Lexical Competition and Change: A Corpus-Assisted Investigation of Gambling and Gaming in the Past Centuries

Longxing Li, Chu Ren Huang, Vincent Xian Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This article investigates the interplay of lexical competition and socio-historical events through a close examination of the use of gambling and gaming based on large-scale synchronic and diachronic corpora. We first set the background for comparison through a synchronic study of the collocational patterns and grammatical relations of the two words using Sketch Engine. We show that gambling tends to be associated with negatively perceived activities and strong disapproval, whereas gaming tends to collocate with recreational activities, business, and technology. Using Google Books Ngram Viewer, we focus on the drastic diachronic changes in use of the two words, from competition to co-development. Based on corpora trends, we correlate the rise and fall of the two words and the change in their competition relation to particular socio-historical events: gold rushes, sports betting, the popularity of video games, and the gaming industry boom. The classical competition model of near synonyms remained valid until recent socio-economic events introduced additional and unique meanings for both words. The article thus shows that linguistic variations as collective human behavior changes can be leveraged to evidence other collective human behavior changes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Gricean maxims
  • big data linguistics
  • collective human behavior changes
  • lexical variations
  • socio-cultural change


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