LINGUIST List 32.3104

Fri Oct 01 2021

Review: Linguistic Theories; Sociolinguistics: Smith, Veenstra, Aboh (2020)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 22-Jun-2021
From: Nantke Pecht <>
Subject: Advances in Contact Linguistics
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Norval Smith
EDITOR: Tonjes Veenstra
EDITOR: Enoch Oladé Aboh
TITLE: Advances in Contact Linguistics
SUBTITLE: In honour of Pieter Muysken
SERIES TITLE: Contact Language Library 57
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2020

REVIEWER: Nantke Pecht, University of Groningen


In the broad and contentious field of contact linguistics research, Pieter Muysken (1950-2021) has left more than just a footprint in an uncountable number of theories and studies, and his work remains an inspiration to many scholars working on the various facets of code-switching, areal linguistics, creole and mixed languages, and multilingualism. “Advances in Contact Linguistics: In Honour of Pieter Muysken'' (2020), edited by Tonjes Veenstra, Norval S. H. Smith, and Enoch Oladé Aboh, appeared on the occasion of Pieter’s farewell speech, entitled ''Back to Babel,'' as the 33rd addition to John Benjamins’ Contact Language Library series. The festschrift includes twelve papers on a representative selection of topics, written by leading experts and former colleagues of Pieter’s, and is divided into four parts. Part 1 focuses on creole studies; Part 2 is dedicated to linguistic areas; Part 3 offers insights into mixed languages and language mixing; and part 4 shifts the focus towards the sociolinguistic aspects of language contact. The vast range of papers well reflects the breadth of Muysken’s interests.

The introductory chapter by the editors, ''Pieter C. Muysken: A brief biography, a language contact bibliography and a Festschrift summary'' (p. 1-33), provides the reader with a detailed bibliography of his work by dividing it into nine categories, followed by a short summary of each chapter in this volume. The editors emphasize that Pieter, aside from his seminal contribution to the study of code-mixing, showed the unique ability to combine diverse disciplines with theoretical models at the crossroads of sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, and grammatical analysis. At the same time, he carefully analyzed highly complex empirical data and insisted on the need for ''real'' language data from both experimental and natural settings throughout his career.

Part 1 of the festschrift, ''Creole languages and creole studies'' (pp. 34-158), presents four contributions. In the first chapter, ''Moving into and out of Sranan: Multiple effects of contact,'' James Essegbey and Adrienne Bruyn highlight the role of motion events in Sranan, based on Talmy’s (2000) framework on complex motion events. Following a diachronic approach, the authors demonstrate how Sranan, a creole language of Suriname, expresses motion compared to its lexifier language English, while also sharing semantic and syntactic features with the West-African Gbe languages. They argue that these languages may account for the typological composition of Sranan regarding the expression of movement, and also outline how the influence of Dutch – in particular the borrowing of the preposition “uit” ‘out’ – has shaped recent developments, leading to divergence from the original structure.

In the next chapter, ''Sociolinguistic characteristics of the English-lexifier contact languages of West Africa,'' Kofi Yakpo discusses the socio-cultural and political dynamics of the five major African English-lexifier contact languages (AECs) and their communities, namely Nigerian Pidgin, Cameroon Pidgin, Ghanaian Pidgin English, Pichi (Equatorial Guinea), and Krio (Sierra Leone). By comparing their sociolinguistic key characteristics, Yakpo provides a detailed account of each variety, their status in the region as well as within the respective community, and the underlying language ideologies. He stresses that these AECs, although having a large number of speakers, received little support from state institutions in the domains of education and culture, which rather support either English or Spanish (p. 62). Despite this discrepancy between language use and policies, however, the author also emphasizes how the increasing presence of these varieties in the public space and media has led to a shift in language attitudes among younger speakers in particular, as well as increasing efforts to foster the language in the public sphere.

The subsequent chapter, ''The quest for non-European creoles: Is Kukama (Brazil, Peru) a creole language?'' by Peter Bakker, explores the question of whether the South American indigenous language Kukama (also spelled Cocama or Kokama) resists classification within current language contact typologies. Traditionally classified as a Tupí-Guaraní language, Kukama has likewise been argued to be mixed or a creole. In discussing structural properties combined with different approaches to the study of creole and contact languages, Bakker convincingly argues that it can be difficult to establish whether a given feature is optional or not, also because little is known about the sociohistorical development of Kukama. Based on previous findings by various creolists, he concludes that Kukama, although close to a creole from the perspective of retention and loss, differs from most prototypical cases identified in the literature.

