Suppose we have two competitive synonyms A and B.

We found out that during the historical changes of the language, A gains dominant position. We found out the fact above via a statistical survey of language materials of different periods.

We think the reason that A gains dominant position is that there is a high-frequency word A' which has a similar form with A. (And, A, B and A' are roughly identical in meaning. Strict speaking, A and B are a bit stronger than A'.)

Which mechanism can be used to explain this?

I'm thinking of analogical mechanism.

  • Could you add some background to this question? Where is it coming from? What kind of "mechanism" do you have in mind?
    – lapropriu
    Nov 14, 2012 at 1:49
  • @lapropriu I've added my thoughts. I'm not sure what do you mean by 'background'. I've noticed something, and I want to know how to explain it. Is this the 'background'?
    – weakish
    Nov 14, 2012 at 2:49
  • I'm not clear on what your approach is. Is this a question about the organization of entries in the mental lexicon of speakers? Is this about the sociolinguistics of word choice? Or about semantic change (though there doesn't seem to be any semantic change in your very abstract example)? Maybe if you gave some background, like what you were reading that made you think of this, that would make your question clearer. Or some real example where you have 3 words that are identical in meaning (A', A, B), A' is highly frequent, A is similar in form, and A becomes dominant.
    – lapropriu
    Nov 14, 2012 at 5:02
  • It seems that you're starting with an assumption that there are absolutely equal synonyms. I've never seen two words that are completely equal for all situations. Yes, there are contexts where two words can be equal, but there are other contexts where using a certain synonym is preferred or even required.
    – bytebuster
    Nov 14, 2012 at 6:07
  • 1
    Semantic difference is huge: "thou" can't be (and never was) used in a plural context.
    – bytebuster
    Nov 14, 2012 at 12:26


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