LINGUIST List 14.2490

Fri Sep 19 2003

Review: Sociolinguistics: Clyne (2003)

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  1. Lcallahan, Dynamics of Language Contact: English and Immigrant Languages

Message 1: Dynamics of Language Contact: English and Immigrant Languages

Date: Fri, 19 Sep 2003 10:50:30 +0000
From: Lcallahan <>
Subject: Dynamics of Language Contact: English and Immigrant Languages

Clyne, Michael (2003) Dynamics of Language Contact: English and
Immigrant Languages, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Approaches
to Language Contact

Announced at

Laura Callahan, City College of the City University of New York


This monograph reports on a broad range of language contact issues in
the context of a corpus of immigrant languages in contact with English
in Australia. Data from both bilinguals and trilinguals are examined,
focusing on the following language combinations: German, Dutch,
Hungarian, Italian, Spanish, Croatian and Vietnamese with Australian
English, as well as Hungarian-German-English, Dutch-German-English and
Italian-Spanish-English. The book consists of eight chapters, a list
of references, and a separate index each for authors, languages and
subjects. Chapter notes are grouped at the back of the volume. As they
are in the book, the terms immigrant language and community language
will be used interchangeably in this review.

Chapter One, the Introduction, provides a historical overview of the
field of language contact and of the Australian immigration situation
and language policies. In Chapter Two, Dynamics of Language Shift, the
author defines the term language shift and reviews factors that may
correlate positively or negatively with shift. These are divided into
individual factors such as generation, age, exogamy and gender, and
group factors such as religion, premigration experience in the
homeland and cultural distance between the culture represented by the
immigrant language and that associated with Australian English. In the
section Reading and Writing, Clyne notes that restricting the term
'language use' to spoken data shortchanges the description of literate
societies. He makes the important observation that: ''Illiteracy in a
community language can be a motivating factor in LS [language shift]
as it leads to low self-esteem and estimation of the language, and
decreases its market value'' (47).

Next in Chapter Two, several language maintenance and shift models are
outlined and their claims critiqued for relevance to the Australian
data. First considered is Kloss (1966), a model based on the immigrant
situation in the United States. Ambivalent factors are included, that
is, ones that could lead to either language maintenance or shift. One
of these is an individual factor, that of the immigrant's education
level, and another is a group factor, the attitude of the majority to
the language or group. A higher education level may be associated with
''a high culture around the community language and additional
opportunities to use it'' (48), but may also cause language shift if
the person's higher education results in more contact with the
cultural life of the dominant group. The majority group's attitude
can, if hostile, lead to assimilation on the one hand and to defensive
maintenance on the other. Other models considered are Edwards (1992),
Giles, Bourhis and Taylor's (1977) ethnolinguistic vitality and
intergroup relations, Fishman's (1991) eight steps to reversing
language shift, and Smolicz's (1981) cultural core values. Clyne
rephrases one of the components in Smolicz's model as 'ownership', and
advocates the investigation of ''to what extent ethnic groups which
recognize language as a cultural core value also claim exclusive
propriety over their language'' (67).

Chapter Three, On Models and Terms, opens with a discussion of the
terminology used to describe language contact phenomena, highlighting
the fluctuations in meanings at various junctures in the history of
language contact research. Clyne then moves on to an exposition of his
own model, which is based on a concept called transference. He states:
''A 'transfer' is an instance of transference, where the form, feature
or construction has been taken over by the speaker from another
language, whatever the motives or explanation for this. 'Transference'
is thus the process and a 'transfer' the product'' (76). Much of the
what other scholars describe as borrowings, and some of what they
classify as codeswitches, would fall into Clyne's category of
transference, but the term encompasses considerably more. Twelve
levels of transference are named: lexical, morphemic, morphological,
syntactic, lexicosyntactic, semanticosyntactic, phonological, phonic,
graphemic, prosodic, tonemic, and pragmatic; examples are given from
various language pairs.

