LINGUIST List 14.2140

Tue Aug 12 2003

Review: Sociolinguistics: Winford (2003)

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  1. Szentgyorgyi Szilard, Winford (2003), An Introduction to Contact Linguistics

Message 1: Winford (2003), An Introduction to Contact Linguistics

Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2003 10:51:02 +0200
From: Szentgyorgyi Szilard <>
Subject: Winford (2003), An Introduction to Contact Linguistics


Winford, Donald (2003) An Introduction to Contact
Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Language in Society.

�va Forintos, Department of English and American Studies, 
University of Veszpr�m, Hungary


One of the most remarkable social changes in the last two decades may
be the increase in opportunities for individuals to become bilingual,
basically by learning foreign languages in educational
institutions. People who have become bilingual by moving to a new
linguistic and cultural environment (e.g. immigrants, educational and
professional transients) are in a good position to reflect on their
linguistic and cultural heritage and to discover and develop new
identity-components. However, there was a time when misconceptions
about the nature of bilingualism were widespread, including the idea
that linguistic heterogeneity was gradually being lost as linguistic
minority groups were assimilated into the majority group. But now the
opposite is the case, and the value of bi- and multilingualism is
recognised both for the individual and the community. Moreover, the
maintenance of multilingualism and linguistic diversity, particularly
but not exclusively among immigrants is becoming more and more


It is a well-known fact that the study of the effects of language
contact has been a focal point of the field of linguistics ever since
the earliest period of the scientific study of language in the
nineteenth century. The book under review is a comprehensive
introduction to contact linguistics, the field which attempts to
integrate linguistic analysis with social, psychological explanations
to describe language contact and its consequences. Although the
emphasis is basically on grammatical structures, the social and
psycholinguistic factors that motivate or affect the structural
outcomes are also dealt with in detail. In contrast to Appel and
Muysken (cited by Winford p. 9), Winford is of the opinion that ''the
study of language contact is in fact a fairly well-defined field of
study, with its own subject matter and objectives. It employs an
eclectic methodology that draws on various approaches, including the
comparative-historical method, and various areas of
sociolinguistics''. Some parts of the book should be accessible to
readers with no training in linguistics, but the primary intended
readers are advanced students, especially those from the field of
linguistics, and faculty from any of the disciplines concerned with
bilingualism and language contact, since the main theoretical premise
is that the same principles and processes underlie all language
contact phenomena. At the end of the book a comprehensive
bibliography (roughly 560 entries) is followed by a subject index.
The author, David Winford, is a prominent scholar in the field who has
remained at the forefront of theoretical language contact research for
the last three decades. In the course of nine chapters the following
topics are discussed: the field of contact linguistics (pp. 1-28);
language maintenance and lexical borrowing (pp. 29-60); structural
diffusion in situations of language maintenance (pp. 61-100); code
switching: social contexts (pp. 101-125); code switching: linguistic
aspects (pp. 126-167); bilingual mixed languages (pp. 168-207); second
language acquisition and language shift (pp. 208-267); pidgins and
pidginization (pp. 268-303); creole formation (pp. 304- 258).


In Chapter 1, the author delineates the field of contact linguistics
in a series of questions: What will speakers of different languages
adopt from one another and adapt, given the right opportunity? How can
we explain such phenomena? What combinations of social and linguistic
influences conspire to produce them? What kinds of situation promote
one type of outcome rather than another? Then follows a short history
of the research that contributed to the emergence of language
contact. Within the same chapter Winford distinguishes three broad
kinds of contact phenomena: (a) language maintenance; (b) language
shift; (c) language creation: new contact languages. He states that
most cases of language contact can be assigned to one or another of
these categories but that they all present their own problems of
definition and classification. Table 1.2 (p. 23) based partly on
Thomason and Kaufman (1988: 50), illustrates the major outcomes of
language contact and includes examples. At the end of the chapter the
relationship between speech communities and language contact is
discussed. Loveday's (1996: 16) typology is used (p. 26) but his
labels and descriptions are amended where necessary. As the author
emphasises, this overview is not complete because it does not include
the social contexts that lead to the formation of pidgins, creoles, or
bilingual mixed languages.

