The pronunciation and meaning of words change over time, as a result of a variety of forces. These forces are well documented and fairly well understood.

Given this knowledge, is it possible to coin a word such its meaning or pronunciation changes more slowly? Would you choose specific sounds? Would you choose proximity to other words so speakers are unable to change the sounds in common directions?

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    That's really a fascinating question. I wonder for what purposes would such sound-change resistant words be most suitable? It would have to be something with a time period of centuries. May 7, 2014 at 19:10
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    For example, -r in English words tend to make the vowels before them not change. Compare bear vs. bead, floor vs flood.
    – Kenny Lau
    Apr 16, 2016 at 15:52
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    An example that comes to mind are the Spanish words like Jesús, Dios and espíritu which because of their ritual use avoided some regular shifts in pronunciation that the rest of the language underwent. But ritualising the meaning can backfire, see en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Quebec_sacres. Aug 9, 2018 at 10:06

1 Answer 1


I'm not a researcher, but what I remember from my studies is that what makes words change pronunciation and meaning is basically people and the use they make of these words. Then you indirectly have culture, places, etc where these people find themselves which will influence as well.

Even if we understand how these words do change, it's hard to create a word that doesn't respond to these factors or that ignores them because they are not predictable. Changes in meaning are really dependent on use and popularity and indeed, popular words will acquire new meanings or they will be adopted by other countries (many did with English words for example) in order to refer to a certain meaning.

With changes in culture, in technology, science, and society, words will inevitably change.

Changes in sounds are more regular and have less exceptions (real world ones still do), and this regularity is used by linguists, such as in the Comparative Method which "aims to prove that two or more historically attested languages are descended from a single proto-language by comparing lists of cognate terms."

However one of the principles of Sound Change is that Sound change is unstoppable: All languages vary from place to place and time to time, and neither writing nor media prevent this change. In conclusion, your objective might not be reachable.

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    Sure, change is unstoppable. Nonetheless, some words change faster than others. Are you suggesting that my hypothetical slow-changing novel word would benefit from being widely used, or less used? May 12, 2014 at 14:41
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    @WilfredHughes True, but the point of my answer is that you cannot really predict how your word will change, because the factors that influence such a change are not pre-written, rather they depend on the usage of people, on real-world issues, needs, etc.
    – Alenanno
    May 14, 2014 at 9:52

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