LINGUIST List 23.123

Fri Jan 06 2012

Review: Sociolinguistics: Hickey (2010)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

Date: 06-Jan-2012
From: Hugo Cardoso <>
Subject: The Handbook of Language Contact
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EDITOR: Raymond HickeyTITLE: The Handbook of Language ContactSERIES TITLE: Blackwell Handbooks in LinguisticsPUBLISHER: Wiley-BlackwellYEAR: 2010

Hugo C. Cardoso, Centro de Estudos de Linguística Geral e Aplicada, Universidadede Coimbra


Despite its century-long history, contact linguistics has received unprecedentedattention in the past decades, and it is in this context that one must view thepublication of ''The handbook of contact linguistics'' (henceforth HLC), edited byRaymond Hickey for the Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics series. While ahandbook is essentially a reference work aimed at introducing particularconcepts for a given discipline, it is also, by its encompassing nature, anopportunity to capture the current state of that discipline and the directionsin which it is moving. HLC first and foremost testifies to the pervasiveness ofcontact in modern linguistic thinking. It clarifies the extent to which contactlinguistics has made, and continues to make, inroads into various subfields oflinguistics, and the diversity of linguistic and geographical settings to whichit has been applied.

This rather large volume opens with a list of contents, a brief biographicalsketch of the 42 contributors, and a short preface. The editor's introductorychapter, 'Language contact: reconsideration and reassessment', begins with ashort summary of the development of contact linguistics and its integration intomainstream (Anglophone) linguistics, surveys significant recent contributions tothe articulation of contact linguistics with other areas of linguistic research,and identifies a number of recurrent or pending questions in the literature,many of which are addressed in later chapters.

The remainder of the book is divided into 4 different parts. The 6 chapters inPart I, entitled 'Contact and Linguistics', explore the interaction of languagecontact with several domains of linguistic enquiry. 'Contact explanations inlinguistics', by Sarah Thomason, essentially deals with the dichotomy betweeninternal and external explanations for linguistic change, appealing to thenotion of multiple causation. The author proposes a set of conditions underwhich a contact explanation may be considered valid, and goes on to list a setof broad social and linguistic predictors, interpreted as variables whoseinteraction may help explain certain types of change. In 'Genetic classificationand language contact', Michael Noonan sketches the rationale and parametersbehind genetic taxonomies of languages, noting how such contact phenomena ascreolisation, koineisation or the formation of mixed languages have fuelled theemergence of alternatives to the traditional family tree model. Yaron Matras's'Contact, convergence and typology' explores both convergence and borrowing(respectively, the replication of pattern and of matter). The phenomenon ofconvergence, a potential source of typological change, is articulated withgrammaticalisation theory and the formation of linguistic areas. The lastsections of the chapter are dedicated to matter replication, exploring variousstructural, semantic-pragmatic and socio-cultural inhibitors or facilitators ofborrowing. Bernd Heine and Tania Kuteva's chapter, 'Contact andgrammaticalization', argues that contact may either propel or accelerategrammaticalisation processes -- potentially resulting in 'grammaticalisationareas' or metatypy (i.e. wholesale contact-induced change) -- and that,inversely, universals of human conceptualisation (manifested in well-establishedgrammaticalisation clines) constrain the effects of language contact withrespect to grammatical replication. In 'Language contact and grammaticaltheory', Karen Corrigan notes that insights gauged from studies of contact oftendo not impact mainstream linguistic theory because contact languages aredisregarded as exceptional or deviant. Corrigan's arguments are articulated fromthe perspective of generative theory, with two case studies exploring importanttopics of generative syntactic research (pro-drop, wh-movement and prepositionstranding). Finally, April McMahon's chapter, 'Computational models and languagecontact', explains how language contact has presented considerable challenges tosuch endeavours as linguistic taxonomy or the reconstitution of proto-languages,and what solutions have been implemented in recent computational models to teaseapart the effects of inheritance and of contact.