The next concept is convergence, a term Clyne employs at different
times in the broad sense of one language becoming more like another,
which can happen through any of the twelve types of transference, and
at other times in the narrower sense of ''similarity increasing at the
expense of differences'' (79). The final concept, crucial to Clyne's
model, is transversion, which he describe as ''a crossing over from
one language to another rather than a transference of an item, feature
or construction'' (80). This concept is explained further in Chapter

Following the exposition of his own model, Clyne summarizes and
compares language contact frameworks proposed by other researchers,
among them Myers-Scotton and Jake (e.g. 2000), Poplack (e.g. 1980),
MacSwan (1999) and Grosjean (e.g. 1997, 1998, 2001). He notes the move
away from positing universal constraints in favor of stating general
tendencies. The remainder of Chapter Three is devoted to a discussion
of work on morphological and syntactic transference and convergence,
covering key issues such as internal versus external change, language
death, drift and typology. Thomason and Kaufman's (1988) Language
Maintenance Scale is tested against the situation of immigrant
languages in Australia. The chapter closes with some notes on the
typological features and degree of shift of the corpus languages.

In Chapter Four, entitled Dynamics of Convergence and Transference,
examples of different levels of convergence are cited from the corpus.
Particular attention is given to trilingual convergence, in which
trilinguals ''extend to the third language a feature shared by two of
their languages'' (105). 'The garden like it my wife' is presented as
an instance of the double influence of Spanish and Italian, which both
require the thing liked to be in subject position, and the person who
likes it in experiencer position. Logical as the double influence
theory seems, it would be interesting to know whether this has been
shown to occur more in Italian-Spanish-English trilinguals than in
Italian-English or Spanish-English bilinguals. Clyne acknowledges that
this and the other phenomena cited ''could have occurred under the
influence of one of the languages but the coincidence of the features
(or their absence) in two of the languages is likely to reinforce the
influence'' (109). He presents the concept of conversion formulae, in
which prior to developing ''a direct relationship between signs and
meanings in the later acquired language'' (109), trilinguals use
whichever of their first two languages is most closely related to the
third as a kind of template to fall back on during acquisition of the

Lexical transference and its causes are discussed, with more examples
from the corpus. Possible cases of phonological influence from
Australian English on immigrant German are put forward, but since some
of the variants correspond to the original settlers' dialects, not all
of them can be pinned with one hundred percent certainty on English's
influence. Clyne alludes to anecdotal observations of prosodic
transference; to wit, the appearance in community languages of
Australian English's typical rising tone. This would be a fruitful
area for investigation, given the salience intonation has for the
layperson, coupled with its descriptive elusiveness. Another
interesting area mentioned is graphemic transference, an issue which
has also been studied in border regions (e.g. Carvalho 1998).

Morphosyntactic transference is covered in the section Grammatical
Convergence, Transference and Other Changes. Among phenomena
categorized as leveling in the direction of the least marked
alternative are: generalization of the auxiliary 'have' at the expense
of 'be' in Germanic and Romance languages; masculine marking on
articles, adjectives and pronouns, even when the noun modified is
feminine; and use of the singular where plural would be expected, such
as on the past participle of Italian verbs with a plural
subject. Other examples of overgeneralization cited are the increased
use of -s as a plural allomorph in German and Dutch, and of the
article 'de' in Dutch. Case loss and restructuring is discussed,
which is resulting in nominative and accusative taking the place of
other cases. The subsection Emerging Typological Change to SVO and
Fixed Word Order includes a discussion of a checks and balances system
in the speech of Dutch-German-English trilinguals, with ''a tug-of-war
between the shared conservatism of German and Dutch syntax and the
shared progressiveness of English and Dutch morphosyntax'' (134).

A notion which may seem counterintuitive is that the admission of
English words into a community language functions as a primary
mechanism of divergence. These words suffer various degrees of
integration, depending on the host language's morphological system,
but they retain their identification with English. It is as though by
permitting the entrance of some lexicon, the minority language is less
vulnerable to becoming more like the majority language on deeper
levels. It concedes a battle but wins the war, and convergence is thus
avoided. One example of this strategy is the use of inflected 'do'
verbs from the immigrant language in combination with a bare stem verb
from English; this effectively relegates the verb to the status of a
noun transfer.

