Review of Language Change
Date: Fri, 04 Apr 2003 11:09:12 EEST
From: Hurriyet Gokdayi
Subject: Language Change: The Interplay of Internal, External and Extra-Linguistic Factors
Jones, Mari and Edith Esch, ed. (2002) Language Change: The Interplay
of Internal, External and Extra-Linguistic Factors, Mouton de Gruyter,
Contributions to the Sociology of Language 86.
Hurriyet Gokdayi, Mersin University (Turkey)
For a long time, linguists have been trying to explain why languages change. With "Language Change The Interplay of Internal, External and Extra-Linguistic Factors," Jones and Esch take another step to answer this long-standing question. The main aim of the book, as stated in the introduction, is "to provide evidence from a number of different languages and language families to counter the apparent tendency that has existed in the past to see the explanation of language change as a choice between "language-internal" and "language-external" factors" (p.1). Furthermore, the book aims at examining the role of "extra-linguistic" factors in language change and their interaction with internal and external forces. The present volume is a collection of 14 essays grouped under four parts with four themes, namely levelling, convergence, adaptive mechanisms and code-copying. The volume starts with an introduction by Jones and Farrar (pp. 1-16) and continues with the essays (19-327) followed by an author index (pp. 329-333) and a subject index 335-338).
1. Levelling (19-139)
Chapter 1: David Hornsby: Dialect contact and koinéization: the case of northern France (pp. 19-28). Hornsby discusses contact phenomenon in a northern French town, Avion, by exploring the interaction between extra-linguistic factors and internal process of language change. Having investigated contact between the Avion dialect and standard French, the author finds out that although the local dialect has lost most of its morphological variants, it still demonstrates features different from the standard variety. He considers the result of contact situation in the town as "simplification" rather than levelling. To explain why some dialectal features survived better than others did, he compares contact situation in Avion with that of Burträsk in northern Sweden. Comparing two cases reveals that levelling seems to have had a more powerful role in Burträsk but not in Avion. The reason for this outcome lies at the effect of the extra-linguistic factors (i.e., socio-economic and socio-political) to the process of language change. That is, Burträsk seems to meet a low-contact situation while Avion is to meet a high-contact situation. Therefore, Hornsby suggest that "all the koinéization processes ... are likely to operate wherever dialect contact occurs, a low-contact situation may favor levelling while a high-contact situation is more likely to favor simplification" (p. 26).
Chapter 2: Tim Pooley: The depicardization of the vernaculars of the Lille conurbation (pp. 29-62). This chapter continues examining the contact-induced levelling caused predominantly by socio-historical changes from the mid 19th century to the present time in an urban area, Lille, in northern France. Having analyzed data derived from oral sources in a long lasting period of time (1910-1995), Pooley finds out that the regional dialect, Picard, in the Lille area has lost its 14 distinctive features at the same time. This loss was due to both internal (the frequency and distributional range of items) and external (contact-induced levelling occurred between Picard and standard/vernacular varieties of French) factors. However, as Pooley argues, it seems that a combination of socio-historical elements (urbanization, immigration, education, mobility, a stable economic base, and a new life style) was the most important factor for this change in the Lille area. That is to say that the depicardization process in the Lille conurbation cannot be explained without a proper understanding of the effects of the extra-linguistic factors.
Chapter 3: Enam Al-Wer: Jordanian and Palestinian dialects in contact: vowel raising in Amman (pp. 63-79). In this chapter, Al-Wer studies linguistic features of the emerging dialect in Jordanian capital, Amman. This new dialect is an outcome of the contact between Jordanian and Palestinian dialects in the city. She examines data derived from 30 speakers, half of them Jordanian and the rest Palestinian origin. Her examination reveals that a combination of internal, external and extra-linguistic factors is the main motivation for the emerging Ammani dialect. Extra-linguistic factors are the feelings of local identity and gender. For example, female speakers use the new dialect more consistently than the male speakers do. External factors are levelling and regional koinéization. For example, the younger speakers of the Ammani dialect demonstrate the raising of the feminine ending variable (ah) /a/ to /ae/, adopting phonological characteristic of the Palestinian (i.e., Levantine) dialect rule. Considering internal factors, the vocalic movements in the new dialect occur generally in the framework of Labov's principles of chain shifting vowels. For example, the speakers of the new dialect rise long vowels and move back vowels to the front. With her discussion throughout the chapter, Al-Wer shows how three kinds of different factors contributed the formation of the Ammani dialect.
