Productive Signs. A Computer-Assisted Analysis of Evolutionary, Typological, and Cognitive Dimensions of Word Families

Speaker Mattis List
Affiliaton(s) MPI EVA Leipzig
Date 24.05.2022
Time 14:30 o'clock
Venue Online (see below)


All human languages have simple and complex words. Simple words refer to meanings regardless of their form, while complex words are formed from other words, and their formation can be semantically motivated. Since words can share lexical material, we can group them into families. Word families can vary greatly in size, ranging from small ones – comprising only a few members –, to large ones – spanning several hundred words –, but it is still unclear why some words are more productive than others in forming new words. Lexical compositionality has received some attention in historical linguistics, linguistic typology, and cognitive linguistics, but so far studies have mostly concentrated on the morphological complexity of individual words and languages, while the fact that words form families which interact during language change and language use has been typically ignored. The ProduSemy project will try to tackle key questions on the evolution, distribution, and psychology of word families by unifying evolutionary, typological, and cognitive insights into lexical compositionality, using a computer-assisted framework. In the talk, major questions the project aims to tackle will be presented and the research strategy will be discussed in detail.

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