Language Convergence and Linguistic Areas
- Project Methodology
- Research training
The replication of concrete formal-structural material (morpho-phonological forms with attached meanings) from one language in another is universally understood as grammatical and lexical "borrowing". More controversial is the interpretation of contact-induced structural change that does not involve such replication of forms, but is manifested rather through shift in meaning, distribution, or organisation of inherited material, inspired by an external model. Such changes are sometimes referred to as "convergent developments", and are often typical of linguistic areas.
Weinreich (1953) for example already distinguished between borrowing or tranfer from a SOURCE LANGUAGE >> to a RECIPIENT LANGUAGE, and what he called "Convergent development", which is either the application of grammatical relations to morphemes of the other language, thus involving a MODEL LANGUAGE >> and a REPLICA LANGUAGE.
We refer to the first as replication of MATTER or MAT, and to the second as replication of PATTERN, or PAT.
The project explores the position of language convergence of this kind in the overall context of contact-induced change. We address the mechanism that is involved when language-internal resources are employed to replicate an external model. We attempt to trace this mechanism to its roots at the level of the organisation of communicative discourse in multilingual settings.
The principal aim of the project is to carry out a comparative study of linguistic areas, convergence, and structural borrowing, and to arrive at generalisations, addressing the following questions:
- Are there functions within language that are particularly prone to convergence in linguistic areas?
- What is the relation between structural borrowing (the transfer of actual forms from one language to another) and convergence (mutual structural adaptation, or the replication of a pattern, without replicating a form)? How do borrowing hierarchies relate to hierarchies of convergence?
- How can a theoretical notion of convergence accommodate both phenomena that are known to us from linguistic areas, namely shared typological features, and strategies of accommodation and structural adaptation in bilingual speech?
The project draws on
- a database of convergence and borrowing, on the basis of which generalisations are made in respect of grammatical categories that are prone to replication of MAT and PAT;
- an evaluation of a corpus of speech in bilingual situations, on the basis of which speakers' motivations and strategies to perform in bilingual settings are investigated.
- Collaboration with other projects involving ongoing documentation and analysis of language contact and linguistic areas.
Professor Yaron Matras, project coordinator
Dr Jeanette Sakel, research associate
The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a period of three years, starting 1 September 2003.
Recent publications and publications in preparation include:
(see also other publications)
Matras, Yaron & Sakel, Jeanette (eds.) Grammatical borrowing in cross-linguistic perspective.(in preparation)
Matras, Yaron. McMahon, April & Vincent, Nigel (eds.) (in press) Linguistic areas: Convergence in historical and typological perspective. Houndmills: Palgrave-Macmillan.
Matras, Yaron. Language contact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (in preparation).
Matras, Yaron. (in press). Contact, connectivity, and language evolution. In: Rehbein, Jochen, Hohenstein, Christiane, & Pietsch, Lukas, (eds.). Connectivity in grammar and discourse. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Matras, Yaron. 2003/2004. Layers of convergent syntax in Macedonian Turkish. Mediterranean Language Review 15: 63-86.
Matras, Yaron. The full extent of fusion: A test case for connectivity and language contact. In: Walter Bisang, Thomas Bierschenk, Detlev Kreikenbom und Ursula Verhoeven. (eds.) Kulturelle und sprachliche Kontakte: Prozesse des Wandels in historischen Spannungsfeldern Nordostafrikas/Westasiens. Akten zum 2. Symposium des SFB 295. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag. 241-255.
Sakel, Jeanette. 2005. "Development of an inclusive/exclusive distinction: a possible loan scenario in Mosetenan" in E. Filimonova (ed.) Clusivity Amsterdam:Benjamins.
The Project supports the research training of several PhD students specialising in aspects of language contact and language convergence, and linguistic areas (see programme of the PhD seminar on "Language Contact / Pragmatics" 2004/5 ):
- Maryam Shabibi: Grammatical contact phenomena in Khuzestani Arabic.
- Francesco Goglia: Emerging biligualism among African immigrants in Italy.
- Sirin Tufan: Language convergence in Gostivar Turkish (Macedonia).
- Barbara Schrammel: Verb constructions and contact phenomena in Romani.
- Heveen Ali Kurdi: The use of discourse markers by Arab learners of English.
- Anton Tenser: Convergence and contacts in Northeastern (Baltic-Russian) Romani
- Veronica Schulman: Convergence and contact in the Romani dialect of Sofades, Karditsa (Greece)
- Sandy Lo: English-Cantonese codeswitching in Hong Kong and the Chinese community of Manchester.
- Chen-Hui Chun: Chinese-Taiwanese codeswitching in the media.
Contributions to the project database and to volume on Grammatical borrowing in cross-linguistic perspective are made by a series of collaboration partners specialising in various language-contact situations. The Project has also set up a partnership with the Loanword Typology project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Workshops and conferences:
- The project will host a workshop on grammatical and lexical borrowing on September 30th and October 1st 2005, in collaboration with the Loanword Typology project at the MPI Leipzig
- The project is organising a theme-session on Language Contact and Grammatical theory at the annual meeting of the LAGB in Cambridge 2005
- A conference on Language Convergence and Linguistic Areas was held at the University of Manchester in 2002
- A weekly research seminar on Language Contact and Pragmatics takes place during the semester
- Guest speakers invited by the project included Bernd Heine and Tania Kuteva, authors of Language contact and grammatical change (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
See also project presentations.