“Das built natürlich den Vokabel.“

English-German Language Contact – A Case Study

Hausarbeit, 2006
21 Seiten, Note: 1,0
Frank Schmidt (Autor)


Table of Contents

1. Intoduction
1.1. Legend

2. The Theory of the Transmission Process in Language Contact by Frans van Coetsem
2.1. Summary
2.2. A Closer Look at SL Agentivity
2.3. A Closer Look at RL Agentivity
2.4. Conclusion

3. The Case Study
3.1. Introduction
3.2. The Informant: Personal Information and Background
3.3. Difficulties with the Transcription and Analysis
3.4. Legend: Formal Notes on the Transcript
3.5. Analysis
3.5.1. Introduction
3.5.2. Phonology
3.5.3. Morphology
3.5.4. Syntax
3.5.5. Lexicon

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

6. Data Corpus
6.1. Conversation (SJ)
6.2. Letters (SL)

1. Introduction

Wherever there are two or more languages present in some form at a time, be it within an individual or an area, there is language contact that can be analyzed. Out of the vast possibilities of types of contact, this paper focusses on the contact of German and English within a single Individual. The means by which this contact and it’s outcome are analyzed were chosen specifically according to this type of contact. Here, the model and methods of analysis by the Dutch scholar Frans van Coetsem offer the greatest potential for an insightful analysis. The first of the several reasons why I chose to analyze the present data with the model by Van Coetsem is his otherwise rare focus on the individual speaker in the analysis of language contact. Secondly, he also specifically concentrates on the bilingual speaker, unlike other researchers who have chosen a trilingual focus. Moreover, unlike the MLF model by MyersScotton2006 the model applies to the unbalanced bilingual speaker. Finally, the model has the advantage of being very clearly structured and versatilely applicable, offering explanations for a multitude of phenomena.

1.1 Legend

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

2. The Theory of the Transmission Process in Language Contact by Frans van Coetsem.

2.1. Summary

The following summary of Van Coetsem’s model of the transmission process in language contact is based on three publications by the author. First of all a paper published in the Leuvense Bijdragen Journal (Van Coetsem, 1995) and furthermore publications from the years 1988 and 2000. While I would like to give a good overview of the entire theory, I will have to focus my summary of the rather comprehensive topic on outlining the basic framework and the points and sections which will be most useful for the analysis of the collected data.

Van Coetsem states that the outcome of the transmission or transfer of material and elements from one language to another is essentially determined by two factors. These factors, agentivity and the stability gradient of language lead to the distinction between the two transfer types . It is necessary to know that the direction of the transfer is irreversible and always from the source language, henceforth SL to the recipient language, henceforth RL. It is also important to keep in mind that the RL and the SL speaker can and often are unified one bilingual individual.

While the direction of transfer remains the same, the basic factor agentivity raises the question for the performer, the agent of the transfer of the material. That is, is the speaker of the SL transferring material to the RL, or is the RL speaker transferring material from the SL to his own language!. At this point, Van Coetsem mentions the importance of distinguishing between each single transfer, which he focuses on and the possible effect on the entire language of a speech community. As mentioned above, the agentivity determines of which type the transfer is. Before looking at the stability gradient of language and going into further detail on the transfer types later on, I will briefly outline both of them.

In the case of SL agentivity, the SL speaker transfers materials from his own language to the RL. This is common in but not limited to second language acquisition. The SL speaker may transfer material, for example some of his articulatory habits, to the RL to compensate for a lack of proficiency in it. This action is called imposition, hence SL agentivity is also refered to as imposition transfer . Consequently, the SL speaker is the agent of the transfer based on the linguistic dominance of his SL . This simply means, that he is more proficient in the SL than in the RL.. Van Coetsem indicates this dominance by underscoring the dominant language (Van Coetsem 1988,1995, 2000).

In the case of RL agentivity, evidently the RL speaker is the agent of the transfer. For instance, the RL speaker may use a lexical item from the SL, hence borrowing it. Here, the linguistically dominant language is the RL which results in RL agentiviy or borrowing transfer. One should bear in mind, that other researchers have traditionally used the term differently while Van Coetsem limits its use to the meaning stated above.

In order to further elucidate the types of transfer, I will give a set of examples with two languages involved, English (L1) and German (L2).


1. L1 (English) " L2 (German): imposition transfer. A native speaker of English learns German and imposes his English articulatory habits upon his German speech.
2. L1 (English) " L2 (German): borrowing transfer. A native speaker of German may use the English word memo while speaking German.
3. L2 (German) " L1 (English): imposition transfer. A native speaker of German may impose is articulatory habits upon his English speech by using the voiceless alveolar fricative [s] instead of the dental fricatives [#] or [$].
4. L2 German " L1 (English): borrowing transfer. A native speaker of English may for example borrow a German lexical item such as the word doppelgänger while speaking English.