In Part II, entitled 'Contact and change', 6 chapters focus on differentoutcomes of language contact. Raymond Hickey's chapter, 'Contact and languageshift', explores the motivation, process and possible effects of language shift.This is amply illustrated with examples from the encounter of English and Irish,not only in terms of their respective roles in the emergence of Irish English,but also with regard to ongoing changes in modern Irish motivated by pressurefrom English. In 'Contact and borrowing', Donald Winford proposes a conceptualsplit between 'borrowing' and 'imposition' based on whether the speaker'sdominant language is the source or the recipient language. The chapterexemplifies the effect of both social and linguistic constraints on borrowing,and surveys the debate on the borrowability of patterns, before establishing acontrast between borrowing and such contact phenomena as relexification,mixed-language formation and classic code-switching. The latter is readdressedin the following chapter, Penelope Gardner-Chloros's 'Contact andcode-switching', which highlights the difficulty of distinguishing code-switchesfrom loans and the diachronic link with mixed-language formation. The authorfocuses to a large extent on the social significance of code-switching andclaims that, depending on concrete social circumstances, it may signal eitherthe decline of one of the contributing languages or the vitality of both. DavidBritains's chapter, 'Contact and dialectology', goes on to describe how routinedialect contact related to day-to-day mobility may trigger isolated acts oflinguistic accommodation and, in turn, form the basis for community-levelprocesses of change. The constrained definition of his topic of enquiry leavesout more radical and extreme forms of contact such as those brought about bymass population displacement, which are said to differ, not so much in terms ofthe nature of resulting changes as in their degree, and constitute the object ofPaul Kerswill's chapter, 'Contact and new varieties'. Here, the formation of newdialects of a transplanted language is discussed from a developmentalperspective and articulated with the current debate on the extent to which itmay be dependent on social variables. John Holm's 'Contact and change: pidginsand creoles' then describes processes of contact-induced change which go onestep further, leading to the creation of new languages. Holm briefly summarisesthe history of research on pidgins and creoles, the principal theoreticalapproaches to their formation, and some of the major links between this field ofresearch and the wider field of language contact.

Part III, 'Contact and society', opens with Pieter Muysken's 'Scenarios forlanguage contact'. In this chapter, Muysken defines a number of scenarios (i.e.patterns of community-level responses to multilingualism/contact, such asborrowing, convergence or attrition) in terms of their frequency of occurrence,the social valuation of the languages involved, and potential structuralconstraints. In 'Ethnic identity and linguistic contact', Carmen Fought looks atinstances of language or dialect contact which take place across ethnicboundaries. Through a survey of relevant studies (with particular reference tothe U.S.A.), the author notes that significant convergence may result, which issubject to variables such as social relations, nature and depth of contact, orideology. Peter Trudgill's 'Contact and sociolinguistic typology' assumescontact (or lack thereof) as one of the relevant parameters in the hypotheticalcorrelation between certain linguistic types and certain types of society. Themain issue addressed here is the effect of contact on linguistic complexity.Having observed that there is ample evidence of both contact-inducedcomplexification and simplification, Trudgill proposes that the former is oftenassociated with child bilingual acquisition and the latter with adultsecond-language acquisition. Suzanne Romaine's 'Contact and language death'reminds us that contact may trigger language shift, and that shift is usually atthe root of language endangerment and death. The chapter is amply illustratedwith examples from around the world, highlighting not only well-establishedregularities in language attrition, but also some differences and the relativeunpredictability of death-by-shift scenarios. The last chapter in this sectionis Claire Bowern's 'Fieldwork in contact situations', which interprets languagecontact as both an opportunity and a challenge for fieldwork-based languagedescription. According to the author, linguists engaging with contact settingsshould be aware of the history of contact and social dynamics at play, devisemethods to diagnose shift in progress, and ensure that samples are bothrepresentative of the community and socially informed.

All of the remaining chapters constitute Part IV, entitled 'Case studies ofcontact'. The first of these is 'Macrofamilies, macroareas, and contact', inwhich Johanna Nichols revisits proposed macrofamilies in an attempt atdisentangling the role of inheritance and/or areal diffusion in their formation.Theo Vennemann's 'Contact and prehistory: the Indo-European Northwest' arguesfor the substratal influence of Vasconic languages on incoming Indo-Europeanlanguages as the source of such features as vigesimal numeral systems or the useof two copulas. Paul Roberge's 'Contact and the history of Germanic languages'encompasses various historical periods, describing contact between Germanic andFinno-Ugric languages, Germanic and other Indo-European languages, as well ascontact within the subfamily.

