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Lexical Fossils in Present-Day English: Describing and Delimiting the Phenomenon
Stephen James Coffey
47-53 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper reports on an on-going study into the nature of English lexical fossils, also referred to in the literature as 'lexical relics'. Specifically, the study is concerned with those items which are embedded within longer lexical or phraseological units: these may be morphologically complex words (e.g., playWRIGHT), lexical phrases (e.g., HUE and cry), sentence-length items (e.g., Never the TWAIN shall meet), or longer formulaic texts (e.g., Our father ... HALLOWED be THY name ...). The purpose of the research is to identify as many fossils as possible in modern English, to understand their characteristics, and to explore the ways in which the notion of fossil can contribute to a synchronic description of the language. The paper describes the methodology of the study, gives examples of the different types of linguistic unit which contain fossils, identifies features which distinguish some fossils from others, and compares lexical fossils with other, related phenomena.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 2012 Symposium on New Approaches in English Historical Lexis (HEL-LEX 3)
edited by R. W. McConchie, Teo Juvonen, Mark Kaunisto, Minna Nevala, and Jukka Tyrkkö
Table of contents
Printed edition: $220.00