Variation and change in the lexicon

A corpus-based analysis of adjectives in English ending in -ic and -ical


The present volume is a corpus-based study of the occurrence, variation, and change in the use of English adjective pairs in - ic and - ical over several centuries. The study involves the analysis of large, multi-million-word corpora representing the English language at various stages. It examines the nature of competition between the two affixes: what kind of rivalry existed, what kinds of words entered into competition, and in what ways the rivalry was resolved. The book presents close studies of six notably differentiated -ic/-ical adjective pairs, namely classic/classical, comic/comical, economic/economical, electric/electrical, historic/historical, and magic/magical, as well as commentaries on some 40 other -ic/-ical pairs, which manifest different types of shifts in use through history. It also includes critical discussion of general perceptions on and approaches to the practical use of corpora, stressing the importance of close and careful study of the materials under analysis. It further emphasises the value of consulting a variety of sources alongside corpora, including dictionaries and language usage manuals. This volume is of interest to language scholars in many fields, including corpus linguistics, diachronic linguistics, semantic change, lexicology, and word formation.
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Biographical Note

Mark Kaunisto is an Academy of Finland Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of English, University of Tampere.

Table of contents

Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Materials used in the study
Chapter 3. Earlier observations and empirical studies
Chapter 4. The history of new adjectives ending in ic and ical
Chapter 5. Excellence, tradition, and ancient Greeks: classic/classical
Chapter 6. Perspectives on amusement: the use of comic/comical
Chapter 7. Arranging the motions of resources: economic/economical
Chapter 8. Shocks, sparks and excitement vs. engineering: electric/electrical
Chapter 9. The past and the important things in it: historic/historical
Chapter 10. From supernatural powers to exciting football games: magic/magical
Chapter 11. Obsolescence of one of the forms
Chapter 12. Some special cases
Chapter 13. Concluding remarks