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Lexical Erosion

  1. Nancy C. Dorian

Published Online: 5 NOV 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0691

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics

How to Cite

Dorian, N. C. 2012. Lexical Erosion. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 NOV 2012


Lexical erosion refers to reduction and loss in the lexical resources of a language. A certain amount of lexical loss is a normal feature of language change, especially when changes in lifeways or technology result in the abandonment of some traditional occupations, pastimes, or earlier technologies. In English, for example, the terminology of falconry, once widely in use, is known today only to historians and avocational falconers. Equally unfamiliar today are the precise distinctions among the many types of horse-drawn vehicles prominent in English life before the introduction of the automobile. Under particularly negative circumstances, however, lexical loss can be accelerated in a language with a contracting speaker base, to the point where it reduces the full and distinctive range of expression originally offered by the language.


  • endangered languages;
  • assessment;
  • vocabulary