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Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.


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Academic Paper


Title: The preservation of schwa in the converging phonological system of Frenchville (PA) French
Author: Chip Gerfen
Institution: Pennsylvania State University
Linguistic Field: Phonetics; Phonology
Abstract: The phonological system of the French of Frenchville, Pennsylvania (USA) demonstrates a dramatic case of transfer in the latest (and last) generation of bilingual French–English speakers: the mid front round vowels, [œ] and [⊘], have often been replaced by the English rhoticized schwa as found in the word sir. However, French schwa, which is arguably phonetically non-distinct from the mid front round vowels, does not participate fully in this merger. This result is unexpected given both the phonetic identity of schwa and [⊘], and the fact that our speakers are not literate in French and, as such, have no access to the differential orthographic representations manifest between schwa and the mid front round vowels. The data argue strongly that schwa is, in some sense, "real" for these speakers. Based on a phonetic analysis of the vowels under consideration, we argue that transfer between two sound systems cannot be perceived as a simple case of phonetic replacement. Instead, transfer or convergence with English must be viewed as a systemic process that preserves contrast in unexpected ways. In the case at hand, the data suggest that the traditional separation between the phonetic and phonological levels of grammar cannot be maintained as each level contributes to both provoking merger and maintaining contrast in bilingual speech.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition Vol. 8, Issue 2, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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