LINGUIST List 24.2950|
Fri Jul 19 2013
Review: Historical Linguistics; Lang. Acquisition: Ingham (2012)
Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons
From: Devan Steiner <bdsteineindiana.edu>
Subject: The Transmission of Anglo-Norman
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-4688.html
AUTHOR: Richard P. Ingham
TITLE: The Transmission of Anglo-Norman
SUBTITLE: Language history and language acquisition
SERIES TITLE: Language Faculty and Beyond 9
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
REVIEWER: Devan B. Steiner, Ithaca College
In “The Transmission of Anglo-Norman: Language history and language
acquisition”, Richard Ingham explores the question “how far is language
learnable under non-normal conditions that modify input characteristics,
learner characteristics, or both?” (p 3). To do this, he examines
Anglo-Norman (A-N), the variety of French spoken in England from the 11th to
the 15th century, a language learned and used as a second language (L2) for
the majority of its existence. Even as an L2, A-N was widely used and, based
on textual evidence, its speakers had a near-native level of competency.
During the late 13th century, this advanced level of competency began to
decline, ultimately resulting in the loss of A-N. This book is divided into 11
chapters, including an introduction and conclusion, and presents the results
of six studies of A-N phonology and syntax. The aim is to “identify the
‘support system’ that permitted [AN’s] extended survival and whose removal
caused its death” (p 4).
Chapter One begins by establishing the major challenge of working with
Anglo-Norman, that it continued to be widely used in England long after
ceasing to be an L1. During this time, A-N showed systematic developments
that differed from those found in continental Old French (OFr). For this
reason, many have suggested that Anglo-Norman should not be studied in its own
right, but Ingham sees this extended L2 period as a reason A-N should be
studied. It provides a case study for what happens to a language when it is a
persistent L2, acquired in an educational environment in middle childhood,
rather than as an L1 or an L2 acquired in adolescence. To examine A-N in this
light -- as an early acquired L2 -- Ingham interprets the development of A-N
through the lens of second language acquisition, which is highly innovative.
Chapter Two establishes a brief sketch of early 13th century A-N grammar.
Here, Ingham distinguishes between the characteristics of A-N shared with Old
French, and those that are idiosyncratic. He also notes which aspects of
early (L1) A-N are similar to Middle English, and therefore not of interest to
the present study, and those that differ from English. Similar features are
to be avoided, as they provide no evidence for possible convergence between
A-N and Middle English. A-N is then compared to other medieval L2 varieties
of OFr known to have been acquired in adolescence or later, since languages
acquired after this point tend to show evidence of L1 transfer. The data from
these varieties show that elements not shared with the speaker’s L1 were lost
while those shared with the L1 were over-extended. This provides a basis for
comparison with Anglo-Norman in the following chapter; features in A-N that do
not occur in English should have been lost due to L1 transfer from English, if
it were an instructed L2.
Chapter Three reviews the literature on Anglo-Norman, including the various
views on the point which A-N went into decline. The main work on A-N
discussed is Pope (1934), the foundational work on A-N. Pope considers the
mid 13th century as the point of no return, as far as A-N is concerned, due to
the growing phonological differences between A-N and continental French.
According to Ingham, the main problem with previous work on A-N is the faulty
assumption that “once English was most people’s mother-tongue, French could
not also be a competently acquired language”, which rests on “little to no
empirical foundation” (p 27, 28). In addition, this chapter provides a
sociohistorical foundation for Ingham’s later claims about the beginning of
the loss of A-N as well as the age of its acquisition.
In Chapter Four, Ingham provides the rationale and design of the studies
presented in the following chapters. The book focuses on phonological and
syntactic variation, as they are potentially the most informative with respect
to L1 transfer. Each feature examined was realized differently in Middle
English and Old French, and therefore is a potential source for L1 transfer
from English to AN. Furthermore, there are differences between OFr and A-N in
the evolution of the selected features at various points in their history.
Furthermore, Ingham only examines features where English contrast with
Medieval French to avoid issues arising from French influence on English.
Chapter Five presents several aspects of Anglo-Norman phonology. The chapter
begins by comparing changes in Old French (OFr) and A-N phonology, and
discussing the possible influences from English on these changes in AN. Of
the four vocalic changes examined, only the earliest, the merger of ai/ei,
occurs in both A-N and OFr. The remaining vowels examined evolved differently
in the two languages. The second half of the chapter critiques the argument
put forward in Floquet (2010) against the use of rhyme in phonological
studies. Floquet argues that in Modern French, a certain amount of
neutralization involving features such as [palatal] is permitted in rhymed
pairs; therefore mismatched rhymes in A-N may be the result of poetic license
rather than phonological change. Ingham tests this methodological critique by
examining mismatched rhymes diachronically. His results do not support a role
for poetic license. Rhymes involving neutralizable features existing in Early
Middle English (EME) do not show any appreciable sign of neutralization, while
those involving sounds which did not occur in EME show A-N increasing
frequency of neutralization. These contrasting results suggest that
neutralization was only possible when part of a sound change. Overall, the
changes seen in these studies indicate the presence of L1 transfer from
English in Anglo Norman, at least phonologically.
