This paper offers a few remarks on the role of frequency, selection and random chance in the development of (ir)regular preterite forms in English verbs. It considers the possibility of quantifying the evolutionary dynamics of the process, as proposed in recent large-scale studies. Such studies view language as a dynamical system or a mutating living organism, affected by competing random and natural selective forces. They shed light on stochasticity- and selection-driven aspects of the evolution of the linguistic system, and are thus complementary with respect to frequency-oriented linguistic approaches (such as usage-based/exemplar models).
Nov 3, 2022