LINGUIST List 14.1168

Tue Apr 22 2003

Disc: New: Reply to review of Contact Linguistics

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  1. Carol Myers-Scotton, reply to review of Contact Linguistics in issue 14.1077

Message 1: reply to review of Contact Linguistics in issue 14.1077

Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2003 17:02:16 -0400 (EDT)
From: Carol Myers-Scotton <CarolMSgwm.sc.edu>
Subject: reply to review of Contact Linguistics in issue 14.1077

In her review of my book Contact Linguistics: Bilingual Encounters and
Grammatical Outcomes (Linguist 14.1077), Naima Boussofara Omar
(hereafter NBO) gives a reasonable description of the contents of my
book, chapter by chapter, even if it is more of a "trees" overview
than a consideration of the "forest" I try to convey as constituting
the grammatical aspects of contact phenomena. I am writing only to
comment on NBO's critical evaluation of the "trees".

(1) Overall, NBO seems "stuck in 1993"; that is, her criticisms seem
largely leveled at the my MLF model (of codeswitching) in the 1993
edition of Duelling Languages (DL). This edition dealt only with what
I now call "classic codeswitching", switching between two languages in
the same clause, but with only one of the participating languages
clearly supplying the abstract morphosyntactic frame. The book
currently under review (Contact Linguistics or CL) revises and tries
to clarify some claims made in the 1993 book. But, more important, CL
goes beyond the first edition of DL in many ways, both in terms of
theoretical arguments and data covered. NBO largely ignores
developments in the model in the last nine years and new ideas that
have been incorporated in the new book. For example, she misses
entirely how the 4-M model's classification of morphemes and its
hypothesis about differential access of morphemes in language
production strengthens the claims of the MLF model of DL
(cf. Myers-Scotton and Jake 2000). The 4-M model, and another recent
model, the Abstract Level model, also offer explanations for
structures in other contact phenomena, major goals in CL.

(2) NBO brings up again the old claim that the identification of the
Matrix Language (ML) is circular. In CL (p. 59) I spell out again how
to identify the ML. "The MLF model provides the two principles [the
Morpheme Order Principle and the System Morpheme Principle] as tests
of the premise of unequal participation and as a way to identify the
Matrix Language. If the terms of the principles, morpheme order and
one type of system morpheme, both are satisfied, then the Matrix
Language can be identified as that language." If only one of the two
participating languages meets these criteria, it is the ML. What is
circular about that?

(3) NBO seems to think the MLF model was intended as universal. It is
based on what I refer to as universally-present principles and
processes in contact phenomena (e.g. unequal participation of the
languages involved, different distributions of content and system
morphemes, inter alia).

But the model itself can hardly be universal. In DL, the implication
is that the model applies only to classic codeswitching (defined
above) and I make this limit very explicit in CL. Again, NBO is
arguing against any ambiguity in DL, but not in CL. The MLF model
certainly does not apply without exception to NBO's examples in her
own work from varieties of Arabic that show structural overlap. For
such varieties, it is no wonder that one cannot claim that only one of
the participating varieties sets the frame. Such data are considered
under the rubric "composite codeswitching" in CL, but no claims are
made about the details of the structure.

(4) NBO claims that such examples are "clear violations of the System
Morpheme Principle". As I just indicated, one would not expect the
principle to apply to such data. But more important, NBO clearly does
not yet understand this principle. In DL (1993: 82) the principle
clearly states "...all system morphemes which have grammatical
relations external to their head constituent ...will come from the
ML." This one type of system morpheme is named the "outsider late
system morpheme" in the 4-M model. This is clear In CL (2002) and
other recent publications. To my knowledge, there are no (none)
counter-examples to this principle in the literature dealing with
classic codeswitching. I wish NBO would re-read DL and read pp. 87-91
in CL. She seems to have missed something.

(5) NBO also seems to have missed what CL has to say about the
relation of the ML to other designations for participating languages
in bilingual data or settings. ML, as a label, may refer to the same
language as the terms "dominant" or "unmarked" language do, but it is
not identified by the same criteria. The ML is a grammatically based
construct. The other terms are not. Please read p. 62 in CL.

(6) One more comment about the framework for contact phenomena
developed in CL: NBO complains about my use of "abstract constructs"
that "are not directly testable" to explain the data I consider. Yes,
I am guilty of proposing such constructs to capture generalizations
about the data. NBO misses the point that these constructs are part
of, or lead to, testable hypotheses. This follows the deductive
method. Isn't this what scientists are supposed to do? Only abstract
constructs that do not lead to testable predictions are a weakness in
a model.

(7) One more point. No, I do not "invoke extra-linguistic factors
when there are not linguistic 'constraints' available." True, in CL I
mention such factors as promoting attempts to incorporate elements
from two languages in the case of mixed (split) languages (because the
speakers want to have a code to identify their groups uniquely, with
elements from two languages). Such factors are influential only in
bringing about conditions for bilingual data to emerge; they do not
determine the grammatical structure of contact phenomena. Rather, the
range of potential grammatical structures that can emerge in any such
phenomenon is constrained by the cognitively-based principles and
processes to which I refer over and over. These are universally
available and the same ones show up in contact phenomena over and
over. True, the details of the end product vary with
socio-psychological factors (e.g. the product in creole formation is
different from that in second language learning). But they vary only
within the limits of the principles and processes just mentioned..

(8) Finally, let me emphasize that I am disappointed that NBO
concentrates in her evaluation on her view of the "trees" in my
models. I make these comments only to set the record straight on the
true nature of these "trees" (details of the models). I had hoped
that readers would pay more attention to the claims about the nature
of the overall "forest" in contact phenomena that I argue for in
Contact Linguistics.


References

Boussofara-Omar, Naima. (1999) Arabic Diglossic Switching in Tunisia:
An Application of Myers-Scotton's Martix Language Frame
Model. Unpublished PhD dissertation. Austin: The University of Texas.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. (1993, 1997). Duelling Languages: Grammatical
Structure in Codeswitching. (1997 edition with a new Afterword).
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. (2002). Contact Linguistics: Bilingual
Encounters and Grammatical Outcomes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Myers-Scotton, Carol and Jake, Janice L. (2002). Four types of
morpheme: Evidence from Aphasia, Codeswitching, and Second Language
Acquisition. Linguistics 38,6: 1053-1100.
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