Language Contact

Zusammenfassung in Stichpunkten

Exam Revision, 2014

22 Pages


Language Contact

- Historical development of language = gradual process of change à divergence

- Speakers separated => development of dialects, separate languages
- Linguistic families, mother and daughter languages

- Language contact + mixing

- Footnote in historical linguistics
- Gradual evolution and sudden change
- No mother and daughter languages in interacting

- Language isolation = rare

- Language contact

- (occasionally) Divergence: maintain or increase linguistic differences

- Desire to be different , purify language (no borrowing)

- Convergence: shared features à mixing

1. Maintain separation: only some borrowing (Arabic loans in Turkish and Farsi due to Islam), phonetically reshaped to fit, new sounds may arise, new word building techniques, only lexical borrowing

2. High degree of bili: share grammar, e.g. Balkan Sprachbund

3. Intermarriage: one group incorporated into another , more than lexical borrowing, imperfect learning à affects children à dialects (South America, Cherokee women married settlers)

4. Language shift: abandon native language, interferences à ethnic dialect or new language, every time an immigrant learns new language and passes it on to children

- segregation or more numerous than native speakers àabrupt creolization (learned conqueror’s language à disease à natives pass on)

5. need to communicate: lingua franca, official language, simplification/modification, e.g. koine

- no time for learning à pidgin invented = makeshift mixture of different languages, economic reasons (trade), random combination or one language as base, culturally dominant language = supply vocab, grammar = mixture

- not a complete language
- if expanded => creolization
- decreolization => minor dialect

- today: 200 creoles and pidgins

- language death = more common, but: substrate influence(Finnic tribes à Russian)

Handout Seminar

- language contact = confronted with different languages, influence each other

- scenarios

- war, trade, travel, intellectual life, new media

- factors

- domains, duration+intensity, power relations, prestige+attitude, competence bili
- structural similarities

- borrowing

- loanword: direct, whole sign (moprh. Importation)
- loanshift: indirect, concept adopted, expressed in RL (morph. substitution)
- loanblend: mixture of language

- intensive borrowing from Latin and French à triple structure

- direct borrowing

- hotline, homepage, check-in etc.

- indirect borrowing

- calques

6. loan translation, “Wochenende” (exact)

7. loan rendering, “Wolkenkratzer” (approximate)

8. loan creation, “Nietenhose” (free substitution)

- semantic loans

9. computer mouse à Maus

- hybrids (loanblend)
- combination engl+germ. Morphemes
- Haarspray, Popsänger
- Integration
- Phon., orthograph., morph. (gender,case,number)
- Pseudo-loans
- No equivalent in English
- Showmaster – quizmaster

S. Thomason


- Use of more than 1 language same place same time à various situations
- BUT: def. language?
- Dialects, place (spread of Latin, Palin)
- Face-to-face interaction
- E.g. Switzerland: asymmetrical bili
- Existed as long as humanity has (Bible: Nehemia à intermarriage)
- Written or spoken?
- Language not in a vacuum/isolation à language contact as NORM
- Results
- Change à mostly borrowing
- Mixture à creoles, pidgins, bili
- Death à disease, attrition (overall change), force
- English up to 75% loans from French + Latin, after 1066 à evidence of close contact
- Not only words, all aspects of language can be borrowed, language structure (phon, morph, syn, lex)
- Absence of loanwords ¹ lack of contact


- European colonialization
- Alexander the Great: Greek à Indic
- Vikings: European à North America
- 16th century Spanish à Inca
- Cook: European à Pacific
- Onset not clear
- Two groups à unoccupied territory (not relevant anymore)
- Group à another group’s territory (Native Am – Europeans)
- British Isles à successive immigration (military invasions)
- Immigration in general (German communities in USA)
- Importing labour force (slave trade, “involuntary” immigration)
- No Man’s land
- Close cultural connection
- Education “learned contact” (Latin => diplomacy)


- Social factors à stability
- Urbanization à against minority language
- Numbers of speakers, institutional support
- Language as symbol of ethnicity/loyalty
- Indigenous superordinate à no shift
- Migrant superordinate à might shift (Norman French)
- Indigenous subordinate à might shift slowly
- Migrant subordinate à shift rapidly
- English = lingua franca = contact
- Long-term peaceful relations = stable
- Conquest/invasion = least stable

Contact Explanations

- Cause of wide range of linguistic changes

- Historical linguists: diachronic (influence over time)

- Sociolinguists: synchronic (processes involved)

- Extreme positions

- Contact as sole source for change

- Only lexical chances and some structural

- Internal and external motivation

- Complexity of change processes

- What is language contact?

- Some interaction of speakers with different languages

- Face to face (mostly) => BUT: worldwide travel and communication today

- Fluency in both languages

- What isn’t language contact?

