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A LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS OF 4,520 NEW MEANINGS AND NEW WORDS IN ENGLISH* Garland Cannon The Barnhart Dictionary ofNew English since 1963 was a landmark source in English linguistics.1 As the Preface noted, it was the only extensive collection of "the common or working vocabulary of the English-speaking world during the period from 1963 to 1972." Indeed, it may have been the only large-scale collection to that date of new items and new or extended meanings of old items, as done by a professional lexicographic company to show what is going on in an internationally-used language like English by recording "the most recent terms required and created by our scientific investigations, our technical and cultural activities, and our social and personal lives." Such terms were first checked against entries in Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961) (to ensure that they were not recorded there and so would be more likely to be really new), and then were examined for "lexicality , frequency, topical interest, and similar properties." Also, terms that did not meet Barnhart's "tests of interest and importance " or that showed substantial currency before 1963 in the files were excluded. Others were excluded because they were "highly technical or scientific terms used largely in professional work, dialect and slang expressions of limited currency, and nonce or figurative terms created for ephemeral use" and thus were not yet part of the common vocabulary. John Algeo did a detailed etymological analysis of 1 ,000 words of this roughly 5,000-item corpus, categorizing them as composites (compounds and forms derived by affixation—63.9%), shifts (new meaning or functional shift—14.2%), shortenings of various kinds (9.7%), borrowings (6.9%), and blending (4.8%).2 Meanwhile, G. ScC. Merriam had published 6,000 Words: A Supplement to Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1976), which informally complemented the Barnhart dictionary—though unlike Barnhart, no dates are given, presumably because of the different purpose: to correct and update Webster's Third. I did a detailed etymological analysis of that corpus of 4,881 main entries (runons and run-ins, primarily derivational, bring the total to about ?Read at the Lexicography Discussion Group of the 1982 MLA. 97 98New Meanings and New Words in English 6,000 items),3 and though my statistics cannot be converted exactly into Algeo's parameters, the approximations are as follows: composites (62.6%), shifts (20.4%), shortenings (8.3%), borrowings (6.1%), and blending (.7%). Thus the broad proportions rather nicely agree. Barnhart extended and improved upon its earliers collection with The Second Barnhart Dictionary ofNew English, published, according to the Preface, three years ahead of schedule because of "the outgrowth of files so burgeoning with words and new meanings and new applications of old words to fit new situations."4 This time the editors provide the year of the earliest Barnhart evidence for written use of the new word or meaning, so as to approximate the time when that word or meaning gained widespread use in English. The purpose of this paper is to make a detailed linguistic analysis of the entries in Second Barnhart, on the models of Algeo (1980) and Cannon (1978), as part of a book that will make a cumulative semantic and linguistic analysis of all main entries in both Barnhart dictionaries and in Merriam's 1981 Addenda Section (i.e., an updated 6",000 Words). Because the entries in Second Barnhart are naturally more recent than those recorded in the two previous hardcover collections, this new collection is particularly interesting as a professional record of how English is continuing to add new items and new meanings at a rapid pace and in sometimes highly creative ways. While acknowledging that there are a few possible alternative analyses, we will begin with an overview of the 4,520 entries: 674 shifts (523 new meanings, 151 functional shifts) 319 borrowings 1,048 shortenings (224 abbreviations, 98 acronyms, 91 backformations , 635 others) 78 simple forms 796 derivatives 1,526 compounds and larger forms 68 variants 11 uncertain origin Most of what might be said about the 523 new or extended meanings (1 1 .6% of the total corpus) is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 97-109
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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