The usage and spread of sentence-internal capitalization in Early New High German: A multifactorial approach

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Authors Fabian Barteld, Stefan Hartmann, Renata Szczepaniak
Journal/Conference Name FOLIA LINGUISTICA
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Sentence-internal capitalization of nouns is a characteristic of written Standard German. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have been identified as the crucial period for the development of this graphemic convention. Previous studies have shown that animacy played a major role in the spread of sentence-internal capitalization. On the basis of the transregional SiGS-corpus consisting of 18 protocols of witch trials (hand-)written between 1588 and 1630, we propose word frequency as an additional factor and test for its interaction with animacy. Our data reveal that the proportion of capitalized words denoting humans and animate concepts increases rapidly, while the capitalization of lexemes referring to concrete and abstract concepts remains stable at a lower level. A binomial mixed-effects model shows a highly significant effect of frequency and a significant interaction between frequency and animacy. In sum, our data show how cognitive, pragmatic, and usage factors conspire in the gradual emergence of a graphemic convention. We therefore argue that the previously neglected graphemic dimension can add important insights to an empirically based theory of the language-cognition interface.
Date of publication 2016
Code Programming Language R
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