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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: On Brand Name Change: A theory of genericization Add Dissertation
Author: Shawn Clankie Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1999
Linguistic Subfield(s): Sociolinguistics;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Michael Forman

Abstract: Genericization is concerned with the process by which a brand name, specific in reference, undergoes a series of grammatical and semantic changes to become a common class-noun representative of the entire semantic class to which that product belongs. Kleenex tissues--> a kleenex, Xerox photocopiers--> a xerox or to xerox demonstrate this process. The theory put forth in this dissertation contains four hypotheses based upon both the characteristics that contribute to the occurence of genericization and the belief that genericization is a regular process. The first of these hypotheses maintains that genericization will occur in novel semantic classes. The second hypothesis focuses on brand versus class-noun length, arguing that the shorter the brand name in relation to the class-noun, the greater the likelihood for genericization to occur. The third hypothesis insists that genericization is a regular hierarchical process. Finally, the fourth hypothesis states that for a brand name to become generic there must be an association to a single product.

To test the four hypotheses, a corpus of one hundred generic brand names was constructed. Sixty-one of the one hundred generic names in the corpus were selected from previous articles noting the names as generic. Each of these sixty-one names was then cross-checked for a minimum of two generic examples in the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd Ed.) and through generic use as found on the Internet. To complete the corpus, an additional thirty-nine names not found in the previous work were added on the basis of the same criteria. Each of the one hundred names was then run against individualized tests in an attempt to disprove the four hypotheses. The results of the tests were then charted and analyzed. It was discovered that Hypotheses 1, 2, and 4 were shown to be supported by the data, and Hypothesis 3 (the process of genericization) required a single modification to reflect more accurately the process that takes place when genericization occurs.

Once the analysis was undertaken for this corpus built from English examples, consideration was then given (1) to genericization cross-linguistically with Japanese as the example, and (2) to the problems of proprietary status. Finally, a practical application of the results was created to assist companies in producing brand names that are less likely to undergo genericization.