PhD Alumni

David Lorenz Freiburg

Contractions of English semi-modals: the emancipating effect of frequency

ErstbetreuerProf. Dr. Dr. h. c. Christian Mair
ZweitbetreuerProf. Dr. Dr. h.c. Bernd Kortmann

The project aims at modelling the factor "frequency" in language change if the change is seen as a change in the cognitive representation of a linguistic form.
The current restructuring of the English modal system has long been noted as an ongoing language change process. Previous work (especially Krug 2000) has shown that the reduction of quasi-modals such as BE going to, HAVE got to, etc. may lead to the emergence of a new class of modals comprising gonna, gotta, wanna, etc. However, the fundamental question at which point and how a new lexical item is created, has hitherto remained unaddressed.
It is this question that my project seeks to illuminate on the basis of three research questions: Is there a reanalysis and how is it actualized? What are the effects of the frequencies of the reduced forms as compared to the (periphrastic) source forms? What factors determine the choice of a full or reduced form, and do these factors change over time?
It can be shown that 'gonna'/'gotta'/'wanna' do move towards a conceptual independence from their source forms in language use. This I call the 'emancipation effect'. By this emancipation, they lose the characteristics of reduction, and also separate themselves from the more general pattern of 'to'-contraction (which also produces forms like "tryna", "needa"). The most frequent one, 'gonna', is the most advanced on this path.


Curriculum Vitae

since October 2009
Doctorate student in the research training group "Frequency Effects in Language", Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

2012, September
Doctoral dissertation submitted (see abstract above)

2011, September-November
Visiting research student at University of Victoria, Canada

2003-2009: Studied Linguistics and English at Universität Stuttgart and Australian National University, Canberra

2009, May
M.A. (Magister Artium) from University of Stuttgart (thesis "HAVE versus HAVE GOT as a Competition for Stative Possessive Meaning in the History of English")

Research assistant in the project "Incremental Specification of Focus and Givenness in a Discourse Context" at the Institute for Natural Language Processing, Universität Stuttgart

European Voluntary Service at "D?m z Modrého Kamene", Kostelecké Horky, Czech Republic

Abitur (High school / A-Levels) from Gymnasium Korntal-Münchingen

Talks & Presentations

2013, May 22, Santiago de Compostela (ICAME 34 - Workshop "Processing in Corpora")
"Form does not follow function (but variation does). The origin of possessive 'have got' "

2013, Jan 16, Christchurch, New Zealand (Variation and Language Processing 2)
"Reduction and emancipation in speech and perception"

2012, Nov 5, Freiburg (lecture series "Frequency Effects in Language")
"Emancipation through frequency: Semi-modal contractions in English"

2012, Aug 28, Athens (ExLing2012)
"The perception of 'gonna' and 'gotta'". Poster presentation.

2012, June 3, Leuven (ICAME 33)
"An Emancipation Effect: On the changing status of of 'gonna', 'gotta', 'wanna'"

2012, Mar 17, Oxford (Symposium 'Synchrony and Diachrony' held by the Philological Society)
"Emancipation and the Status of Contractions"

2011, Dec 21, Freiburg
"The Tiger in the Octopus Cafe: An experimental approach to the perception of 'gonna' and 'gotta'"

2011, Oct 21, Victoria
"From Reduction to Conventionalization: Is 'gonna' any different from 'going to'? Is it even a word? What about 'gotta'?"

2011, July 13, Freiburg
"Multivariate Analysen und ihre Probleme"

2011, June 2, Oslo (ICAME 32)
"From Reduction to Conventionalization: Is 'gonna' a word?"

2011, Mar 15, Freiburg (Sociolinguistics Workshop with Barbara Johnstone)
"Change in the variation of 'going to'/'gonna'"

2010, Nov 3, Freiburg
"Two puzzles ('gonna', 'gotta', 'wanna': new English modals?)"

2010, July 30, Freiburg (Milestones conference)
"Alte und neue Modalausdrücke im Englischen"

2010, July 21, Freiburg, with Philipp Dankel, Nikolay Khamikov & Michael Schäfer

2010, May 27-29, Gießen (ICAME 31)
"HAVE vs HAVE GOT in the history of English". Poster presentation.

2010, Apr 28, Freiburg, with Sven Grawunder, Michael Schäfer & Marjoleine Sloos
"The Earl of Den Haag and the Turks of Türkheim: Reduction and phonological structure"

2010, Feb 4, Freiburg
"Frequency and cognitive representation in the emergence of new English modals"


Riester, Arndt, David Lorenz & Nina Seemann. 2010. "A Recursive Annotation Scheme for Referential Information Status". In: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference of Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC). Valetta, Malta. pp.717-722

2012. "The perception of 'gonna' and 'gotta' ? a study of emancipation in progress". Proceedings of the 5th ISEL Conference on Experimental Linguistics, ed. by Antonis Botinis. 77-80.

2013. "On-going change in English modality: Emancipation through frequency". Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik 169. 33-48.

in press (to appear June 2013): "From reduction to emancipation: Is 'gonna' a word?" In: Corpus Perspectives on Patterns of Lexis, ed. by Hilde Hasselgård, Jarle Ebeling, and Signe Oksefjell Ebeling. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 133-152.

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Current research

DIS-AGREE (Grant: The European Campus „Seed Money“)

Das geisteswissenschaftliche Projekt aus der Linguistik steht unter der Leitung der Universität Freiburg und wird gemeinsam mit den Universitäten Basel, Haute-Alsace und Strasbourg umgesetzt. Information und Kontakt

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Mittwoch, 20. November 2019, 18:15-19:45 Uhr
Redefining endangerment and indigenousness. The case of Chabacano (Vortragsreihe "Visibilizar lo invisible: lenguas indígenas del mundo iberorrománico")

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Statistics Study Group for Linguists


Ab 1. Dezember 2018 stehen Ihnen als assoziierte ProfessorInnen unserer Schule Prof. Dr. Juan Ennis, U. La Plata / Buenos Aires; Prof. Dr. Mar Garachana, U. Barcelona, Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Gülich, U. Bielefeld und Prof. Dr. Michael B. Buchholz, I.P.U. Berlin als BetreuerInnen und/oder GutachterInnen zur Verfügung. Wir begrüßen die neuen KollegInnen in unserer Runde!

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