Chapter 2 deals with lexical borrowing, which is the most common form
of cross-linguistic influence. By enumerating and discussing in detail
the different contact situations (''casual'' contact, contact in
settings involving ''unequal'' bilingualism, equal bilingual
situations), the author tries to determine why borrowing is so
extensive in cases of ''distant'' contact or in diglossic situations,
while it is so limited in cases of ''equal'' bilingualism. He
concludes that an examination of the social motivations for lexical
borrowing is needed to understand the problem. The main contribution
of the section titled ''The Processes and Products of Lexical
Borrowing'' is that it provides Haugen's (1953) classification of
lexical contact phenomena, which Winford has expanded to include a
third subcategory (creations using only foreign morphemes) under
Haugen's category of ''native creations''.

Chapter 3 reports extensively on a continuum of contact situations,
ranging from those in which relatively little structural diffusion has
occurred to cases involving the widespread diffusion of both lexical
and structural features. The author asks: Under what conditions do
languages import structure from external sources ? What kinds of
agency are involved in the diffusion of structural features? Is
structural borrowing mediated by lexical borrowing? Can structure be
borrowed in its own right? Winford opposesThomason and Kaufman (1988),
arguing that ''lexical'' and ''structural'' borrowing cannot proceed
independently of each other. He suggests that there is in principle no
limit to what can be transferred across languages. He also emphasises
that when structural features are transferred, it is rarely the result
of direct borrowing. It is rather mediated by lexical borrowing or
introduced under the agency of speakers of the external source
language, and the speakers of the recipient language adopt these
innovations. When examining stable bilingual situations, Winford makes
it clear that with varying degrees of lexical borrowing only a
marginal diffusion of structural features occurs; in other words the
affected language remains highly resistant to foreign structural
interference. In cases of unstable bilingualism - due to the threat
of the dominant external language - ongoing shift appears to lead to
more structural innovations in an ancestral language. He also gives
evidence that bilinguals play an active role in the kinds of
structural diffusion which lead to the convergence of linguistic

The main objective of Chapter 4 is to examine code switching, the
actual performance of bilinguals who exploit the resources of the
languages they command, first of all for social and stylistic
purposes. In accordance with the general goal of the book, Winford
considers other researchers' definitions of code switching with a
critical eye and words his own definition. According to him the
phenomenon includes ''the alternating use of relatively complete
utterances from two different languages, alternation between
sentential and/or clausal structures from the two languages, and the
insertion of (usually lexical) elements from one language into the
other.'' The other focus of this chapter is the sociocultural factors
which influence code switching. It is stated that the choice of code
can be an act of identity by which speakers locate themselves in
social space and in relation to their interlocutors, and that it is
typically associated with different situations or sociolinguistic
domains. Consequently, code switching can be considered a
communication strategy similar to the stylistic variation typical of
monolingual communities.

Chapter 5 focuses on bilingual mixture in situations where the two
languages involved are maintained and the mixed code has not achieved
autonomy as a distinct language. The author's aim is to describe the
linguistic structure of code- switched utterances and identify the
linguistic principles and constraints that govern their production. He
concludes that code-switching phenomena constitute a continuum of
outcomes ranging from simple types of insertion to more complex types
of alternation. Poplack's ''interacting grammars'' model (1981) and
Myers-Scotton's Matrix Language Frame (MLF) model (1993b) theories on
code switching are discussed and compared in this chapter. Winford
finds the former model the best example of alternational code
switching analysis, whereas the latter is the dominant model of
insertional code switching. Since bilinguals' competence includes both
abilities, the author suggests that the models should be seen as
complementary rather than opposed to each other.

Chapter 6 concentrates on bilingual mixed or ''intertwined''
languages, the new and autonomous creations of bilingual
situations. Although some scholars (e.g. Thomason 1995, Bakker 1994)
have attempted to find the precise origins of these languages and to
classify them, there is still some disagreement over the
issue. Winford seems to argue in favour of Bakker's
classification. Nevertheless he doubts if Bakker's classification
adequately accounts for all known cases of language intertwining. He
examines four well- known exemplars of this type of contact language,
Media Lengua, Michif, Ma'a, and Copper Island Aleut. These must have
been chosen by the author because they display noticeable difference
in their patterns of mixture and therefore provide some sense of the
diversity of the outcomes of contact.

