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Susanne Vejdemo

About me

Affiliated researcher, project: Towards Automatic Detection of Language Change.

Home Department: Department of Linguistics

My focus is on lexical and semantic change. Currently I am involved with the project Towards Automatic Detection of Language Change, where we seek to develop new and better method to automatically detect language change in digitzed corpora over time.

My PhD thesis was about different aspects of lexical replacement. In my thesis, I examine the phenomenon both from a top-down perspective (looking at cognate based rates of lexical replacement and building regression models to see what factors might influence the speed of lexical replacement for different parts of the vocabulary), and from a bottom-up perspective (a case study trying to pin down how much the color vocabulary of Swedish has changed in the last two generation, using Berlin&Kay paradigm elicitation tests).

Apart from cognitive linguistics and semantics, I have also worked and published in lexical and semantic typology.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Triangulating Perspectives on Lexical Replacement

    2017. Susanne Vejdemo (et al.).

    Thesis (Doc)

    The aim of this thesis is to investigate lexical replacement processes from several complementary perspectives. It does so through three studies, each with a different scope and time depth.

    The first study (chapter 3) takes a high time depth perspective and investigates factors that affect the rate (likelihood) of lexical replacement in the core vocabulary of 98 Indo-European language varieties through a multiple linear regression model. The chapter shows that the following factors predict part of the rate of lexical replacement for non-grammatical concepts: frequency, the number of synonyms and senses, and how imageable the concept is in the mind.

    What looks like a straightforward lexical replacement at a high time depth perspective is better understood as several intertwined gradual processes of lexical change at lower time depths. The second study (chapter 5) narrows the focus to seven closely-related Germanic language varieties (English, German, Bernese, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Icelandic) and a single semantic domain, namely color.  The chapter charts several lexical replacement and change processes in the pink and purple area of color space through experiments with 146 speakers.

    The third study (chapter 6) narrows the focus even more, to two generations of speakers of a single language, Swedish. It combines experimental data on how the two age groups partition and label the color space in general, and pink and purple in particular, with more detailed data on lexical replacement and change from interviews, color descriptions in historical and contemporary dictionaries, as well as botanical lexicons, and historical fiction corpora.

    This thesis makes a descriptive, methodological and theoretical contribution to the study of lexical replacement. Taken together, the different perspectives highlight the usefulness of method triangulation in approaching the complex phenomenon of lexical replacement.



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  • Two kinds of pink

    2015. Susanne Vejdemo (et al.). Language sciences (Oxford) 49, 19-34


    This article traces the birth of two different pink categories in western Europe and the lexicalization strategies used for these categories in English, German, Bernese, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic with the cognate sets pink, rosa, bleikur, lyserod, ceris. In the 18th century, a particular shade of light red established itself in the cultural life of people in Western Europe, earning its own independent colour term. In the middle of the 20th century, a second pink category began to spread in a subset of the languages. Contemporary experimental data from the Evolution of Semantic Systems colour project (Majid et al., 2011) is analysed in light of the extant historical data on the development of these colour terms. We find that the current pink situation arose through contact-induced lexical and conceptual change. Despite the different lexicalization strategies, the terms' denotation is remarkably similar for the oldest pink category and we investigate the impact of the advent of the younger and more restricted secondary pink category on the colour categorization and colour denotations of the languages.

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  • Comparing Distributions of Color Words

    2014. Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson, Susanne Vejdemo, Carl-Henrik Ek. PLoS ONE 9 (2), e89184


    Computational methods have started playing a significant role in semantic analysis. One particularly accessible area for developing good computational methods for linguistic semantics is in color naming, where perceptual dissimilarity measures provide a geometric setting for the analyses. This setting has been studied first by Berlin & Kay in 1969, and then later on by a large data collection effort: the World Color Survey (WCS). From the WCS, a dataset on color naming by 2 616 speakers of 110 different languages is made available for further research. In the analysis of color naming from WCS, however, the choice of analysis method is an important factor of the analysis. We demonstrate concrete problems with the choice of metrics made in recent analyses of WCS data, and offer approaches for dealing with the problems we can identify. Picking a metric for the space of color naming distributions that ignores perceptual distances between colors assumes a decorrelated system, where strong spatial correlations in fact exist. We can demonstrate that the corresponding issues are significantly improved when using Earth Mover's Distance, or Quadratic x-square Distance, and we can approximate these solutions with a kernel-based analysis method.

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Show all publications by Susanne Vejdemo at Stockholm University