EDITORS: Auer, Peter; Hinskens, Frans; Kerswill, Paul
TITLE: Dialect Change
SUBTITLE: Convergence and Divergence in European Languages
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
Leonhard Voltmer, European Academy Bolzano/Bozen
The publication _Dialect Change_ is advertised as ''the first ever book to give
an overview of the position of dialects in Europe.'' The book is the outcome of a
three year international research network on social dialectology with the title
'The Convergence and Divergence of Dialects in a Changing Europe'. The book
collects twelve chapters by different authors and a comprehensive introduction
to the topic by the editors. The chapters are organized in three parts on (1)
convergence/divergence in Linguistic Structure, on (2) macrosociolinguistic and
(3) microsociolinguistic motivations of convergence and divergence.
The 48 pages of introduction and the 50 pages of referenced publications make
the book the top pathfinder through a rather new and still somewhat shattered
field of research. The introduction integrates a vast number of publications
into a common logic, as if they were patches constituting a blanket covering
systematically the research area ''dialect change''. In this perspective it is not
a shortcoming that the presented wide range of approaches appears somewhat
eclectic in geographical extension and choice: every dialect is merely given as
an example, because the same dialect change phenomenon might, in principle, have
been shown working on another dialect.
The twelve chapters proceed from the unique, particular and dialect-specific to
the general, preferably universal principles underlying the dialect change
processes (p. 48).
The introduction is useful as text-book of its own, because it renders the
general idea or even abstracts of hundreds of contributions to the field. In
addition to a description, there is also an assessment, when the authors state
for example that the feature ''salience'', claimed by Kiparsky, Trudgill and
others to be a factor in dialect change, derives itself from a complex set of
both linguistic and extra-linguistic factors and has no predictive power.
Chapter one by J. L. Kallen is concerned with the share of internal factors
versus external factors in phonological convergence. As the external factors are
differing over time and place, the author checks how much of phonological
convergence can be attributed to purely linguistic effects. All the rest has to
be attributed to external factors. The example is /t/ lenition in different
dialects of English.
Kallen finds that ''general principles of phonology can, at best, only define
points in the system which are open to change, and establish probabilities that
change will operate in a particular direction. The nature of variation and
culmination of change will depend in a fundamental way on the social embedding
of linguistic norms for speakers and speech communities'' (p. 54-55).
G. Berruto presents in Chapter 3 a general model of language contact. The
extremes are on the one hand a continuing separation of the languages, and on
the other hand the survival of one single language due to formation of a mixed
language, assimilation or language shift. The continuum of hybridization
in-between is separated into a) effects on the language system and b) effects on
usage. Regarding the system (a), the weaker form of influence is lexical
borrowing and the stronger form interference. Regarding usage (b), the weakest
form is code alternation, then code-switching and the strongest form is code-mixing.
The language examples are taken from contact between standard Italian versus
primary dialects like Piedmontese, Sicilian, Ticinese and Lombard.
Chapter 4 by L. Cornips and K. Corrigan treats convergence and divergence in
grammar. They use an approach which combines generative and variationist
criteria. The generative programme of Chomsky emphasizes top-down theories of
language and deduces language from grammar rules. The variationist approach of
Labov works bottom-up from socio-cultural language samples and induces rules.
By combining both approaches, the authors intend to answer the question whether
and how dialect change is connected to a change in the standard variety. Their
object of investigation is the area around Limburg, which was linguistically
homogeneous until 1839, when borders changed and one part experienced the
influence of standard Dutch, the other of standard German. The variation in
grammar could only be explained by combining native-speaker introspection in an
idealised environment with quantitative research on representative speakers'
In Chapter 5 J. Cheshire, P. Kerswill, and A. Williams try to find parallels of
one dialect variation in phonology, grammar and discourse. The structural
changes in those linguistic components appear to be parallel only in a
superficial, loosely connected way. The authors conclude that phonology is too
different from syntax and discourse, because it must take the additional factor
'social interaction' into account. This chapter contains also a literature
review and the case study is on the English dialects of Milton Keynes, Reading
Part 2: Macrosociolinguistic Motivations of Convergence and Divergence
Chapter 6 ''Processes of standardisation in Scandinavia'' by I. L. Pedersen traces
the path of written and spoken language, especially in Denmark. The approach of
this chapter is multidisciplinary and broad minded, integrating cultural,
social, political, demographical, economic and geographical aspects. There are
no explicit conclusions for a general theory of standardization, but implicitly
the long list of potential factors in this field is surely inspiring.
In Chapter 7 P. Kerswill and P. Trudgill define new-dialect formation as
''migration of people speaking mutually intelligible dialects to [...]
linguistically virgin territory'' (p.196). The authors work with a three stage
model of new-dialect formation. In stage I the first generation, adult migrants,
show rudimentary dialect levelling. In stage II, native-born speakers show
extreme variability and further levelling. In stage III subsequent generations
focus on one dialect variant or reallocate variants vertically (social,
stylistic, etc.), while levelling continues.