Next, Chapter 4 shifts the focus to a methodological perspective on creole languages, using Muysken’s approach (1988), which rejected the idea of a creole prototype, as a starting point. In ''Are creoles a special type of language? Methodological issues in new approaches to an old question,'' Silvia Kouwenberg and John Victor Singler critically assess whether computational methods and networks can be implemented to identify the distribution of typological patterns. While the linguistic status of creole languages has been subject to much debate, more recent studies have proposed a number of tools to illustrate the distribution of features. This well-grounded paper starts with an overview of earlier studies and the various positions, after which the authors examine in detail the methodology applied by Bakker et al. (2011). In the final section they consider the purpose and nature of phylogenetic programs and their applications in linguistics. In line with Muysken, the authors conclude that such methodologies alone cannot account for the typological distinction between creole and non-creole languages. At the same time, they also recognize that carefully conducted studies using computational methods reveal the distribution of selected typological patterns.

Part 2, on ''Linguistic areas'' (pp. 159-234), unravels how research into areal linguistics can inform the study of contact phenomena. Over the past decades, numerous linguistic areas have been identified across the globe. While the idea of a ''linguistic area'' or ''Sprachbund'' (Trubetskoj 1928) forms an integral part of contact linguistics since the coinage of the notion, Rik van Gijn, in his contribution ''Separating layers of information: The anatomy of contact zones,'' proposes to move away from the concept of linguistic area as a fixed entity with predefined boundaries. Rather, he calls for a holistic approach in which linguistic areas are analyzed in relation to geographical factors, such as the sociocultural history and communicative practices of the contact zones. As he shows, it remains problematic to define a particular linguistic area in a consistent way without considering the emergence and spread of a given linguistic feature, while the degree of contact may be unstable in some areas. By considering a contact zone’s several layers, van Gijn proposes a new approach to linguistic areas, highlighting the ''anatomy of a contact zone.'' In so doing, he suggests concentrating on what happened, instead of trying to determine specific isoglosses with clear boundaries.

In the following chapter, ''Areal diffusion of applicatives in the Amazon,'' Mily Crevels and Hein van der Voort examine the applicative morpheme -tA and its potential cognates across North(-Western) and Southern Amazonia. In Amazonian languages, grammaticalized applicative constructions are quite common. Through their analysis, the authors demonstrate that the applicative-like morpheme -tA exhibits a number of functions related to valency, occurring in some languages as an applicative and in others as a causative, verbalizer, factive, or middle voice marker. As such, -tA tends to be a suffix that has a number of allomorphs. Accordingly, and although the northwest and southern parts may not constitute a single linguistic area, these grammatical traits can be regarded as areal features of the Amazon region. Still, the authors also indicate that further research is needed to find out whether the term ''applicative'' is the most suitable label for the -tA-morpheme.

The second part concludes with Maarten Mous’s chapter on ''Transfer of Swahili ‘until’ in contact with East African languages,'' which reveals how particular structural properties may or may not spread from one language to another. In Swahili, the noun ''mpaka'' ‘boundary, border’ has turned into a function word meaning ‘until,’ and it has spread to numerous other East African languages with temporal and locative meanings. To illustrate this transfer process in Swahili, Mous examined the different uses of ''mpaka'' in the Helsinki Swahili Corpus (HSC 2.0). Based on a large number of East African languages, he demonstrates that many speech communities borrowed the preposition ''mpaka'' from Swahili into the respective community language, but that they did not copy the grammaticalization process. As argued by Mous, a possible explanation for the spread of “mpaka'' in the function of ‘until’ is related to the high degree of bilingualism and the efficiency of the preposition-like use, i.e., the fact that the element expresses an endpoint in a single word (p. 227).

Part 3 of the festschrift, ''Mixed languages and language mixing'' (pp. 235-338), addresses different patterns of mixing. Pieter Muysken was one of the pioneers in understanding the factors and underlying conditions that trigger language mixing; his seminal study on the typology of code-switching being well-known in particular. Jeanine Treffers-Daller’s chapter, entitled ''Turkish-German code-switching patterns revisited: What naturalistic data can(not) tell us,'' provides the reader with a detailed review of mixing patterns in natural contexts, and discusses how such patterns can be investigated in experimental settings. Her analysis of Turkish-German mixing patterns from spontaneous conversations underscores the need for considering the interrelationship of several factors, such as the language proficiency of the speaker, attitudes towards mixing, frequency of occurrence, as well as the role of inter- and intra-speaker variation in the mixed output, in addition to the structural properties of the varieties involved. Treffers-Daller argues that more study is needed to examine evidence from corpora and experimental data.

In the next chapter, on ''Mixing and Semantic Transparency in the genesis of Yilan Japanese,'' Luis Miguel Rojas Berscia provides a survey of Yilan Creole (or Yilan Japanese) spoken in Taiwan, based on recently produced data collected in Hanhsi and Chinyang in 2018. This variety developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and is still spoken by approximately 3,500 people in four villages of Yilan county. Based on the principles of uniformity, universality, and simplicity, Rojas Berscia demonstrates that Yilan Japanese exhibits different degrees of mixing. Rather than being a creole, the author argues that Yilan Japanese can be regarded as a mixed language with features of Atayal and Japanese.