The case-study section proceeds with a cluster of chapters dedicated to Englishin contact. Markku Filppula's 'Contact and the early history of English' focusesspecifically on the medieval period, surveying the arguments put forth insupport of contact scenarios for the development of the English progressive,cleft constructions and relative clause structures. In 'Contact and thedevelopment of American English', Joseph Salmons and Thomas Purnell describe theprocess by which native or immigrant languages have impacted some monolingualvarieties of American English. The topic is exemplified with an analysis ofcertain characteristics of the Upper Midwest dialect. Edgar Schneider's 'ContactEnglishes and Creoles in the Caribbean' describes British colonial involvementwith the region, with particular emphasis on socio-demographic factors, toexplain the formation of its English-lexified Creoles, pointing out the extentto which studies of language contact in the Caribbean have shaped currenttheories of creolisation. Highlighting the sociolinguistic heterogeneity of theAsian settings of English use, Umberto Ansaldo selects Singapore as anillustration for his chapter 'Contact and Asian varieties of English'. Ansaldoapproaches the development of Singlish from an evolutionary perspective oflanguage change, and makes the particular claim that typological congruenceimpacts the outcome of language contact. Rajend Mesthrie then zooms in on Africain 'Contact and African Englishes'. After a brief survey of the chronology ofEnglish contacts in Africa and the formation of pidgins and creoles around thecontinent, Mesthrie describes some features of modern-day Sub-Saharan varietiesof English (especially from the Bantu sphere) potentially motivated bysubstratal transfer. The author clarifies that, in addition to more classicalcontact processes, modern varieties also show the hallmarks of mass tutoredsecond-language acquisition.

The remaining chapters revolve around non-Germanic languages. Joseph Eska's'Contact and the Celtic languages' explains that, despite the evidence ofcontact in the pre-history of Celtic both in continental Europe and the BritishIsles, contact explanations have been most often invoked in reference to certainnon-Indo-European features of Insular Celtic. As an illustration, Eska describesthe classical debate on whether the substratum of Insular Celtic may have beenAfro-Asiatic. In 'Spanish and Portuguese in contact', John Lipski surveys thegeographical dispersion of Castilian Spanish and of Portuguese around the world,and proceeds with an analysis of a few contact-induced linguistic features indifferent varieties of the two languages. Examples for Spanish are selected fromdiverse ecologies in diverse parts of the world (e.g. the Andes, North America,Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Gibraltar, Equatorial Guinea), but the only varietiesof Portuguese mentioned involve contact with Spanish across the Brazilianborder. 'Contact and the development of the Slavic languages', by LenoreGrenoble, clarifies the extent and diversity of contact undergone by the Slaviclanguages in different moments of their history, and the role of contact intheir diachronic individuation. Various concrete cases are discussed, involvingcontact not only with non-Slavic languages, but also within the subfamily.Grenoble mentions the hypothesis of Finno-Ugric substratal transfer in theformation of Russian, which is then readdressed in Johanna Laakso's 'Contact andthe Finno-Ugric languages', alongside other instances of contact involving theselanguages. It should be clarified that, in this chapter, Laakso applies the'Finno-Ugric' label not only to the subfamily of languages commonly subsumedunder this designation, but to the entire Uralic family. The author notes thatmost Finno-Ugric languages are presently minority languages in their respectivelocations, a situation which has led to convergence as well as obsolescence.Brian Joseph's 'Language contact in the Balkans' introduces the BalkanSprachbund, its major participants, and typological commonalities. Based on thedistribution of Balkanisms across the region and socio-historical evidence ofmultilingualism, Joseph then debates the mechanisms of contact involved in theformation of this particular linguistic area. In 'Contact and the development ofArabic', Kees Versteegh explores the role of contact in the evolution of Arabicin the Arabian Peninsula and, especially, in the individuation of Arabic spokenvernaculars in the wake of its expansion. Versteegh also dedicates someattention to the role of Arabic as a lingua franca and the formation ofArabic-lexified contact varieties (viz. Ki-Nubi and Bongor Arabic), as well aspatterns of change in diasporic Arabic-speaking communities. Lars Johanson's'Turkic language contacts' describes intra- and extra-family contact settingsacross the length and breadth of the Turkic-speaking world, from the Balkans toSiberia, and also in the diaspora. Case studies revolve mostly around loanwordsand their phonological/morphosyntactic adaptation to the recipient language.Marianne Mithun's 'Contact and North American languages' covers a geneticallydiverse group of languages and a region with several well-established linguisticareas. Mithun invokes diffusion to explain the prevalence of certaintypologically-rare morphological features among these languages. Anothergenetically diverse region within which specific Sprachbünde have beenidentified is Africa, which constitutes the topic of G. Tucker Childs's'Language contact in Africa: a selected review'. The author illustrates theextent of language contact in the continent with particular reference to theencounter and competition of the Atlantic and Mande branches of Niger-Congo incoastal areas between Senegal and Liberia, with the formation of pidgins andcreoles, and the emergence of urban varieties in South Africa and Guinea.Brigitte Pakendorf's 'Contact and Siberian languages' describes instances ofcontact in this vast region. The discussion covers contact between Siberianlanguages (with particular focus on Evenki) in the pre-colonial and colonialperiods, their interaction with Russian, and the formation of contact varieties.As one of the classical Sprachbünde and the object of pioneering studies oflanguage contact, South Asia finds its rightful place in this volume throughHarold Schiffman's chapter 'Language contact in South Asia', which places greatemphasis not only on processes of convergence, pidginisation and creolisation,but also on areal patterns of (contact-induced) grammaticalisation. In 'Languagecontact and Chinese', Stephen Matthews starts by exploring the role of contactand substratal transfer in the individuation of modern Chinese varieties, andtheir ongoing interactions. Matthews also describes the role of Chinese in theformation of contact varieties in China and elsewhere (e.g. Chinese PidginEnglish, Macanese Creole, Hawaiian Pidgin English), in code-mixing, and as alexical donor to various languages. Patrick McConvell's 'Contact and indigenouslanguages in Australia' describes pre-colonial Australia as a region of manylanguages spoken by relatively small populations and how resulting structuraland lexical diffusion poses a difficulty for the genetic classification ofAustralian languages. McConvell also discusses the formation of pidgins andcreoles, as well as the development of indigenous Australian varieties ofEnglish and contemporary contact phenomena. William Foley's chapter focuses on'Language contact in the New Guinea region', an area defined here as thenon-Austronesian-speaking Pacific Northwest. This being a region wheremultilingualism has traditionally been valued as an accomplishment, it is also azone of intense contact among 'Papuan' languages with languages of a differentextraction (such as Austronesian). Foley discusses several products of contactin the region -- including borrowing, metatypy and pidginisation -- andhighlights the urgency of conducting research in this linguistically rich andvolatile part of the world. Lastly, Jeff Siegel's 'Contact languages of thePacific' describes the rich history of contact in this highly diverse region,focusing particularly on the contact-induced development of new languages anddialects. Various case studies exemplify contact among the region's indigenouslanguages, and also between Pacific languages and relevant colonial and/orimmigrant languages, from New Guinea to Hawai'i.

An Author Index and a Subject Index round off the volume.


HLC congregates many of the leading specialists in the study of languagecontact, scholars who, on account of their active research agendas, are uniquelypoised to comment on recent developments in their respective areas of enquiry.As most other handbooks, this one is likely to be consulted not only byspecialists, but also by non-specialists expecting a review of thestate-of-the-art in a format that privileges scope and approachability overdetail. In general, HLC will not disappoint, even if there is some variation inthe tone and depth of the various chapters: while some are rather theoretical innature, others are essentially descriptive; while some authors opt for abalanced review of different theoretical proposals or contact settings, othersselect one or a few to explore in more detail by way of illustration. The volumeis well edited and produced, with remarkably few typos and an attractive layout.Chapters are designed as self-contained units, with a list of references at theend of each one. However, very few include a list of abbreviations, and there isalso no general list for the entire volume, which at times may obscure theinterpretation of glosses. Considering the amount of languages and toponymsmentioned, I find that the book would also have profited from the inclusion ofmore maps. The final indices are comprehensive and accurate, allowing the readerto easily locate references to particular concepts, languages and authors.

The publication of HLC adds to the rapidly expanding literature on languagecontact. Because of its nature, there is no unified 'thesis' or 'proposal' to beassessed. What becomes clear from reading it is that language contact is firmlyestablished as a central aspect of linguistic research, with ramifications intoa growing number of sub-disciplines. It is striking that, in addition to thestudy of languages on which the hallmark of contact is especially conspicuous(such as pidgins, creoles, or new varieties of colonial languages), contactlinguistics now accommodates more nuanced analyses pertaining, for instance, todialect contact or bilingual first-language acquisition.