The authors focus on the setting in and the ebbing out of stage II, studying the
case of English in Milton Keynes, and New Zealand (based on a historical
recorded corpus of 325 speakers from 1946-48). The most striking finding is that
the dialect features of the first stage immigrants determine the final dialect,
although the intermediate stage is characterized by remarkably strong, even
idiosyncratic dialect variability.
Chapter 8 by P. Rosenberg examines dialect convergence in German language
islands in three perspectives: 1. dialect levelling through contact between
different dialect varieties, 2. convergence towards the environmental language
(interlingual convergence), and 3. internally motivated, typological change. The
latter is by far the most interesting, as it occurs in German language islands
in contact with Slavonic (Mennonites in Russia), Germanic (Hutterites in the
USA) and Romance (South Brazil) languages. The author identifies case reduction
in nominal (but not pronominal) paradigms as a typological change. The genitive
is substituted by prepositional or dative constructions, and dative and
accusative merge into one oblique case. This effect is in line with the
long-term development from synthetic to analytic structures in standard German,
but more radical and advanced. It would be interesting to compare those findings
with internally motivated changes in other languages.
C. Woolhiser is concerned in Chapter 9 with the influence of political borders
on dialect. He examines the development of a Belarusian dialect community which
since 1945 is divided by the border between Poland and the Soviet Union/Belarus.
The Belarusian dialect was connected with the poor peasantry and suffered
repression and Russification under the Tsars, which has lead to a
self-deprecating attitude of many speakers and accelerates dialect change today.
Woolhiser finds that the influence of the new standard languages depends not
only on strictly linguistic distance to the dialect, but much on the social
distance. National institutions instill linguistic ideologies to shorten the
distance to the standard, with the effect that the Polish are at least
affectively integrated and Belarusians give up their dialect for mixed forms of
speech: The former dialect diverges along the political border.
J. Taeldeman in Chapter 10 shows the complexity of integrating urban centers
into diffusion models. The two main models of diffusion are ''contagion'' in
social networks and ''gravity'' along a hierarchy of importance (from the capital
to the larger cities to the countryside). Nevertheless those models do not
express where a network starts and ends, or in which direction the gravity is
used. In fact there are constantly also sub-networks of urban gravity centers
resisting and propagating ''conservative'' differences as regional marker.
Examples in literature are Hamburg's conservation of Low German, and Taeldeman
adds several features of the Gent dialect opposing the influence of Brabantine.
According to the author, the current models explain well urban insularity for
the generation and adoption of dialects, but cannot explain conservative urban
insularity. This rearguard position can be explained by social psychological
factors (''spearhead of regional identity'', p. 279) which are hard to integrate
into formal models.
Part 3: Microsociolinguistic Motivations
The third part starts with T. Kristiansen and J. N. Jorgensen pleading the case
of subjective factors, which are the driving force of change. The motivation for
change is a sufficient factor, whereas objective, external factors may or may
not be necessary, but they are never sufficient factors. The authors recognize
that subjective does not mean automatically ''conscious individual attitudes''.
Those factors may very well be unconscious, and may reside on the macro or meso
level as much as on the micro-level. In addition, validity and reliability of
attitudinal data is often problematic, and even when attitudes correlate with a
dialect change it is not clear whether attitudes are the cause, the consequence
or a co-effect. The authors call for improved methods of collecting and
analyzing attitudinal data and present data from Denmark as an example.
The long Chapter 12 by J. A. Villena-Ponsoda covers all aspects of social
networks as instruments for dialectology research. Social networks are stable
interactive groups whose members cooperate over relatively long periods of time
in the achievement of common goals. They have been used as methodological
procedure and analytical tool, but Villena-Ponsoda suspects that networks are
not an independent variable. In fact, quantitative correlations between speech
and network scores are sometimes weak or non-significant. Therefore networks
should be interpreted as a fieldwork method to locate speakers and gain access
to the speaker's choices. An analysis between the macro- and the micro-level
would be an interpretive analysis on basis of the relations indicated by the
speaker's social network. The case studies are on Spanish variants in Málaga.
The concluding Chapter 13, P. Auer and F. Hinskens continue in the line of
thinking of Villena-Ponsoda. On the basis of a series of studies on the various
aspects of correlation of networks on language change, they also conclude that
social network analysis cannot predict dialect changes. They propose to use the
identity-projection model: Individuals accommodate only towards positively
connoted groups. When their integration experience is negative, they will not
assimilate to the linguistic behaviour of this network.
The merit of the book is to bring necessarily close-focused dialect studies into
a common relation. Both broadness and depth of dialect studies come to its
right. This makes the book not really a page-turner, but it is definitely the
book to start from for any researcher in dialect studies.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Leonhard A. G. Voltmer is jurilinguist. He studied law in Munich and Paris,
Legal Theory in Brussels and Lund, and Romance Languages in Salzburg and Munich.
Since 2001 he has worked for the European Academy of Bolzano (Italy) in
terminology, translation and language normation. His magna cum laude Ph.D. at
the LMU University of Munich is about the computational linguistics for
multilingual legal data. Dr. Voltmer is lecturer in Degree and Master Courses at
the University of Trento and senior researcher at EURAC. His research focuses on
legal translation, legal terminology and language normation.