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Lexico statistical dating

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In the context of a synchronic lexical study of the Gbe varieties of West Africa, this paper explores the question of whether the application of different sets of similarity judgment criteria in analyzing lexical features with complex polymorphemic word-structures, giving special emphasis to additional morphemes and reduplication, leads to the same or different conclusions as to the relative relationships and clustering of the investigated varieties and the prioritization of further sociolinguistic research.The Gbe language continuum (Kwa language family) is situated in the southeastern part of West Africa, occupying large areas in southern Benin, Togo, and southeastern Ghana.Thus, in analyzing the Gbe data set, two different sets of similarity judgment criteria were applied to explore their effects on the computed degrees of lexical similarity, initial clustering of these varieties, and recommended priorities for further sociolinguistic research.

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This study was guided by two related theories: Error Analysis Theory/Approach by Corder (1971) which approaches L2 learning through a detailed analysis of the learners' own language and Interlanguage Theory by Selinker (1972) which looks at the language of L2 learners as an interim grammar advancing towards TL.

During the first phase of this study, word and phrase lists were elicited in 49 Gbe varieties, to obtain a rough estimate of the computed degrees of linguistic similarity between these varieties, to identify how these varieties might be treated as clusters, and to establish priorities for further sociolinguistic research.

Given the study’s overall objective of assessing the extensibility of the literacy efforts already existing, a synchronic approach was chosen for this analysis of the elicited lexical Gbe data (Kluge 2000, forthcoming).

Concerning the procedures involved in making lexical similarity decisions, Gudschinsky (1956) provides a set of guidelines to identify lexical items that are both phonetically and semantically similar and to group these into sets of probable cognates.

These guidelines have since been adapted for use in linguistic and sociolinguistic language surveys, for example by Blair (19ff), in his manual for small-scale language surveys which provides a set of criteria for the comparison of pairs of phones in two words.