Zimmermann, Richard (2023) 'An improved test of the constant rate hypothesis: late Modern American English possessive have.' Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 19.3, 323–352.
The Constant Rate Hypothesis is the claim that a syntactic change affects all grammatical contexts (like questions, negative sentences etc.) at the same rate of change. In this paper, I test this claim with a large dataset of possessive have structures and find that it is plausible to think the prediction is correct.
Zimmermann, Richard (2022) 'A quantitative model of verb–object order in Middle English with special reference to the prose–poetry distinction.' English Language and Linguistics 26.3, 603–620.
I report a regression model for the change from OV to VO in Middle English. It focuses on genre (prose versus poetry) as a predictor by including data from a recently published corpus, the PCMEP, along with other independent variables.
I highlight the importance of the genre variable, poetry being considerably more conservative than prose, and recommended that poetry texts should be considered in studies on early Middle English syntax more generally.
Zimmermann, Richard (2021) 'The Loss of Negative Concord with Negative PPs.' In: Vezzosi, Letizia (ed.) Current Issues in Medieval England. Studies in English Medieval Language and Literature, Volume 59. Berlin: Peter Lang, 273-99.
Middle English loses the negative particle 'ne' in its function as a sentential negator as well as in negative concord structures. This paper measures 'ne'-drop in both contexts with quantitative data from three syntactically parsed Middle English corpora. Surprisingly, the results show that the rate of 'ne'-loss with negative prepositional phrases (PPs) seems to be significantly slower than elsewhere. Different explanations for this observation are explored.
Zimmermann, Richard (2020) 'Testing Causal Associations in Language Change: The Replacement of Subordinating then with when in Middle English.' Journal of Historical Syntax 4.4, 1-59.
Middle English changes the realization of temporal subordinators from a th-form (then) to a wh-form (when). The innovation is quantified with data from four syntactically parsed corpora. The change may have had an antecedent cause in the loss of subject-verb inversion after adverbial then.
Zimmermann, Richard (2019) 'Studying Semantic Chain Shifts with Word2Vec: FOOD>MEAT>FLESH.' Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on Computational Approaches to Historical Language Change, 23-28.
Word2Vec models are used to study the semantic chain shift FOOD>MEAT>FLESH in the history of English, c. 1425-1925. The development stretches out over a long time, starting before 1500, and may possibly be continuing to this day. The semantic changes likely proceeded as a push chain.
Zimmermann, Richard (2017) Formal and Quantitative Approaches to the Study of Syntactic Change: Three Case Studies from the History of English. PhD Dissertation. University of Geneva.
In my PhD dissertation, I discuss general mechanisms of syntactic change on the basis of three case studies from the history of English.
Zimmermann, Richard (2014) Dating Hitherto Undated Early English Texts Based on Text-Internal Criteria. Manuscript. University of Geneva.
I use a probabilistic Bayesian classifier trained on fourteen syntactic features to ascertain the date of composition of undated Old English texts.
Zimmermann, Richard (2014) 'Distributional Differences between Old English Main Clauses with and without a Conjunction.' In: Butt, Miriam & Holloway King, Tracy (eds.) Proceedings of LFG14. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications, 566-585.
Old English main clauses and main clauses introduced by a conjunction pattern differently in terms of verb placement and topicalization. This paper propses an LFG model to capture these distributional differences.
Zimmermann, Richard (2013) 'Rule Independence and Rule Conditioning: Grammar Competition in Old English Relative Clauses.' Proceedings of ConSOLE XX Leipzig 2012, 315-332.
This paper claims that Old English se þe relative clauses are the result of two independent, overlapping rules. The overlap is made possible by the fact that the rules are not conditioned on some contextual factor.
Zimmermann, Richard (2012) 'Self as a Non-Postposing Element in Old English.' Generative Grammar in Geneva (GG@G) 8, 39-58.
Early English develops from a verb-final to a subject-verb language. But in order to measure this change accurately, diagnostic elements must be identified that cannot postpose. In this paper, I show that self is such a diagnostic element.
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