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date: 20 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Polysynthetic languages are overwhelmingly oral. Oral languages are typically associated with small speaker groups describable as local and inward-oriented, a sociolinguistic context which is claimed to have structural effects on the language. The recent corpus revolution in linguistics has caused a renewed focus on spoken varieties of languages, even languages with thick and deep written records. Corpus analyses come with a concomitant realization that languages may be less productive and compositional than we thought, with speakers opting for a smallish set of lexically frozen and semantically opaque (though pragmatically rich) collocations. In this contribution, it is shown that collocations from spoken varieties of English can be characterized in terms similar to those classically used to describe polysynthetic languages: holophrastic, highly compressed, and idiomatic. At the same time, the compressed structures we associate with polysynthetic languages are considered as artefacts of their speakers’ socio-cultural contexts, contexts which revolve around subjective, face-to-face conversation.

Keywords: collocation, corpus linguistics, esoterogeny, holophrasis, oralcy, phraseology, speech community, usage, Athapaskan (Dene)

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