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Variation and change in idiolects: Tracing a lexical substitution inside a psychiatric hospital around 1900

Authors
  • Schiegg, Markus1
  • 1 FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, Deutschland , (Germany)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association
Publisher
De Gruyter Mouton
Publication Date
Nov 03, 2021
Volume
9
Issue
1
Pages
35–46
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/gcla-2021-0002
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

This paper presents a case study on the lexical substitution of Wärter (‘guard’) by Pfleger (‘nurse’) in records from a southern German psychiatric hospital around 1900. Its goal is to shed light on language variation and change from the perspective of idiolects. Therefore, I analyse how this change, implemented by official documents in 1876, spreads ‘from above’ into the written language of 108 patients and 10 family members. The results show a quick implementation of the new variant, comprising its semantic generalization and the near-complete replacement of the older variant. This process can sometimes be observed in individual lifespan changes, while other writers continue using Wärter in idiosyncratic ways. Finally, a comparison with two more general corpora (DWDS and Google Books) shows that this lexical change appears delayed and less consistent outside the hospital context.

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