University student, beginning to learn about corpora, developing a research question for an assignment. There may well be linguistic concepts and terminology that already cover this idea and that I am not aware of. I would appreciate any knowledge about this that you can give me.

My idea is to use diachronic corpora to try to determine a usage threshold, or point of no return, below which words typically do not survive in a language.

An example: Pronominal adverbs in English are mostly used as techinical jargon (e.g. herinafter), archaic (hereunto) or part of everyday English (therefore). I analyzed these types of words in NGRAM viewer and noticed that, since the 1560s "therefore" has never fallen below the 1/100ths usage percent and hereunto has never risen above the 1/1,00ths. I'm aware NGRAM may not be the best corpus for this.

Have any studies been published that suggest a usage amount that typically determines if a word will become archaic, or obsolete?

  • Sorry there is a typo in my question "hereunto" has never risen above the 1/1,000ths.
    – tom
    Jun 6 '18 at 17:20
  • 2
    You can edit your posts to correct typos and add stuff.
    – Vladimir F
    Jun 7 '18 at 16:19
  • I suspect that numbers would be different for different parts of speech. Jun 8 '18 at 0:25
  • Also, there may be different reasons for low frequency besides archaism. It might be the opposite, a neologism, or slang, regionalism, technical jargon, etc. Jun 8 '18 at 0:30
  • Thanks for the reply. The 1st part of speech that I am investigating is pronominal adverbs, like hereinafter, whereby and thereunto, so they are not new, slang, they stem from PGmc - therefore = dafuer in German and yes I would agree that most of this class has been restricted to legal jargon today, but again I would argue that is because the majority of this word class has become archaic or obsolete (aside from in Legal English). So, why did a handful of these enter into common English? This idea is probably unique enough that I won't get hit for plagarism right? It hasn't yet been done?
    – tom
    Jun 8 '18 at 18:15

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