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Languages in Contact


shift with carry over of vocabulary (e.g. pygmy technical vocabulary) ... pygmy special vocabulary ... in problems in client hunter group, pygmies, Aasax) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Languages in Contact

Languages in Contact
  • Maarten MousLeiden University

Structure of talk
  • why talk about language contact here
  • historical linguistics
  • models for language contact
  • linking results of language contact to prior
    socio-linguistic situations
  • prehistoric contact

Aim Purpose
  • Essential knowledge for other disciplines
  • Results and developments in contact language
  • (Im)possibility of predicting contact situation
    from linguistic outcome
  • Added value of combined effort

  • The link between linguistics and genetics is the
    speaker. Speakers speak different languages,
    shift to another language, become member of a
    different speech community. This is one obvious
    reason why the issue of language contact is
    important for this conference.
  • The linguistic genetic tree is an abstraction
    that has filtered out the admixture part of the
    linguistic history. 15

what to correlate to
  • speech community (multilingualism everybody
    belongs to several)
  • ?
  • ethnic unit relevance varies, not constant,
    multiple (clan affiliations)

  • speakers community
  • ethnic community tribe-clan caste
  • economic community
  • geography of settlement
  • what do we compare?

Historical linguistics
  • study of language change
  • basis is reconstruction of language change
    through the comparative method
  • added result is a genetic tree of related
    languages not central aim and an abstraction
  • contact linguistics deals with the influence of
    other languages on change

Historical linguistics2
  • Contact linguistics presumes the comparative
    method and does not aim at questioning it
  • contact linguistics adds to a fuller
    understanding of the linguistics history
    comparative method shows only part of the story
    and may give wrong impression of neat split15
  • scientific robustness of regular sound change in
    comparative method is absent in contact

comparative method
  • strong in sound laws
  • lexicon reconstruction issue of conservative
    basic vocabulary (sometimes precisely unstable
    what is basic?)
  • morphology (word structure) most resistant to
    language induced change levelling
    grammaticalization (lexical signgtgrammar sign
    can it predict?
  • syntax difficult, often linked to typology,
    fossilised in morphology

Dating by glottochronology
  • retention rate as measure for time depth based on
    percentage of cognate forms in standard list of
    basic vocabulary of related languages
  • heavily criticised for premise that change is
    constant over time. E.g. Blust showed important
    variation in change within branches of
  • retention rate different across vocabulary
  • look-a-like rather than cognate form

Starostins modification25
  • exclude borrowings (chance mutations)
  • variable factor over time (words become more
    stable with age)
  • etymological roots from texts in stead of basic
    word list
  • newly calibrated value for factor
  • only works when one knows linguistic history
  • evaluation still problematic for revolutions of
    language change (quite common)

Factors affecting rate of change
  • literacy (more borrowings)
  • existence of a standard
  • size of language community (more tolerance to
    variation quicker spread of change)
  • attitude of speakers (blocks recognizable

  • language mixture
  • processes of transfer
  • sociolinguistic situation
  • demographic situation

restrictions on borrowability
  • Moravcsik (1978)
  • Heath (1978)
  • Matras (2000)

Proposed restrictionsCampbell (1993)
  • structural-compatibility requirement
  • fit with innovation possibilities of the
    borrowing language (counter-examples)
  • grammatical gaps tend to be filled by borrowings
    (but not all)
  • morphological borrowing as replacement (but not
  • free standing grammatical forms are more easily
    borrowed than bound morphemes (but cases of
    borrowed bound morpheme replacing free standing)
  • borrowability according to ranking of categories
  • principle of functional load if embedded in
    system then not easily borrowed
  • etc

Everything can be borrowed
  • Both Campbell7 and Thomason27 hold the view that
    all proposed constraints in borrowing are nothing
    but tendencies. There are always exceptions
  • Interpretation of counter-examples sometimes open
    for dispute. Mixed language Maa as example of
    borrowing of Bantu grammar29 is no longer valid
    counterexample if one accepts that language shift
    took place.
  • distinction between concept and content is
    needed. emergence of a noun class system through
    contact has been proposed but no Bantu noun class
    system (with the typical markers) has ever

  • anything is possible
  • implicational/chronological scales
  • ordinary processes extra-ordinary results

Heath (1978)
  • Arnhemland, Australia Diffusion of bound
    grammatical morphemes is a problem for genetic
    grouping but in some language groups still
    possible, depending on (accidental) structural
    properties of languages concerned.

Basic vocabulary
  • in certain circumstances prone to change
    language/register creation for identity or
  • stable vocabulary Leipzig project to establish
    it empirically lists on basis of retained items
    in various families (Lohr 1999)
  • can be different across language family

  • complete shift (very common)
  • shift with effect of original language on
    recognizable community with effect on language
    as a whole
  • shift with carry over of vocabulary (e.g. pygmy
    technical vocabulary)
  • arrested shift, u-turn when too late,
    re-borrowing of original vocabulary

Van Coetsem framevan Coetsem 1988,2000, Winford
  • Differences in stability across language
    components (grammar more stable than lexicon)
  • Recipient language agentivity (borrowing)
  • Source language agentivity (imposition)
  • Linguistic dominance (not social) in bilingualism

contact situations
  • Recipient L agentivity A?B
  • Source L agentivity A?B
  • Agents / Agentivity
  • imitation / adaptation
  • 1 borrowing
  • 2 imposition
  • processes in individual

  • RecL activity, borrowing, extreme case Media
    Lengua Quechua with every lexeme borrowed from
  • SourceL activity structures of dominant language
    in recipient language. Dominant language can be
    the new language influencing the language which
    is in process of being abandoned in cognitive and
    grammatical structure. Asia Minor Greek (RL)
    Turkish (SL) dominant. (and RL activity when
    speaking T)

  • transfer of structure under RL activity differs
    from transfer of structure under SL activity
  • RL close to lexicon function words, derivation
  • SL conceptualization, categories, structure
  • result of adaptation in RL activity can be
    similar to that in SL activity, e.g.
    pronunciation of English borrowings in Hindi and
    Hindi pronunciation of English

second language acquisition
  • most studies on formal learning
  • few on informal learning at ages 9, 16
  • few on learning strategies
  • are there restrictions on vocabulary if gt3
    languages are acquired?