As we have seen, we can distinguish between two types of transfer and four basic forms of interaction. Van Coetsem points out that there are other factors such as the social status that could be considered which would lead to more forms of interaction. However these do not influence the type or nature of the transfer and will therefore not be taken into account here (Van Coetsem 1995: 67).

Besides the agentivity which was addressed above, the transfer types and their basic effects are determined by another factor, the stability gradient of language. The stability gradient of language is a term which conveys the fact that different domains or components of language have variable degree of stability or cohesiveness. According to Van Coetsem, the stability gradient is a gauge for the general effect the transfer type has on the RL, it determines the transferability from SL to RL (Van Coetsem 1995: 67f.). One can distinguish between two types of stability, inherent stability and subsidiary stability. Inherent stability is as the name suggests a constitutional property of language. The difference in inherent stability is based on structuredness, referring to rules and consciousness, referring to frequency. More stable components such as articulatory habits generally have fewer constituents, are more structured, are closed list items and less conscious. On the contrary, less stable components, for example contentive words have more constituents, are less structured, are open list items and more conscious. Van Coetsem ranks the stability from phonology as the most stable to morphology, syntax and then the lexicon as the least stable (Van Coetsem 1995). Stability on a secondary level, the subsidiary stability is determined by factors such as the attitude of the speaker, affinity and the degree of consciousness. The greater the affinity of the components of language, the less stable and thus more easily transferable they are. Consciousness in mentioned here as well, because it may be manipulated, for example if a speaker is made conscious of specific characteristics of his or her speech. As a result, the subsidiary stability may modify, that is counteract or reinforce the degree of inherent stability. The result of the two types of stability combined is called total stability.

When two languages come into contact witch each other, they will generally try to maintain their stable components. Here, the key point of the model, the combination of the stability gradient and the transfer types becomes evident. In the case of SL agentivity, the SL speaker will conserve his more stable components such as the phonology which are then most likely to be imposed upon the RL. In RL agentivity, the speaker of the RL will also conserve the more stable components and hence borrow only the less stable ones such as lexical items. In other words, in imposition transfer, more stable components are transfered while in borrowing transfer less stable ones are. Before going further into detail on SL agentivity I would like to round off this section by briefly touching upon the important notion of neutralization. Neutralization refers to the state when the languages of an individual are equal or near equal in linguistic dominance, thus neutralizing the difference between imposition and borrowing.

2.2. A Closer Look at SL Agentivity

In the following section I will focus on SL agentivity, simply because as we will later see is be most useful for the further analysis of data in this paper. While it also occurs in for example pidginization, it is apparent that imposition is present in second language acquisition (Van Coetsem 1988: 61f.). There are four basic operations along with the agent of the transfer to which the notion of SL agentivity refers. All of these operations are means by which the SL speaker compensates for his lack of proficiency in the RL. The SL speaker will aquire vocabulary of the RL and will transfer, or impose stable material from the SL to the RL. Furthermore, the SL speaker applies the operations of reduction and internally induced change.

Acquisition refers to the process in which the SL speaker learns the RL..

This starts with lexical items and will gradually move on to other components of the language, although this process may not be finished. Imposition is as stated before the characteristic transfer aspect in SL agentivity. For example, a SL speaker may transfer this phonology to the RL. As a result, his RL speech will have an accent. Internally induced change of course occurs within SL agentivity but is not part of the transfer proper. One of the forms of internally induced change is the over-generalization of rules of the RL such as pluralization by adding the suffix s. Reduction is very specific and diagnostic to SL agentivity, yet it is also not part of the transfer proper. The first type of reduction is the proficiency-related reduction, in which the SL speaker may not use parts of the RL. This especially affects the morphology because of the bound character of morphological markers. The second type, structure-related reduction results, as one may have guessed, from structural differences between the SL and the RL. Acquisition, as mentioned above, is a process which moves in one direction, from zero to maximum. The operations mentioned above do the same, though in the opposite direction, from maximum to zero.


Ende der Leseprobe aus 21 Seiten


“Das built natürlich den Vokabel.“
English-German Language Contact – A Case Study
Universität Hamburg
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
710 KB
vokabel, english-german, language, contact, case, study
Arbeit zitieren
Frank Schmidt (Autor), 2006, “Das built natürlich den Vokabel.“, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/203472


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