Chapters Six through Ten examine various aspects of A-N syntax, morphology and
pragmatics: the syntax of quantifiers, gender marking on nouns, verb second,
null subjects, attributive adjective-noun order, and discourse particles. In
each chapter, Ingham helpfully provides the reader with a clear explanation of
what changes (or non-changes) are to be expected in A-N in the event of L1
transfer from English. Each of the changes seen in A-N mirror those in French
rather than those in English until the mid-fourteenth century. Around 1350,
there is evidence of systemic syntactic change in A-N, resulting in a grammar
that is no longer native-like. This suggests a shift in the manner of
acquisition at this time.
Given what is known about the effect of age of acquisition on L2 competency,
the results of each study, both individually and as a whole, demonstrate two
clear changes in A-N . The first shift in age of acquisition occurred in the
early 13th century. At this point, A-N was no longer an L1, but an L2
acquired in a naturalistic setting in middle childhood. The second shift
occurred in the mid-14th century, when A-N demonstrates an increasing
frequency in non-native-like errors. This suggests that it was no longer
acquired during in middle childhood, but rather in adolescence. Ingham
concludes that “A-N lost its status as a spoken language among educated
professionals after the Black Death” (p 162). This contrasts with the
longstanding assumption that A-N was an “artificial” language (an L2 acquired
in adolescence and used in limited contexts) after the early 13th century,
following the loss of Normandy to the English crown.
Ingham sets out to answer this question: what happens to a language when it is
learned in an educational environment in early education, and what must change
for the language to die? He is successful in this pursuit. First, he
demonstrates that acquisition in middle childhood results in near-native
competency, including native-like changes over time. Secondly, delaying the
age of acquisition to adolescence is sufficient to trigger language death.
In addition to presenting an innovative approach to language contact in
diachrony, and contributing to the literature on acquisition and language
change, Ingham breathes new life into the study of Anglo-Norman. By looking at
phonology and syntax separately and comparing them to both English and Old
French, as well as to what is expected at different ages of acquisition,
Ingham is able to reframe our ideas about AN’s importance and longevity.
Throughout, Ingham provides a clear and detailed rationale for the
methodologies employed in each study. He creates a clear and compelling
narrative both in the book as a whole and in each chapter. By providing
sufficient background information and step-by-step discussion of his
methodologies and results, Ingham leads the reader to reach the appropriate
conclusion on their own.
While Ingham’s results are compelling, they do not completely align with those
of other recent work on Anglo-Norman. For example, in Chapter 8, Ingham
examines the loss of verb-second in Anglo-Norman compared to English and Old
French: “[if] A-N did experience substantial English influence on the syntax
of V2, it should therefore have shown evidence of favouring V2 with nominal
subjects and not with pronominal ones” (p 106). His results show that A-N did
not show any significant difference in the frequency of V2 with either type of
subject, leading him to conclude that there was no influence from English on
A-N. Steiner (2010), on the other hand, finds that A-N did maintain V2 orders
with nominal subjects longer than pronominal subjects. These results are
indicative of imperfect L2 acquisition, when compared to the frequency of V2
in English and French. If nothing else, this discrepancy suggests that there
is room for more work on this topic.
The one issue with the book is that the concluding chapter is somewhat
underdeveloped. It would have been beneficial to solidify and explicate the
link between the diachronic results from each study to what is expected given
known acquisitional outcomes and how it all ties into the socio-historical
context for Anglo-Norman. While Ingham treats this to varying extents in each
chapter, it would have been beneficial to have an extended summary of the
assumptions and conclusions.
Overall, this book is a significant contribution to research on Anglo-Norman,
and a must-read for those working on the impact of contact between
French-English as well as historical contact situations in general. While
this is not an introductory book, as it assumes knowledge of various
linguistic concepts, it provides enough of an overview of A-N, English and Old
French to be accessible to linguists who do not specialize in these languages.
Floquet, O. (2010). Sur la nasale palatale et les rimes approximatives en
Anglo-Normand. In F. Neveu (ed.) Actes IIe Congres mondial de Linguistique
Française. New Orleans: EDP Sciences. Pp. 1303-1317.
Pope, M. (1934). From Latin to Modern French, with Especial Consideration of
Anglo-Norman: Phonology and Morphology. Manchester: MUP.
Steiner, B.D. (2010). Middle English influence on late Anglo-Norman syntax:
The effect of imperfect L2 acquisition. In J.C. Clements, J.F. Siegel, B.D.
Steiner & M. Solon (Eds.), IUWPL9: New Perspectives on Language Contact and
Contact-Induced Change. Bloomington, IN: IULC Publications. Pp. 99-115.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
B. Devan Steiner is a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University and a lecturer of
French at Ithaca College. She is currently completing her dissertation,
entitled “The Role of Information Structure in the Loss of Verb Second in
French”. Her work primarily focuses on Medieval and Renaissance French and
Anglo-Norman. Her research interests include diachronic syntax, language
contact, verb second, information structure and prosody.
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