Dear visitor; Welcome.
Linguistic Studies:
is particularly intended to be of use for students and teachers at all levels as well for members of the general public who wish to get Academic resources for the study of Foreign Languages .
Registration will not take more than one minute,


academic resources for the study of foreign languages
HomeRegisterLog in

Share | 

 Language Contact

View previous topic View next topic Go down 

Language Contact Empty
PostSubject: Language Contact   Language Contact I_icon_minitimeFri 30 Sep - 9:45

Language Contact

Why do we have words in English such as
"fiesta" and "macho", "beef" and "bon voyage"? All of these words have
entered the language via what we call language contact. Specifically,
it's important to note, as we have seen in our discussion of
sociolinguistics, that languages don't exist in isolation. Rather, they
are used by speech communities whose members interact with one another
as well as with members of other speech communities. Those who study
language contact study the linguistic results of such interaction.

What are the kinds of ways that linguistic systems are affected by
language contact? Well, here are some concepts that we want to be in
control of:


  • lexical: the borrowing of words, i.e. the adoption of
    loan words such as "ballet" or "fiesta"; there are also loan
    translations or "calques" such as "it goes without saying" from the
    French "il va sans dire"
  • structural: the borrowing of phonological, morphological, or syntactic features
  • phonological: the borrowing of the sound in rouge or garage
  • morphological: the borrowing of -able from French
  • syntactic: Asia Minor Greek adopted SOV order from contact with Turkish

What factors affect linguistic borrowing? One primary factor is intensity of contact.

  • Lexical borrowing requires only low intensity contact.
  • By contrast, structural borrowing requires more intense contact, as
    knowledge of the system is generally needed for the borrowing to happen;
    i.e. at least some of the speakers are bilingual

Another factor affecting borrowing is prestige (or power):

  • If speakers of the two languages consider themselves of equal prestige, the languages are said to be in an adstratal
    relation; your book gives you the example of English and Norse in early
    England. In adstratal situations, borrowing tends to be more
  • if speakers of the two languages consider themselves to be of unequal power/prestige, the languages are said to be in a super/substral
    relation. An example of a super/substratal relation would be that of
    the contact between Spanish (superstratal) and any of the Native
    American languages of Mexico (substratal), such as the Mixtec language
    that I work on. In super/substratal relations, borrowing tends to
    proceed from the superstratal language to the substratal language
    (though borrowing can happen in both directions).

Here are some other phenomena arising from language contact situations:

  • language convergence: this can happen when languages
    are in extensive, long-term contact. Such languages can begin to share
    more and more properties, entering into a so-called Sprachbund 'union of
    languages'. This has happened somewhat in the Balkans for Albankian,
    MAcedonain, Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Serbo-Croatian.
  • language shift: this is a bit different from
    convergence. In this scenario, a group of speakers shifts from using a
    usually lower prestige language to a higher prestige language.
  • language death: this occurs when language shift
    involves the last remaining group of speakers of a language. It's
    happening all over the world today, as many of the world's indigenous
    languages are dying as speakers shift to a smaller set of languages
    spoken by socio-economically dominant groups.

Two important concepts: pidgins and creoles

One of the most interesting areas of study in language contact is the study of so-called pidgins and creoles.

Pidgins arise usually as a code used in trading situations in which
speakers of many languages come together and need some means of
communicating for the purposes of doing business with one another. The
interesting thing about pidgins is that they are not the primary
language for any of their users. Structurally, pidgins tend to be
somewhat simpler than full-blown natural languages. As your textbook
notes, though, this is a bit of an oversimplification.

For example, they discuss the development of a transitive marker [im]
in Solomon Islands Pidgin. Some linguistis have associated this with
English 'him'.

luk 'look'

luk-im see something

But other Oceanic languages such as Kwaio have similar structures:

aga look

aga-si see something

Note that both the pidgin and Kwaio have intransitive verbs that can
take a transitive suffix. So, we can think that this grammatical
property of the Pidgin comes from the substrate Oceanic languages and
not from the superstrate English.

Creoles, on the other hand, are languages with speakers for whom the
creole is the primary form of communication--the native language as it
were. Creoles are found in many parts of the world. The Caribbean, for
example, has English-realted Jamaican Creole and French-related Hatian
Creole. In both of these cases, a situation arose (due to the plantation
system) in which many Africans speaking a diverse range of mutually
unintelligible African languages came into contact with each other and
with English or French. Over time, this mixing gave rise to a generation
of speakers who spoke none of the original languages but rather new
languages that were related lexically and structurally to parts of the
languages that came into contact.

One of the miraculous things about human language, as Pinker points
out, is its instinctive nature. Pinker discusses the remarkable and
documented case of the emergence of Nicaraguan Sign Language via the
process of creolization of a pidgin form of sign used by Deaf people in
Nicaragua. What's so interesting about this is that we have actually
seen and carefully documented a case of language genesis. The Deaf
children from whom the creole emerged did not have a full fledged sign
language as a model. In essence, they, as a speech community, gave birth
to a new language (without even trying!). You saw this on the video in
your recitation section.

Focus on Pidgins

Here's a list of some of the properties of pidgins:

  • They are made from mixtures of contact languages.
  • Their vocabulary tends to be derived from the superstrate language
    because speakers of the substrate languages have higher motivation to
    learn the words of the economically powerful.
  • In pidgin contact situations, there is often little time or means
    for substrate speakers to be formally educated in the superstrate
    language, so they often acquire lexical items rather than whole

Here we see an example of some words from Tok Pisin, spoken in Papua
New Guinea. Note how the vocabulary is taken from English, the
superstrate language.

Tok Pisin
by and by

General Features of Pidgins

phonology: cluster reduction is common, resulting in a favoring of CV syllables. Example: dust becomes dus.

morphology: pidgins often have absence of affixal marking (drop the s-agreement from verbs, for example)

syntax: word order tends to be SVO, prepositions used, articles not generally used, aspectual distinctions often marked by auxiliaries

Here's some data from the pidgin called Cameroonian. Note how the
auxiliaries di and don express aspectual notions such as completed,
repeated and ongoing.

di laf
was laughing
don du
have done
di du
do always

semantics: pidgins usually have small vocabularies with
words with extended meanings. [wikup] means wake up and also 'get up'
(Cameroonian, I think). More compounds employed: dog baby for puppy.


In broad strokes, Creoles are precursored by prepidgin jargons.

Your book lists a number of modes of evoloution:

Type 1: pidgin jargon--> creole, ex. Hawaiian Creole English

Type 2: pidgin jargon--> stable pidgin -> creole, ex. Torres Straits Creole English

Type 3: jargon ->stable pidgin->expanded pidgin -> creole; ex. New Guinea Tok Pisin

Important concept: nativization--the process by which some
variety of speech that was no one's native language is learned by the
children in that community as their first language.

We can think of crreolization as nativization.

TOPIC : Language Contact  SOURCE : Linguistic Studies **
Signature : langues

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Back to top Go down

Language Contact

View previous topic View next topic Back to top 
Page 1 of 1

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
languages :: Linguistics / Linguistiques :: Linguistics / Linguistiques-
Jump to: