LINGUIST List 14.2490

Fri Sep 19 2003

Review: Sociolinguistics: Clyne (2003)

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <>

What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in.

If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Simin Karimi at


  • 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 Five.

    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 latter.

    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 mentioning.

    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' model adapted. Applied Linguistics. 13: 1-24.

    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: Nijhoff.

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

    Clyne, Michael. (1980) Triggering and language processing. Canadian Journal of Psychology. 34: 400-6.

    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 (2nd edition). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 183-208.

    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. Fase, K. Jaspaert and S. Kroon (eds.), The Maintenance and Loss of Minority Languages. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 37-54.

    Fishman, Joshua A. (1991) Reversing Language Shift. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

    Giles, Howard, Bourhis Richard Y. and Taylor, Donald M. (1977) Toward a theory of language in ethnic group relations. In H. Giles (ed.) Language, Ethnicity and Intergroup Relations. London: Academic Press. 307-48.

    Green, David. (1986) Control, activation and resource: a framework and a model for the control of speech in bilinguals. Brain and Language. 27: 210-23.

    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 and P. Muysken (eds.) One Speaker, Two Languages. Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Code-Switching. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press. 259-75.

    Grosjean, Fran�ois. (1997) Processing mixed language. In A. de Groot and J. Kroll (eds.) Tutorials in Bilingualism: Psycholinguistic Perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. 225-54.

    Grosjean, Fran�ois. (1998) Studying bilinguals: methodological and conceptual issues. Bilingualism, Language and Cognition. 1: 131-49.

    Grosjean, Fran�ois. (2001) The bilingual's language modes. In J. Nicol (ed.) One Mind, Two Languages: Bilingual Language Processing. 1-22.

    Kloss, Heinz. (1966) German American language maintenance efforts. In J. Fishman et al. (eds.), Language Loyalty in the United States. The Hague: Mouton. 206-52.

    Levelt. W.J.M. (1989) Speaking. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.MacSwan, Jeff. (1999) A Minimalist Approach to Intrasentential Code Switching. New York: Garland.

    Myers-Scotton, Carol and Jake, Janice L. (2000) Four types of morphemes: evidence from aphasia, codeswitching and second language acquisition. Linguistics. 38: 1053-100.

    Paradis, Michel. (1981) Neurolinguistic organization of a bilingual's two languages. In J.E. Copland and P.W. Davis (eds.), The 7th LACUS Forum. Columbia, SC: Hornbeam Press. 486-94.

    Poplack, Shana. (1980) Sometimes I'll start a sentence in Spanish y termino en espa�ol: toward a typology of codeswitching. Linguistics. 18: 581-618.

    Smolicz, Jerzy J. (1981) Core values and ethnic identity. Ethnic and Racial Studies. 4: 75-90.

    Thomason, Sarah and Kaufman, Terence. (1988) Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press.


    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.