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Is e- the new cyber?: A corpus study on fashion cycles in vocabulary
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2013 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

A central area of research in linguistics is the study of changes in vocabulary over time, be it over historical time periods or faster changes within generations. One contributing factor driving such fast changes could be “fashion cycles”, as this is a very general cultural phenomenon. Here, results are reported from a corpus study investigating trends over time in the use of cyber as the first part of compound nouns, and of alternatives which carry a similar meaning, such as e- as short for electronic. It is found that cyber was commonly used in the time period 1995-2004. Usage then strongly declined, but there was a new peak in popularity in the last year of available data (2012). Interestingly, cyber was initially used in positively charged or neutral contexts (e.g. cyberspace), but in recent years mostly in negatively charged words such as cyberbullying or cyber warfare. The hypothesis that cyber has been replaced with e- was partially supported (in particular in the case of e-mail, but e-books is another prominent example of a recent rising trend in vocabulary). However, in most other contexts usage of e- actually peaked a few years before the last years of the available corpus data. In general, results were consistent with “fashion cycles” in that the popularity of using cyber or e-, and in particular of specific words including these compound noun parts, seems to come and go rapidly over time. Interestingly use of cyber was seen mostly in negative contexts during later time periods. No such change was apparent in the use of e-. An emerging hypothesis partially supported by the data is that words in commercial contexts (e.g. cyber-business, e-business) rapidly lose their positive charge as they become common and are replaced by other, more novel and more fashionable words. Corpus linguistics is a very powerful tool for investigating such patterns of change in the popularity of words, and the processes behind them.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Corpus study, fashion cycles, prosody, compound nouns, fads, word usage, word change
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-121219OAI: diva2:857350
Available from: 2015-09-29 Created: 2015-09-28 Last updated: 2015-09-29Bibliographically approved

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Nylin, Johan
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