Individual Community
  • Model refers to the mind of the individual
  • Essential is language as social construct
  • establishment of the norm(variation is larger
    when various SLs)

reconstructing past contact situations
  • Assumption contact situations in the past are
    not different from those now
  • If all things equal the simplest wins
  • Propose scenario to explain present outcome

problems with the scenario game
  • limits of imagination
  • never are all other things equal

Proposed correlations socio-history language
  • Guy11-Ross23 based on Van Coetsem

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Additions by Reh21
  • If only migration as cause for contact
  • Added factors
  • Intensity of contact
  • Linguistic heterogeneity of community

Other factors
  • identifiable group after migration
  • degree of bilingualism
  • language attitude
  • size of group
  • prestige

Comparable situations
  • Northern Songhay
  • Mozambican Swahili
  • Pygmies
  • Creole studies
  • etc

languages of pygmies10
  • speak different languages
  • which probably were once language of their patron
  • also speak language of patron
  • pygmy special vocabulary
  • patrons and their language are link and obstacle
    to outside world (forest pygmies have better
    knowledge of languages of wider communication)

Creole languages
  • study link socio-history and outcome of language
  • similar sociolinguistic situations for a number
    of them
  • similar outcome
  • separate field of study

Mixed Languages5
  • grammar and (basic) lexicon not from the same
  • originate in new communities of systematic mixed
    marriage mothers grammar with fathers lexicon
  • originate as extended argot of itinerant and
    other groups who maintain identity under
    pressure grammar of dominant language, deviant
  • note the genetic difference for the two scenarios

Contact situations
  • multilingualism in the city,
  • re-settlements,
  • migration,
  • seasonal work,
  • etc., etc.

gene flow (and language contact)
  • expulsion (ostracism as punishment)
  • occasional sex (e.g. ritual outside group)
  • ritual expert (high status, founder of group)
  • marriage pattern (e.g. women from outside)
  • war (women from outside)
  • refugees (e.g. masters in problems in client
    hunter group, pygmies, Aasax)

contact situations in prehistoric times
  • symbiosis of hunters - farmers / cattle people
  • agriculture / cattle stratification in limited
    area (East Turkana)
  • reconstitution of bands of hunters
  • war
  • marriage outside group
  • expulsion

  • Dorobo
  • division of labour across gender
  • speech patterns in settlement
  • ethnic diversity
  • imbalance in power

hunting and speech
  • gender division
  • ways of hunting individual / cooperating groups
  • short / long hunting expeditions
  • traps and ownership
  • special communication during hunt

Dixons Rise Fall9
  • punctuation versus equilibrium
  • In situations/periods of punctuation languages
    diverge quickly enough for the tree model to be
  • In situations of equilibrium, contact is main
    force for change
  • Situations of equilibrium are characterised by
    equality (in size, prestige)
  • Periods of punctuation have external causes (e.g.
    development of agriculture)

  • External causes can be linked to archaeology,
    history of climate, etc.
  • provides model for Australia
  • addresses pre-reconstruction period

  • can linguistic history still be traced
  • punctuation and equilibrium kind of linguistic
    events are simultaneous in same area. For example
    the Bantu languages are similar due to recent
    spread and common ancestor, yet the equality
    properties and the linguistic diffusion are valid
    for Bantu
  • Africa must have had many situations of
    punctuation over the last millennia but also

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Time gap
  • beginning of human language
  • estimate of oldest families 10,000 years
  • divergence in (linguistic) genetic variation in
    Africa (gt100,000) and in the recently inhabited
    areas of Papua (50,000) and Americas (20,000)
  • consequences of time gap no linguistic knowledge
    about the period most language families in
    Africa must have disappeared can we extrapolate
    knowledge about human language to earlier

  • Aikhenvald, Alexandra and R.M.W. Dixon (eds)
    2001. Areal Diffusion and Genetic Inheritance.
    Problems in Comparative Linguistics. Cambridge
  • Aikhenvald, Alexandra and R.M.W. Dixon 2001.
    Introduction. In Aikhenvald, Alexandra and R.M.W.
    Dixon (eds), 1-26.
  • Andersen, Henning 1988. Center and periphery
    adoption, diffusion, and spread. In Historical
    Dialectology Regional and Social, ed. by Jacek
    Fisiak. Berlin Mouton de Gruyter, pp.39-83.
  • Bakker, Peter and Maarten Mous (eds.) 1994. Mixed
    languages 15 case studies in language
    intertwining. (Studies in Language and Language
    Use, 13.) Amsterdam IFOTT.
  • Bakker, Peter. 1997. "A language of our own" The
    genesis of Michif, the mixed Cree-French language
    of the Canadian Métis. (Oxford Studies in
    Anthropological Linguistics, 10.) New York
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  • Blust, Robert 2000. Why lexicostatistics doesnt
    work the universal constant hypothesis and the
    Austronesian languages. In Time Depth in
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  • Coetsem, Frans van 2000. A general and unified
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  • Dixon, R.M.W. 1997. The rise and fall of
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  • Heath, Jeffrey 1978. Linguistic diffusion in
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  • Lohr, Marisa 1999. Methods for the Genetic
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