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Language Acquisition and ChangeA Morphosyntactic Perspective$
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Jurgen Meisel, Martin Elsig, and Esther Rinke

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748642250

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748642250.001.0001

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Language contact as a possible trigger of change

Language contact as a possible trigger of change

(p.96) Chapter 5 Language contact as a possible trigger of change
Language Acquisition and Change

Meisel Jurgen M.

Elsig Martin

Rinke Esther

Edinburgh University Press

Language contact has often been claimed to be a causal factor of language change. This chapter begins with exploring the likelihood of structural borrowing. It is argued that instead of triggering direct structural transfer from one variety to another, contact may rather have influence on the use of language-internal constructions which show cross-linguistic equivalence. Yet, sociolinguistic research shows that even here, the role of contact often turns out to be overestimated once the environmental factors conditioning the use of the relevant constructions are taken into account. When considering the development of grammatical systems in child language acquisition, it has also been shown that language contact (i.e. bilingualism) does not entail mutual influence or even fusion, but rather a separation of the grammars. On the other hand, it is shown that situations of contact in which second language acquisition plays a crucial role (e.g. shift-induced interference) are much more likely environments for a grammatical restructuring. Based on these premises, change caused by contact is expected to be a relatively rare phenomenon in core domains of grammar. This is confirmed by two case studies which we discuss, one on the change of the null subject property of Old French and the other one on its supposed verb second grammar.

Keywords:   language contact, borrowing, convergence, shift-induced interference, second language acquisition, verb second, null subjects, grammaticalization

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