Title (eng)

On the replicator dynamics of lexical stress: accounting for stress pattern diversity in terms of evolutionary game theory


Andreas Baumann

Nikolaus Ritt


This paper accounts for stress pattern diversity in languages such as English, where words that are otherwise equivalent in terms of phonotactic structure and morphosyntactic category can take both initial and final stress, as attested in hoˈtel – ˈlentil, ˈenvoy – Saˈvoy, ˈresearchN – reˈsearchN, or ˈaccessV – acˈcessV . Addressing the problem in general and abstract terms, we identify systematic conditions under which stress pattern diversity becomes stable. We hypothesize that words adopt those stress patterns that produce, on average, the best possible phrase level rhythm. We model that hypothesis in evolutionary game theory, predict that stress pattern diversity among polysyllabic word forms depends on the frequency of monosyllables, and demonstrate how that prediction is met in Present Day English and in its history.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
CC BY-SA 4.0 - Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

CC BY-SA 4.0 International


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o:424738 Openaire v3.0 collection
o:168770 Open Access Collection