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Conference Information

Full Title: Cognitive Contact Linguistics

Location: Northumbria, United Kingdom
Start Date: 20-Jul-2015 - 25-Jul-2015
Contact: Eline Zenner
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: For ICLC 13 (Northumbria, July 2015) we propose a theme session that aims to demonstrate the benefits and possibilities of Cognitive Contact Linguistics (CCL), a framework that imbeds core concepts and theoretical insights of Cognitive Linguistics and Cognitive Sociolinguistics in research on contact-induced variation and change.

Theoretically, turning to given concepts in Cognitive Linguistics will improve the existing taxonomies and definitions in contact linguistics, and will increase our understanding of contact-induced phenomena such as borrowing and codeswitching. More specifically:

1) Prototype theory (e.g. Geeraerts et al. 1994) can be used to advance the debate on the distinction between codeswitching and borrowing, by letting go of the desire for a classical definition of both concepts in favor of a prototypical approach, in which the fuzzy boundaries between the two concepts are accepted as part of the linguistic reality (e.g. Matras 2009: 113-114)

2) Insights from Construction Grammar (e.g. Langacker 1991, Goldberg 1995) can help unify research traditions on lexical borrowing (with its typically narrow focus on single word units), codeswitching (with its strictly synchronic focus), and structural borrowing (with its focus on grammar only) by introducing the idea of a continuum from lexicon to syntax (e.g. Doğruöz & Backus 2009, cp. Heine & Kuteva 2005)

3) The notions of entrenchment and salience (e.g. Schmid 2007) can increase our understanding of variation in borrowability in general and of the crucial role that is played by semantic, pragmatic and social meaning in promoting the attractiveness of particular forms from another language. In this respect, insisting on the distinction between semasiology and onomasiology (e.g. Geeraerts 1997) proves crucial (e.g. Zenner et al. 2014a; Winter-Froemel 2013).

4) Conceptual Metaphors and Cultural Models (e.g. Lakoff & Johnson 1980) provide objective descriptions of (inter)cultural differences, both within and between contact varieties (e.g. Wolf & Polzenhagen 2009)

5) Usage-based re-formulations of known issues in historical linguistics effectuate a re-appraisal of contact linguistic puzzles in historical linguistic terms (Backus 2013 on the actuation/innovation and transition/propagation problem) (Weinreich et al. 1968 vs. Croft 2000)

In addition to these theoretical perspectives, CCL methodologically relies on Cognitive Sociolinguistics in emphasizing that any usage-based analysis should be based on empirical data (Kristiansen & Dirven 2008). Given how contact communities are by default heterogeneous (i.e. bi- or multilingual), any such empirical analysis conducted in a contact setting should include a variationist component. Adding that a speech community is often heterogeneous in more than one respect (e.g. regarding region or register), a truly variationist analysis will also be multifactorial: the effect of more than one independent variable on the contact-induced phenomenon under scrutiny is patterned. Resulting, inferential statistical analyses should be used in order to deal with the ensuing complexity of the resulting dataset. An example of such an approach in contact linguistics can be found in Zenner et al. (2014b), where a multifactorial statistical model is used to explain variation in the use of expressive English loanwords in Dutch.


Eline Zenner (KU Leuven)
A. Seza Doğruöz (Tilburg University)
Ad Backus (Tilburg University)
Linguistic Subfield: General Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics
LL Issue: 25.3400

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