Modeling language change in English first names

Savannah Jane Williams, Margaret Renwick

Abstract


Some lexical classes are more susceptible to the effects of sound symbolism, a hypothesized relationship where speech sounds represent non-phonetic properties. Sound symbolic principles are manifested in male and female personal names in English. While previous research found distinct differences between female and male names in English, the current study fills a gap in existing research by adopting a diachronic perspective: male and female names are compared to each other as well as to themselves across time. Statistical analysis was conducted via a generalized additive model in R, using a data of 5600 names sourced from the United States Social Security Administration. The study finds that female names are longer, more likely to end in a vowel, and less likely to have initial primary stress, and that names for both sexes exhibit change over time, shifting towards a pattern previously associated with female names. 

Keywords


sound symbolism; onomastics; language change

Full Text:

PDF


DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v7i1.5243

Copyright (c) 2022 Savannah Jane Williams, Margaret Renwick

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Donate to the Open-Access Fund of the LSA

Linguistic Society of America


Advancing the Scientific Study of Language since 1924

ISSN (online): 2473-8689

This publication is made available for free to readers and with no charge to authors thanks in part to your continuing LSA membership and your donations to the open access fund.