Chapter 4: Paul Kerswill and Ann Williams: "Salience" as an explanatory factor in language change: evidence from dialect levelling in urban England (pp. 81-110). This chapter explores "salience" as a potential explanatory factor in dialect contact and language change. Kerswill and Williams start with a discussion of six cases where salience has been cited with an explanatory capacity. This discussion reveals that salience "is a useful notion only if the definition adopted avoids circularity" and that "can only be achieved if it is defined against extra-linguistic criteria" (e.g., cognitive, social psychological factors) (p. 87). With this in mind, the authors discuss Trudgill's notion of salience (1987) and argue that five factors, Trudgill identifies, are useful to explain salience only when they are considered as interacting with extra-linguistic elements. Then, the authors test Trudgill's version of salience in a new study involving a dialect levelling across urban centers in England. They investigate teenage speech in three towns with different characteristics. Following the analysis of data derived from 32 adolescents from each town, Kerswill and Williams identify four groups of variables; four vowels, four consonants, twelve non-standard grammatical features and the focus marker "like." Their investigation reaches to the conclusion that salience cannot be explained properly without considering extra-linguistic factors. Moreover, according to them, salience is linked to internal and extra-linguistic determinants. Kerswill and Williams, then, outline a model to explain salience adequately, in which three components should be taken into account: the presence of a linguistic phenomenon, language internal explanations, and extra-linguistic cognitive, pragmatic, interactional, social psychological, and sociodemographic factors.
Chapter 5: Edith Esch: My Dad's auxiliaries (pp. 111-139). This chapter studies another example of levelling in France. It particularly focuses on the role of overt language planning in the process of levelling. Esch analyzes the use of auxiliaries "être" and "avoir" in her father's writing (diaries and letters) and especially the set of unaccusative verbs which are traditionally used "être." Following the analysis of the data, Esch argues that her father was not using auxiliaries in line with the rules of the standard French when he started writing his diaries. That is, he was using "être" as an auxiliary verb according to the rules of the regional varieties of French. However, he learned standard usage (i.e., avoir as an auxiliary) at school and kept following the rules of the standard French throughout his life. Therefore, the school system in France imposed levelling of "être." Esch concludes that "the effects of extra-linguistic factors [in this case the school system] are long lasting, at least when they reinforce those of language-external factors" (p.133).
2. Convergence (143-240)
Chapter 6: Mari C. Jones: Mette a haout dauve la grippe des Anglaïs: convergence on the Island of Guernsey (pp. 143-168). In this chapter, Jones examines a high contact situation between English and Guernésiais on the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel. Before Second World War, Guernésiais and English were both used on the island. During the war, the majority of population of Guernsey was temporarily relocated in England due to the possibility of German invasion. These people returned to the island after the war, most of them, especially children, forgetting Guernésiais. Then, the number of Guernésiais speakers decreased suddenly and, in 1996, there remained only 3000 speakers of the dialect on the island (5% of the population). This picture suggests a typical language death. However, Jones asks whether there was convergence prior to the apparent language obsolescence. She demonstrates that English and Guernésiais influenced each other bi-directionally in terms of grammatical structure as if they were equal status languages. This fact implies that convergence occurred. Yet, in terms of lexical borrowings, the influence is unidirectional' from English to Guernésiais. The lexical evidences, therefore, suggest language obsolescence. Then, how can one explain this case? Jones argues that convergence did occur before the war when English and Guernésiais were probably used "in a state of diglossia with bilingualism" (p. 163). This convergence ceased by extra-linguistic (i.e., sociopolitical and economic) factors that made English the prestigious language. Jones maintains that convergence prior to obsolescence could explain the conflicting changes (e.g., structural and lexical) seen in the varieties spoken on the island.
Chapter 7: David Holton: Modern Greek: towards a standard language or a new diglossia? (pp. 169-179). Holton examines the current state of the Greek language, which underwent a major reform in 1976. Before 1976, the Greeks experienced a diglossic situation, in which high form and low form co-existed for a long time. The high form was the official language, called katharevousa, and used for all formal and literary purposes whereas the low form, called demotic, was used for oral communication. In addition, there was a wide gap between two varieties. In 1976, the government replaced the high form with the low form and demotic became the official language of Greece. Previously, katharevousa had considerably influenced demotic in all parts of grammar and it still does so Modern Standard Greek even though it is not widely used any more. Modern Greek grammar has many features that cannot be explained without reference to katharevousa. Holton asks whether Modern Standard Greek is an example of convergence and argues that the Greek case cannot be considered a typical case of convergence because "the two languages involved are both forms of Greek" (p. 177). In other words, Modern Standard Greek consists of katharevousa and demotic, different varieties of the Greek, not two different languages. However, Holton further suggests that since some grammatical features of Modern Standard Greek may not be explained without reference to katharevousa, it is possible to think that there was a kind of convergence between demotic and certain characteristics of katharevousa.