Chapter 7 is concerned with individual and group second language
acquisition (SLA) in which the target language (TL) is changed under
the agency of learners. Winford describes the strategies learners
employ in their attempts to acquire a TL. These strategies are:
''appealing to L1 knowledge, simplifying and avoiding TL structures
that are difficult to learn, and creatively adapting those L2 elements
that have been acquired''. He claims that L1 influence can manifest
itself in the individual learner's interlanguage at every level of
structure. The second section of the chapter deals with group SLA or
language shift that produces new contact varieties of a TL. He claims
that such languages as Irish English, Singapore English, and Taiwanese
Mandarin show evidence of significant substratum influence from the
first languages of their creators. Section III provides the possible
routes to first language attrition and death, emphasising that the
same external pressures and social forces that initiate language shift
can make individuals or groups abandon their first language. The
different phases of the course from language attrition to language
decay are also enumerated.

Chapter 8 is devoted to the classification, origins, and development
of the various contact languages to which the term ''pidgin'' has been
applied. The author carefully argues against the term
''pidginization'' because 'in contrast to its meaning' not all cases
of pidgin formation involve a single source. He is of the opinion
that: ''Rather than attempting to fit pidgins into a single mold, our
concern should be to explain how particular configurations of social
and linguistic factors promote differences in lexical and grammatical
input, and the eventual outcomes of pidgin formation''. In order to
better understand how pidgins arise, Winford treats pidgin formation
as a form of early SLA (second language acquisition) and concludes
that unlike individual SLA, it is subject to social forces that
promote levelling and compromise across individual grammars, just as
in the case of group SLA or language shift.

Chapter 9 covers one of the most controversial groups of contact
languages traditionally referred to as creoles. Winford draws
attention to the fact that even the early scientific study of these
languages in the nineteenth century explored many of the issues that
are still being debated today: the role of substrate influence versus
universals in creole formation, the relationship between creoles and
first or second language acquisition, and the implications of these
languages for theories of language contact. After considering recent
attempts to identify creoles, he arrives at the conclusion that there
are no absolute criteria, either sociolinguistic or structural, that
distinguish creoles as a type. Much of the confusion over how best to
define them, he states, is due to indeterminacy in the definition of
the pidgins from which they are claimed to have arisen. Owing to the
differences in the social contexts in which creoles were created, they
range from second language varieties that are close approximations to
the superstrates to ''radical'' outcomes that depart significantly
from the latter. Between these two extremes there is a continuum of
outcomes, with ''intermediate'' creoles closer to the superstrate and
''basilectal'' creoles to the radical end. Despite disagreement among
creolists, it is generally accepted that creole formation was a
process of second language acquisition in rather unusual circumstances
and that children may have played a role in regularising the
developing grammar.

In conclusion the following can be stated: with the coverage Winford
provides, he achieves his main goal. By examining a wide range of
language contact phenomena from both the general linguistic and
sociolinguistic perspectives, he provides an insightful overview of
the general processes and principles that are at work in cases of


Appel, Ren� and Pieter Muysken. 1987. Landuage Contact and
Bilingualism. London: Edward Arnold.

Bakker, Peter. 1994. Michif, the Cree-French mixed language of the
M�tis buffalo hunters in Canada. In Bakker and Mous 1994: 13-33.

Haugen, Einar. 1953. The Norwegian Language in America: A Study in
Bilingual Behavior. Vol. I: The Bilingual Community; Vol. II: The
American Dialects of Norwegian. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Loveday, Leo J. 1996. Language Contact in Japan: A Socio-linguistic
History. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993b. Dueling Languages: Grammatical Structure
in Code-Switching. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Poplack, Shana. 1981. Syntactic structure and social function of
codeswitching. In R. Duran (ed.) Latino Language and Communicative
Behavior, 169-84. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex.

Thomason, Sarah G. and Terrence Kaufman. 1988. Language Contact,
Creolization and Genetic Linguistics. Berkeley: University of
California Press.

Thomason, Sarah G. 1995. Language mixture: ordinary processes,
extraordinary results. In Carmen Silva-Corval�n (ed.) Spanish in Four
Continents: Studies in Language Contact and Bilingualism,
15-33. Washington D. C.: Georgetown University Press.


�va FORINTOS is an assistant lecturer at the Department of English and
American Studies, University of Veszpr�m, Hungary. Her professional
interests include contact linguistics, Australian history, culture and
civilisation. At the moment she is working on her PhD dissertation:
the contactlinguistic examination of Hungarian language (one of its
written form) in Australia.
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