On Mock-scholarly, Faux-casual, and Cod Philosophy: Patterns of Diachronic Change in a British Newspaper

  1. 1. R. Harald Baayen

    University of Nijmegen

  2. 2. Antoinette Renouf

    University of Liverpool

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In British newspapers, various 'vogue' prefix-like forms regularly appear (Renouf & Baayen, 1998; see also Baayen & Renouf, 1996, for standard affixation). This study considers three such forms: MOCK, COD, and FAUX. These forms are primarily used to modify nouns, as in

(1) he explodes in mock-outrage
chain belts, studded with faux gems around the hips
a quick snipe at the cod-mysticism

and to modify adjectives, as in

(2) a charmingly mock modest touch
coming back on stage, faux sheepish
a Russian night club - cod-glamorous

Occasionally, one finds instances of adverbial modification,

(3) Rabelais at his most mock heroically cloacal
ordered him out of the house, faux-crossly

and for MOCK, examples also exist of verbal modification:

(4) he mock bows, gallantly
he has to mock-apologise for his tedious bleating

This study addresses the productivity of MOCK, COD, and FAUX by investigating their use in a British newspaper, The Independent, from a diachronic perspective. To this end, we extracted all occurrences of these forms from a corpus of this newspaper, compiled from 1988 onwards, and currently containing some 360 million word forms. For each of the years 1989-1998, we measured the type and token frequencies of these words in 4 successive 3-month chunks. For 1988, the last 3-month chunk was also taken into account. The questions to be addressed are whether changes in the frequency with which these vogue forms are used across time can be observed, and whether the forms with a hyphen (as in FAUX-SHABBY) reveal different patterns from the forms without a hyphen (as in FAUX SHEEPISH), which would suggest that syntactic context would co-determine the productivity of these combining forms.


Figure 1 will summarize the results obtained. The solid lines and the dots represent the numbers of tokens counted for the successive chunks. The dashed lines represent the numbers of new types observed across sampling time. Both line types were obtained using a non-parametric regression smoother (Cleveland, 1979). For reasons of space, we defer discussion of the type counts to the presentation at the conference. The left panels represent the forms without a hyphen, the right panels the forms with the hyphen.

The top panels of Figure 1 show the results obtained for MOCK and MOCK-. The left panel reveals a slow but steady increase for the token counts (r = 0.388, t(39) = 2.6294, p = .0122). The right panel suggests that the use of MOCK- did not change in the last 10 years (r = 0.194, t(39) = 1.237, p = .2234). A closer investigation of the MOCK data revealed that the increase in the number of tokens is primarily carried by the lowest-frequency types - the highest-frequency types have a relatively stable use across the years.

The central panels of Figure 1 concern COD (left) and COD- (right). For both forms, we observe a reliable increase over time, which appears to be more linear for COD- (r = 0.656, t(39) = 5.437, p = .0000) than for COD (r = 0.473, t(39) = 3.357, p = .0018). For both COD and COD-, an autocorrelation analysis suggests a reliable correlation at short lags, suggesting that the extent to which a form is used in a given month is co-determined by the extent to which it was popular or unpopular in the preceding months.

The bottom panels of Figure 1 suggest that FAUX and FAUX- were hardly used initially, but that in the second half of the sampling period they enjoyed greater productivity. Both non-parametric regression lines and parametric change point analysis suggest a breakpoint around the end of 1992, after which FAUX and FAUX- began to become more and more productive. What we probably are witnessing here is the birth of what may eventually become a fully-fledged new prefix of English.

Intriguingly, all three left panels show a (local) minimum at this point in time (marked in the plots by a vertical dotted line). Possibly, the general fashion for vogue modification with any of the near synonyms MOCK, COD, and FAUX reached an all-time low around the end of 1992, from which both MOCK and COD recovered. Note that Figure 1 shows that both forms show an increase in use during the immediately following chunks. This general fashion for vogue modification may have led in its wake to the upsurge in productivity of FAUX and FAUX-.


We have observed different patterns of diachronic change through an investigation of vogue modification in The Independent: a steady state (MOCK-), a linear increase over time (MOCK, COD-), a slightly oscillating pattern (COD), and a birth pattern (FAUX). The forms of MOCK- (with hyphen) show a clearly different pattern than the forms with MOCK (without hyphen), which shows that forms with and without hyphen should not be lumped together a priori. The syntactic contexts that favor hyphenation (e.g., modification of a prenominal noun or adjective) lead to slightly different diachronic patterns. Thanks to the accumulation of large diachronic computerized corpora, it is, at the end of the second millennium, finally becoming possible to directly monitor ongoing language change.


Baayen, R. Harald and Renouf, Antoinette (1996). Chronicling The Times: Productive Lexical Innovations in an English Newspaper. Language 72, 69-96.
Cleveland, W.S. (1979). Robust locally weighted regression and smooting scatterplots, JASA 74, 829-836.
Renouf, Antoinette and Baayen, R. Harald (1998). Aviating among the hapax legomena: Morphological grammaticalisation in current British newspaper English. In A. Renouf (ed) Explorations in Corpus Linguistics. Rodopi, Amsterdam. 181-189.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Glasgow

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

July 21, 2000 - July 25, 2000

104 works by 187 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double-checked.

Conference website: https://web.archive.org/web/20190421230852/https://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/allcach2k/

Series: ALLC/EADH (27), ACH/ICCH (20), ACH/ALLC (12)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None