Historical lexical semantics capture paradigm shifts

There are large text corpora available from various moments in history, especially since the middle of the 20th century. By using an unsupervised approach for deriving word meanings, one can investigate how word meanings change over time, with respect to each other. This is the main interest in historical lexical semantics. What metaphors did post-war France use to make sense of the world? What metaphors did post-soviet Eastern Europe use to see the world? By keyframing meanings across time, one might observe that meaning dynamics can be approximated with a trivial model, albeit in high-dimensional space. What’s more, observing historical developments of a concepts in time is like documenting the phylogenetic tree of an idea, the trajectory of its DNA.

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