An academic dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics at Stockholm University by Susanne Vejdemo was publicly defended on Friday 3 March 2017 at 13:00 in hörsal 4, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10 B.

Download the thesis from DiVA (Academic Archive On-line)


The aim of this thesis is to investigate lexical replacement processes from several complementary perspectives. It does so through three studies, each with a different scope and time depth. The first study (chapter 3) takes a high time depth perspective and investigates factors that affect the rate (likelihood) of lexical replacement in the core vocabulary of 98 Indo-European language varieties through a multiple linear regression model. The chapter shows that the following factors predict part of the rate of lexical replacement for non-grammatical concepts: frequency, the number of synonyms and senses, and how imageable the concept is in the mind. What looks like a straightforward lexical replacement at a high time depth perspective is better understood as several intertwined gradual processes of lexical change at lower time depths. The second study (chapter 5) narrows the focus to seven closely-related Germanic language varieties (English, German, Bernese, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Icelandic) and a single semantic domain, namely color.  The chapter charts several lexical replacement and change processes in the pink and purple area of color space through experiments with 146 speakers. The third study (chapter 6) narrows the focus even more, to two generations of speakers of a single language, Swedish. It combines experimental data on how the two age groups partition and label the color space in general, and pink and purple in particular, with more detailed data on lexical replacement and change from interviews, color descriptions in historical and contemporary dictionaries, as well as botanical lexicons, and historical fiction corpora. This thesis makes a descriptive, methodological and theoretical contribution to the study of lexical replacement. Taken together, the different perspectives highlight the usefulness of method triangulation in approaching the complex phenomenon of lexical replacement.

Opponent: Asifa Majid, Professor at Radboud University, The Netherlands.

Thesis committee:

  • Jenny Larsson, Department of Slavic and Baltic Studies Finnish Dutch and German, Stockholm University
  • Mari Uusküla, Tallin University, Estonia
  • Mats Wirén, Department of Linguistics, Stockholm University

Supervisors: Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm and Bernhard Wälchli