Chapter 8: Laura Wright: Standard English and the lexicon: why so many different spellings? (pp. 181-200). This chapter investigates why Standard English has many ways of spelling sounds. Wright thinks that this problem has its root at medieval time and tries to explain it by discussing mixed-language trade records of late medieval Britain, when economic goals forced merchants used a mixture of Anglo-Norman, Middle English and Medieval Latin in their business writings. Having examined lexical, morphological and syntactic variation in these writings, the author demonstrates that variable use of the rules of three languages operated simultaneously and the text could be interpreted as one of the three languages. Yet, as Wright argues, variation did not result with "a lack of structure of free-for-all" (p. 192). The author demonstrates that merchants' records followed three sets of governing rules, those of English, Medieval Latin and the mixed variety of both. Then, Wright argues that Modern English has inherited so many different kinds of spelling from the mixed-language business variety over following centuries. In the standardization process of spelling English sounds, this contact-induced variety had a substantial influence on the plurality of spelling. Therefore, Modern Standard English spelling is an outcome of convergence took place among three languages over centuries.
Chapter 9: Joseph Cremona: Latin and Arabic evolutionary processes: some reflections (pp. 201-207). The chapter compares Latin and Arabic concerning their evolutionary processes in the development of the modern Romance languages and Arabic dialects. Cremona argues that the modern Arabic dialects and Romance languages underwent remarkably similar/parallel developments. That is that both groups simplified their grammars (e.g. loss of case endings for nouns and adjectives, loss of mood distinction in the verb, and general increase of analytical structures in the syntax). The author also shows similarities and dissimilarities of the evolution of the two languages. It does not seem that convergence is the case here. However, Cremona maintains that, in the early history of expansion of both languages, large numbers of different language speakers who had to learn the ruling power's language (i.e. Latin and Arabic) selected easier learning strategies when it was possible. This practice lead to the rise of analytical constructions in the descendants of both languages. The author argues that this change happened through linguistic convergence.
Chapter 10: David Britain and Andrea Sudbury: There's sheep and there's penguins: convergence, "drift" and "slant" in New Zealand and Falkland Island English (pp. 209-240). In this chapter, Britain and Sudbury take a different approach to the issue of linguistic convergence and examine why there is a lack of divergence between the isolated English languages of New Zealand and Falkland Islands. The authors demonstrate that although these countries are far away from each other, English varieties spoken in them are pretty much similar concerning the use of singular verb from of 'to be' in existential sentences followed by a plural noun. Having examined existential clauses from conversational data collected in those communities, Britain and Sudbury show that both languages have resembling grammatical constraints on the variable use of existential verb forms. These societies demonstrate a grammatical parallelism, in which singular verb forms of 'to be' are employed in existential clauses preceding a plural noun. New Zealand and Falkland Islands English have originated from the same source and have diverged over a hundred years of time. Despite the linguistic, social and physical distances between two countries, they have not diverged in the employment of 'to be' in existential utterances. Then, the authors ask whether this is a 'drift.' They examine the definitions of the term 'drift,' and conclude that the parallel development in both countries could be called as "slant" rather than "drift" as applied by Mulkiel (1981). Thus, the case in both societies under study could best be explained as parallel developments or failure to drift rather than convergence.
3. Adaptive mechanisms (243-281)
Chapter 11: Ian Watson: Convergence in the brain: the leakiness of bilinguals' sound systems (pp. 243-266). Watson investigates how bilingual speech processing differ from that of monolinguals. In order to explain the speech processing of bilinguals, Watson compares two studies of primary bilinguals with one of secondary bilinguals. The results of the comparison demonstrate that phonetic representations of bilingual's two languages are functionally separated. Yet, there is a constant interference between two sound systems in the brain because of their identification with similar phonological units. This cross-linguistic association between elements alike affords a process in which representations of two languages affect one another. However, the process, not being completely transfused, can co-exist with characteristics of sound systems of both languages. For the account of these possibilities, Watson (p. 243) proposes a model and suggests that extra-linguistic factors, or "micro-sociolinguistic variables" (age, country of residence, degree of exposure to each language) determine when and how internally induced contact phenomenon appear in bilinguals' speech.