Chapter Five is entitled Dynamics of Transversion. The term
transversion is introduced in Chapter Three. Clyne uses it to refer to
switches to another language that consist of material other than fixed
expressions or compound nouns, and which moreover represent a
different psycholinguistic process: ''Transversion includes both
intra- and interclausal (CP or sentential) switching. It enables us to
express 'crossing over' to the other language rather than alternating
between the languages'' (76). Of the German/English example 'Der
Farmer's GOT Schafe', 'The farmer's got sheep', he states: ''... the
speaker is crossing over into the other language rather than
transferring something, a lexical item or unit, from one language to
another. We may be dealing here with a process that is psychologically
different to other kinds of lexical transference'' (75).

Clyne focuses on the facilitation of transversion, as opposed to
constraints on it. This builds on his earlier work on triggering
(Clyne 1967, 1972, 1980). What he calls a lexical transfer, a lexical
item ''that can be identified as being part of more than one language
for the speaker or for some section of, or the entire speech
community'' (162), may trigger a transversion to its donor
language. He lists other types of words besides lexical transfers that
are capable of acting as triggers, including proper nouns and
bilingual homophones. He notes that phonological similarities, such as
those between Dutch and English, facilitate transversion, as does a
coincidence in tonal range between a tonal and non-tonal language,
such as Vietnamese and English.

In Chapter Six, Dynamics of Plurilingual Processing, Clyne outlines
several processing models and explores how well they would account for
the bi- and trilingual data at hand, and what adaptations might be
needed. Models discussed include Levelt (1989), De Bot (1992), Myers-
Scotton and Jake (2000), Dell (1986, 1995; Dell and Reich 1980),
Grosjean (1995), Paradis (1981) and Green (1986, 1998). The chapter
concludes with a proposal for a model that could explain transversion.
This model, presented in a detailed graphic representation,
usesLevelt's three stages of conceptualization, formulation and
articulation. Each of the multilingual speaker's languages is posited
to make up a network, which together are connected through items such
aslexemes and tones that are linked ''because such items ... are
(perceived to be) part of, or employed in, more than one language''
(211).Hence, the use of one item can activate more than one language.

Chapter Seven, Dynamics of Cultural Values in Contact Discourse,
addresses the topic of how certain codeswitches can have pragmatic
functions, and how certain pragmatic functions can serve to integrate
lexical transfers. For example, Dutch diminutive morphology integrates
lexical transfers from English, as in 'postboxje', 'little letterbox'.
Both smallness and discourse informality are also expressed, and,
according to Clyne, the diminutives ''thus have both a
pragmatic/cultural and a grammatical function in the preservation of
the original language'' (216). The other main topics in this chapter
are address pronouns, modal particles in German, Dutch and Hungarian,
and English discourse markers. A tendency for overgeneralization of
familiar pronouns is noted in, for example, the Croatian, German or
Dutch of young bilinguals. This is posited to be due to convergence to
the greater use of first names in Australian English, as well as to
influence from English's lack of a dual pronoun system. In the speech
of young Vietnamese-English bilinguals, switches to English that begin
with an English pronoun are cited as a means of avoidance employed by
speakers who either do not know the appropriate pronoun in Vietnamese,
or else wish to distance themselves from the implications of respect
or obligation that the use of the Vietnamese pronoun would have.

Modal particles are defined as ''uninflected words which indicate the
speaker's attitude to the proposition in relation to an expectation of
the interlocutor's attitude'' (219). It is hypothesized that the
predominance of some German, Dutch and Hungarian modal particles at
the expense of others derives from the fact that certain particles'
pragmatic force is less threatening to negative face, and therefore
''less in conflict with Australian-English cultural values''
(224). Some English discourse markers, 'you know' and 'well' in
particular, were found to replace discourse markers native to the
community language. Clyne ascribes this to the immigrant's need for a
hedge in line with Australian English social norms, which place
greater emphasis on solidarity.

Chapter Eight, Towards a Synthesis, provides a much needed reiteration
and summary of the major issues covered in this dense book. Clyne
acknowledges the volume's eclectic approach, driven as it has been by
the various linguistic, sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic issues
emerging from the data.