A few earlier handbooks have had a considerable contact component; in theBlackwell series alone, these include, e.g., Coulmas (1996), Chambers et al.(2002), Kachru et al. (2006), and Kouwenberg & Singler's (2008) “The handbook ofpidgin and creole studies''. Their scope is, however, either more circumscribedor considerably different from that of HLC. A few introductory course books suchas Thomason (2001) and Winford (2003) also take a global look at the field,although these are by necessity shorter and typically privilege the detailedexploration of select case-studies for the benefit of the students. The onlypublication I am aware of which is comparable to HLC in scope and format is the2-volume, trilingual ''Kontaktlinguistik/Contact Linguistics/Linguistique decontact: Ein internationales Handbuch zeitgenössischer Forschung/Aninternational handbook of contemporary research/Manuel international desrecherches contemporaines'' (Goebl, Nelde, Starý & Wölck, 1997). While it is byno means the purpose of this review to compare the two handbooks, one shouldnote basic similarities and differences in order to assess the pertinence of thebook under review. HLC has, in principle, the advantage of presenting morerecent data and, for readers fluent in English but not in German and/or French,that of being entirely written in English. Goebl et al. (1997) is a much largerpublication and involves more contributors. It features shorter chapters whichmake finer distinctions, especially with regard to the interaction betweenlanguage contact and other scientific disciplines, the social significance oflanguage contact, or the methodology of research in contact settings. While thechapters of HLC are generally broader, they still introduce new and/or deeperexplorations of certain topics, such as grammaticalisation, typology or dialectcontact. Descriptive chapters in HLC are organised either around a particularlanguage, a language (sub-)family, or a geographical unit. When it comes to theselection of case studies, HLC has a slight bias toward contact settingsinvolving English, which is probably justified by the language in which the bookis written and the intended readership. Some readers may find that other equallyrelevant languages (e.g. French or Malay) are underrepresented, and others maytake issue with the absence of specific studies on certain regions (e.g. SouthAmerica or Southeast Asia); but this does not detract from the fact that theeditor aimed for wide geographical representation. And here, in my opinion,resides its most important innovation, given that the case-study volume of Goeblet al. (1997) is really circumscribed to the European continent. The twohandbooks do differ substantially in certain respects and, therefore, there isgood reason to treat them as complementary sources.

In my view, HLC's greatest achievement is that of presenting an extraordinarywealth of information -- with particular emphasis on the description ofdifferent contact languages and contact ecologies -- in an approachable andmanageable format. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone seeking afirst approach to specific aspects relating to language contact, and I suspectteachers and students at universities around the world will find the bookespecially useful. In addition, specialists will also find plenty of food forthought in the pages of this book, including some theoretical tools anddiscussions relevant for the general advancement of the field. HLC also providesresearchers with easy access to a host of arguments and case-studies with whichto complement their own studies, as well as the appropriate bibliographicalreferences to pursue them in more detail.


Chambers, J. K., P. Trudgill & N. Schilling-Estes (eds). 2002. The Handbook ofLanguage Variation and Change. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Coulmas, F. (ed). 1996. The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Goebl, H., P. H. Nelde, Z. Starý & W. Wölck (eds). 1997.Kontaktlinguistik/Contact Linguistics/Linguistique de contact: Eininternationales Handbuch zeitgenössischer Forschung/An international handbook ofcontemporary research/Manuel international des recherches contemporaines, 2vols. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Kachru, B., Y. Kachru & C. L. Nelson (eds). 2006. The Handbook of WorldEnglishes. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Kouwenberg, S. & J. V. Singler (eds). 2008. The Handbook of Pidgin and CreoleStudies. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Thomason, S.G. 2011. Language contact: An introduction. Washington DC:Georgetown University Press.

Winford, D. 2003. An introduction to contact linguistics. Malden, MA: Blackwell.


Hugo Cardoso is a researcher at the CELGA (Centro de Estudos de Linguística Geral e Aplicada) of the University of Coimbra, Portugal. His research has concentrated mostly on the documentation and description of the Portuguese-lexified Creoles of Asia, with particular focus on India.

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