Frequency effects and structural change - the Afrikaans preterite

Johanita Kirsten


According to emergent grammar and exemplar theory in cognitive linguistics, the frequency of an item affects its behaviour in terms of structural change. In this article, I illustrate how high frequency items, such as preterital modal auxiliaries and copulas in Afrikaans, resist regularising with the rest of the Afrikaans verbal system. Items with a moderately high frequency can resist change for a time, but succumb to it eventually, such as mog (“might”) and wis (“knew”). While the course of change can also be affected by other factors, such as het (“have”) and had (“had”), and dink (“think”) and gedink/dag/dog (“thought”) show, the data in diachronic Afrikaans corpora from 1911 to 2010 confirm that high frequency items resist structural change to a large extent, while low frequency items do not. This links with the cognitive representation of language and language processing, and illustrates how the use of language shapes the structure of language.


frequency; structural change; emergent grammar; exemplar model; preterite

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c)

ISSN 2223-9936 (online); ISSN 1027-3417 (print)

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Powered by OJS and hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2011.


This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.

SUNJournals Help