Dynamics of Language Contact represents a valuable contribution to
contact linguistics. The book will be a good resource for scholars who
wish to acquaint themselves with theoretical frameworks treating
issues such as the social causes of language maintenance, shift and
death; the mechanics and pragmatics of codeswitching, or transference
and transversion; convergence and divergence; and non-monolingual
language processing. It will be especially useful as a starting point
for those planning to undertake an analysis of a multilingual corpus,
as it offers a perspective on many different models. Two points bear

First, in regard to the term 'transversion', Clyne recognizes the
potential for distraction signified by any new term, and hence
''invite[s] readers to substitute 'code-switching' if they prefer this
but to take into account that 'transversion' only covers some of the
meanings of the now polysemous term'' (76). This new term is in fact a
distraction, especially at first perusal of the
material. Nevertheless, the author's efforts to differentiate
phenomena that may have diverse motivations are
laudable. Codeswitching has become an umbrella term that is used by
different researchers, as well as by the popular press, to refer to
many types of language contact manifestations.

Second, in any discussion of convergence, one must guard against an
overly facile attribution of changes to influence from another
language, and Clyne is sensitive to this issue. He often acknowledges
the possibility that a change may be due to internal rather than
external forces, or that it is an internal change accelerated by a
contact situation. He is careful to point out that some of the
phenomena mentioned in this volume are not widespread, but that, taken
together with similar observations across various languages, they can
be seen as signals of emerging tendencies.


De Bot, Kees. (1992) A bilingual production model: Levelt's 'speaking'
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Carvalho, Ana Maria. (1998) The social distribution of Uruguayan
Portuguese in a bilingual border town. Ph.D. Dissertation, University
of California, Berkeley.

Clyne, Michael. (1967) Transference and Triggering. The Hague:

Clyne, Michael. (1972) Perspectives on Language Contact. Melbourne:
Hawthorn Press.

Clyne, Michael. (1980) Triggering and language processing. Canadian
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Dell, Gary. (1986) A spreading activation theory of retrieval in
sentence production. Psychological Review. 93: 283-321.

Dell, Gary. (1995) Speaking and misspeaking. In L. Gleitman and M.
Liberman (eds.), Language: An Invitation to Cognitive Science, vol. 1
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Dell, Gary and Reich, Peter A. (1980) Toward a unified model of slips
of the tongue. In V. Fromkin (ed.), Errors in Linguistic Performance.
New York: Academic Press. 273-86.

Edwards, John. (1992) Sociopolitical aspects of language maintenance
and loss: towards a typology of minority language situations. In W.
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Minority Languages. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 37-54.

Fishman, Joshua A. (1991) Reversing Language Shift. Clevedon:
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Giles, Howard, Bourhis Richard Y. and Taylor, Donald M. (1977) Toward
a theory of language in ethnic group relations. In H. Giles (ed.)
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Green, David. (1986) Control, activation and resource: a framework and
a model for the control of speech in bilinguals. Brain and Language.
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Green, David. (1998) Mental control of the bilingual lexico-semantic
system. Bilingualism, Language and Cognition. 1: 67-81.

Grosjean, Fran�ois. (1995) A psycholinguistic approach to code-
switching: the recognition of guest words by bilinguals. In L. Milroy
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Grosjean, Fran�ois. (1997) Processing mixed language. In A. de Groot
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Levelt. W.J.M. (1989) Speaking. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.MacSwan,
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Myers-Scotton, Carol and Jake, Janice L. (2000) Four types of
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Poplack, Shana. (1980) Sometimes I'll start a sentence in Spanish y
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Smolicz, Jerzy J. (1981) Core values and ethnic identity. Ethnic and
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Thomason, Sarah and Kaufman, Terence. (1988) Language Contact,
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Laura Callahan received a Ph.D. in 2001 from the University of
California, Berkeley and is currently an Assistant Professor in the
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at City College of the
City University of New York (CUNY), and a Research Fellow at the
Research Institute for the Study of Language in an Urban Society
(RISLUS) at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her dissertation was an
application of the Matrix Language Frame model to a written corpus of
Spanish/English codeswitching. Her recent work focuses on ingroup
attitudes toward the outgroup use of Spanish in the United States.
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