- Internal explanation only

- Difficult to find an isolated language

- innovation of one or more speakers à Variation and change à spread/transfer

- Contact-induced change (change resulting from contact, but not based on that language)

- a (multiple) source, less likely that it happened outside a specific contact situation

- no explanation for the vast majority of linguistic changes

- too little information about social and linguistic circumstances in past situations

- easy to find motivation for innovation, but combination of social and linguistic factors for success of failure too complex

- goal: deeper understanding of processes, not predicting change

- establishment of internal and external factors

- internal: learnability

- external: difficult

- Criteria for contact-induced change:

- Consider recipient language (B) as a whole: transfer of only one structural feature is unlikely

- Source language (A): prove contact

- Shared features

- Prove that feature is older in A, no innovation

- Prove that feature is innovation in B (not existent before contact with A)

- Factors unique to c-i change, others shared with internal change, no clear cut

- Predicting that change can occur

- Presence/absence of imperfect learning à major predictor

- Fluent speakers: first nonbasic vocab, later structural features and basic vocab

- Exception: communities avoiding lexical borrowing

- Shift-induced interference (imperfect learning): phon. + syntactic features predominant, lexical interference lags behind

- Intensity of contact

- Duration, level of bili in receiving language

- More intensive = more likely to transfer structural features + lexical items

- Shift: size of population speaking RL and SL, access to language, length of time

- More shifting speakers, limited access, abrupt = large interference

- E.g. Yiddish variety of English

- Opposite: Norm French 1066-1200: outnumbered by English speakers, access unlimited, no abrupt shift à modest structural interference

- Internally motivated change: spread of innovation person-to-person within speech community, social networks important (Milroy)

- Speaker’s attitude

- Difficult to prove

- Avoiding loanwords but not always consciously

- Distinguish the language from others

Linguistic Predictors

- Typological distance

- Helps to predict kinds of interference

- Inflectional morph.

- Minimal distance = frequent interference, inflectional features

- Distance as barrier = difference of inflectional categories

- Any feature can be transferred => intense contact

- Universal markedness

- Ease of learning

- drift: pattern pressure motivate change

- burden on learning, diachronically unstable

- Hard to learn = hard to borrow

- Borrowing scales

- Evidence limited

- /t/ universal but /θ/ rare

- Less likely to adopt marked features

- Degree of integration into ling. System

- Inflections less likely transferred because tightly integrated, interlocking relationships

- Likely: nonbasic vocab, function words, phon. Confined to loans

- Inflectional morph. Least affected, highest degree of integration, very intense contact

- Need for ideal social conditions = strong cultural pressure from dominant language to transfer hard-to-learn features

- Attitude may favour adoption of innovations

- Internal and external factor have to be analyzed parallel

- Historical and sociolinguists have to work together

H. Hock

- Interlanguage - interference - transfer

- Code-switching

- Switching back and forth

- Syntax + morph.

- Code mixing

- Lexical (@ lexical borrowing)

- Mixed languages

Pidgins (fast, 2 generations)

- Structure simplification

- Radical reduction of vocabulary

- No passive, no inflection

- Lexicon 1000-2000 words


- Process of expansion

J. Holm: Contact and Change

- Contacts à change

- 1980s development of contact ling.

- Pidgin and creole studies only in the second half of the 20th century


- Earliest known pidgin from 1068 CE

- Reduced language resulting from contact between groups with no common language

- Need of communication

- Group with less power: difficult work of learning vocab

- Group with more power: adopt changes in pronunciation, grammar, semantics à speak differently than with own group

- Emergency language

- Drop unnecessary things: inflection, reducing words, extend meaning

- Pidgin = restricted to limited use, no one’s native language

- Languages distant from each other, social distance maintained


- Earliest: 1671 Martinique (Caribbean)

- Settlement in 1635 à development of creole within 36 years

- Pidgin was first

- Creole = spoken as native language by whole community

- Often displaced from original language (slavery)

- First generation => pidgin, next generation extended à creole

- Pidgin: less fluent, limited vocab, influence of mother tongue à massive variation

- Chaotic and incomplete input à organize it into creole

- Creolization = expansion (vs. reduction/pidginization)

- Phonol. Rules, complete vocabulary, innovative combination to fill gaps, reorganization of grammar

- Where do grammatical features come from? => various theories

- Decreolization: when creole is still in contact with donor language

- Continuum of varieties (differ in distance to superstrate)


Excerpt out of 22 pages


Language Contact
Zusammenfassung in Stichpunkten
Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald  (Anglistik)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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language, contact, zusammenfassung, stichpunkten
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Antje Holtmann (Author), 2014, Language Contact, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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