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date: 17 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In this chapter the focus is on taboo and language development. Whether we are looking at the naming restrictions of Polynesia or the social taste constraints of English-speaking communities, taboo areas of the lexicon perpetuate instability. Existing vocabulary is often abandoned as speakers either borrow words or create new expressions; surviving vocabulary is often remodelled as speakers either give new meaning to old expressions or modify their pronunciation in some way. Thus word taboo is a counter-agent to the operation of regular change, and consequently plays havoc with the conventional methods of historical and comparative linguistics, which operate on principles such as the arbitrary nature of the word, the regularity of sound change and the nonexistence of true synonyms.

Keywords: taboo words, language change, euphemism, naming taboos, historical linguistics

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