices. We investigate the syntactic distribution of the (near-)synonymous adjective pairs rich vs. wealthy, fast/quick vs. rapid, glad vs. happy and shut vs. closed, showing that the monosyllabic members – or the one with a short syllable as opposed to a long syllable – tend to be underrepresented in prenominal position. Our hypothesis is that, due to the pervasiveness of initial stress in English nouns, monosyllabic adjectives tend to be avoided in prenominal position if they can be replaced by disyllabic equivalents. By extension, in the absence of such equivalents, other kinds of temporal spacing between stresses, such as long instead of short syllables, can satisfy the rhythmic requirement. Drawing on large historical as well as present-day corpora covering the 19th and 20th centuries (mainly COHA and COCA), we portray some relatively stable asymmetrical diachronic and synchronic distributions of these synonym pairs and triplets across attributive and predicative uses. The analysis will also point to potentially interacting factors, such as concomitant semantic specialization resulting from this syntactic fixation and the status of (fixed) collocations. The latter will be analysed in more diachronic depth on the basis of EEBO.
GND Keywords: Englisch; Korpus <Linguistik>; Akzent; Rhythmus
Keywords: Principle of Rhythmic Alternation, stress clashes, syllable duration, interaction across linguistic levels, lexical choices, synonyms, collocations, fixed expressions, phraseological units
DDC Classification: 420 English  
RVK Classification: HF 205   
International Distribution: Ja
Type: Contribution to an Articlecollection
Release Date: 31. July 2020

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