Previous research has suggested a relationship between frequency of use (FoU) and language change (Pagel, Atkinson, & Meade, 2007), but its nature remains unclear. Two research questions were raised in this thesis: 1) whether FoU remains stable over time, 2) whether amount of language change over time can be predicted using FoU. A 1147-word subset of the IDS wordlist (Key & Comrie, 2007) was used to test these questions. The FoU of both Latin and Spanish, and amount of change for each word was measured. There was a lower correlation across time than cross-linguistically, but the effect of genre could not be removed. A weak, highly significant negative relationship between FoU and amount of change was identified, supporting the claim that high frequency words change less than low frequency words. There is an intriguing correlation between FoU and lexical change, but the causal mechanism is not yet understood.
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Thesis advisor: Pappas, Panayiotis
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