Chapter 12: Margaret Deuchar and Marilyn May Vihman: Language contact in early bilinguals: the special status of function words (pp. 267-281). The authors explore the hypothesis that "content words in early child language tend to match the language context whereas function words do not" (p. 268). They analyze and compare two word mixed utterances of two children (first aged through a year and 3 months to 3 years and 3 months; second a year and 7 months to 2 years and 10 months) from the USA and England while developing bilingualism. Their data consists of a collection of 126 two-word utterances produced by the first child and 66 two-word utterances generated by the second child. Their discussion results indicate that early primary bilinguals use function and content words differently in mixed utterances. Moreover, bilingual children employ content words in the specific language context, but function words in both language contexts. It seems that they treat content words as language specific and function words as language neutral. Deuchar and Vihman further argue that this usage of function words in mixed contexts is temporary since bilinguals continue developing morphological marking and distinguishing their languages based on the situation. The authors further argue that these earliest acquired function words could be the first category to initiate Matrix Language Frame change in bilingual adults.
4. Code-copying (285-327)
Chapter 13: Lars Johanson: Contact-induced change in a code-copying framework (pp. 285-313). The author summarizes "some reflections on contact-induced language change as dealt with" (p. 285) the present volume. He approaches to the description of language change with a unified perspective, namely code-copying. He illustrates how phenomena usually referred to as borrowing, transfer, adaptation, convergence, levelling, koinéization, shift etc. may be grouped under his unified framework. Code-copying always includes some kind of effects on the structural characteristics of the basic code, which is the language undergoing change. It may be realized as global or selective copying, structural accommodation and adaptation, habitualization and conventionalization. Johanson further discusses code developments, frame-changing developments, code shift, substratum effects and code death, codes as registers, code-internal and extra-linguistic factors and the interplay of internal, external and extra-linguistic factors in code-copying framework.
Chapter 14: Éva Ágnes Csató: Karaim: a high-copying language (pp. 315-327). Csató examines a high-copying language, the Lithuanian dialect of the Karaim language, a Kipchak Turkic vernacular spoken in the Baltic region for the last six centuries. This language is a clear example of code-copying outlined by Johanson in the previous chapter. Karaim has always been dominated by Polish, Russian, and Lithuanian, the regional standard languages since it belonged to a small religious community. Karaim speakers employed several types of code-copying practices. A high degree of convergence, imposition and adoption considerably contributed the change of Karaim grammatical structure. Consequently, it became to exhibit how contact-induced processes and a combination of factors alter
The editors make a worthy attempt to explain why and how languages change. They bring together 13 case studies in the present volume to illustrate the process in which contact-induced language change occurs. Chapters organized under four themes take one of three types of contact-induced language change as their starting point. This categorization makes the volume easily readable. Essays grouped under "levelling" examine the influence of internal and socio-economic and political factors on the elimination of alternations between two varieties. The chapters under "convergence" investigate how internal and extra-linguistic factors affect the change, particularly take place at the morpho-syntactic level of the variety or language. Two essays under "adaptive mechanisms" demonstrate how bilingual speakers are able to face different grammars and language contexts through very adaptive systems. The last two essays under "code-copying" suggest how levelling, convergence and adaptive mechanisms could be considered under the code-copying framework. This volume makes three important points: (1) Researchers should be aware of the complexity of language change and this complexity should be reflected in every attempt to explain any kind of language change as illustrated by most of the chapters above. (2) "Either-or" mentality, language change is motivated either internally or externally, is inadequate in the explanation of language change and needs to be reconsidered. In addition, extra-linguistic factors should be taken into account. (3) Internal, external and extra-linguistic factors should be considered equally and none of them should be assigned a lower position in terms of explaining language change.
While the collection of essays is both informative and interesting, it is worth to consider a few weaknesses. First, the chapter by Cremona does not seem to fit in this volume. While other chapters examine some kind of contact-induced language change Cremona's essay compares two unrelated but, to him, similar evolutionary processes of Romance languages and Arabic dialects. It is difficult to agree with Cremona's argument that a kind of convergence, leading to the emergence of Romance languages and Arabic dialects, happened between Latin and Arabic and other people who had to learn these languages as their ruler's language in some time in the history. I think this claim needs to be well documented. Second point is about another chapter categorized under convergence. Holton argues that Standard Modern Greek is an outcome of convergence between high variety and low variety of the Greek language. However, convergence should take place between different languages. In the case of Standard Modern Greek, two varieties of the same language were in interaction to form the modern standard variety. Even though the present volume includes these chapters, in my opinion, it is, as a contribution to the sociology of language, definitely enriches our knowledge and understanding of contact-induced language change. Having covered a variety of cases, it is highly recommendable to those who want to look at and understand the process of contact-induced language change.
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Hurriyet Gokdayi is an assistant professor of Turkish language and linguistics at Mersin University, Turkey, where he teaches Turkish syntax, grammar, and writing courses. His research interests includes ethnography of communication, formulaic expressions and language change in Turkey. He currently works on formulaic expressions.