The third and final chapter of this part, by Norval Smith and Frans Hinskens, focusses on two ''secret languages'' that seem to have emerged due to early contact between Romani varieties and Belgian and Dutch travelers, respectively. In their paper ''Pottefers Cant, Groenstraat Bargoens, and the development of ‘have’ and ‘be’ in the wider context of contact,'' the authors discuss the sociohistorical conditions as well as striking structural features of Pottefers Cant (lit. ‘Pot-doers’ language) and Groenstraat Bargoens (‘Groenstraat cant’). While the former developed as the secret language of travelers dedicated to the repairing of pots in Belgian Brabant and has hardly been studied, the latter originated as a lexically modified trade variety in the southeastern part of the Netherlands and is comparatively well documented (e.g. Moormann 1932; 2002). By focusing on lexis, morphology, and syntax, the authors offer a detailed comparison of numerous features, with particular attention paid to the use of a unified “have/be” combiverb, while they also outline similarities with and differences from other (trade) languages spoken at that time.

The final and fourth part of this volume (pp. 339-388) is dedicated to sociolinguistic aspects of language contact. In their chapter, ''Sociolinguistic enregisterment through languagecultural practices,'' Leonie Cornips and Vincent de Rooij analyze the effects of sociolinguistic ''enregisterment'' (Johnstone 2016) of Heerlen Dutch in a song performed by the Getske Boys, a band from the Dutch province of Limburg. Limburg is well-known for the prevalent use of local dialects, whereas Heerlen witnessed a large influx of migrants due to the expansion of coal mining, which resulted in an intermediate variety of Dutch in the past century (Cornips 1994). Through the examination of lyrics and the self-representation of the band on social media, the authors illustrate how the performances of the band and the linguistic forms they employ can carry numerous meanings to different members of the audience. In concentrating on the relation between the use of specific linguistic features and processes of place-making as part of their identity construction, the analysis shows how the stylized language use of the Getske Boys builds on perceived patterns of co-occurring behaviors, topics, and ideologies, transmitted through the use of stylized language use.

The volume concludes with Cefas van Rossem’s article ''Snow on the Danish Antilles? Referee design in Virgin Island Dutch Creole.'' Taking Bell’s Audience Design model (1984) as his theoretical basis, i.e., a framework developed for the analysis of spoken language, van Rossem considers the apparently artificial character of the Clarin-NEHOL-corpus of Virgin Islands Dutch Creole. It appears that these texts were intended to be read to an audience of slaves, posing the question of whether and to what extent the texts may shed light on language use in the colony. The author argues that although these historical sources may appear artificial at first sight, several features of the vernacular can be identified in these annotations.


Overall, this is a well-edited book which deserves appreciation for its breadth and focus, and for the way in which it combines theoretical and practical approaches in the light of Pieter Muysken’s profound contribution to the dynamic nature of contact linguistics. The aim of the volume is to provide an interdisciplinary festschrift that offers new insights into current debates on sociolinguistic approaches to language contact, language mixing, and creole and areal studies. The editors and authors certainly accomplished this goal, as all the chapters in the book provide a deeper understanding of ongoing research in these fields. Through an examination of a range of grammatical features and contact scenarios found across the globe, such as applicative-like morphemes in the Amazon, the grammaticalization path of Swahili ''mpaka'' in East African languages or Turkish-German mixing patterns, “Advances in Contact Linguistics” addresses a vast range of topics and should be recommended to anyone interested in the field of language contact. Readers familiar with Muysken’s work will also recognize his contribution to the field in each individual chapter.

Another strength of the book is that it contains a large number of data which are discussed in well-presented examples from numerous language varieties. Likewise, just as they are inspired by Pieter Muysken’s insights into the field of language contact, many of the contributions may in turn inspire future studies in the context of recent theoretical frameworks, such as Rik van Gijn’s approach using the concept of “linguistic area” or Jeanine Treffers-Daller’s plea for combining spontaneous corpus data and experimental data in future studies on code-switching.

My main criticism concerns the division of the book into four neatly separated areas, which may confound some readers and suggest that the different subdisciplines largely exist independently of each other, which is of course hardly in the spirit of Muysken’s work. On the other hand, such a clear division may encourage readers only interested in one specific area to identify particular topics more easily. In addition, I personally would have appreciated a closer discussion of Pieter’s contributions to the different subareas of contact linguistics instead of an extensive list of his publications, and perhaps a brief explanation of how the individual authors who contributed to the festschrift relate to his work. It should add, however, that readers interested in a well-arranged bibliographical overview of Pieter Muysken’s publications will certainly appreciate this section of the festschrift’s introductory part as well.

In sum, this volume will be highly relevant for further research in contact linguistics, illustrating the valuable impact an edited volume can have, while also highlighting various approaches to and diverging methodologies for the study of this field. Presenting twelve papers from leading experts, this festschrift serves as a most welcome collection of current and ongoing research. It will be of interest to a wide-ranging audience of sociolinguists, psycholinguists, and scholars working on the intersection of language contact and linguistic anthropology.


Bakker, P., Daval-Markussen, A., Parkvall, M. & Plag, I. 2011. Creoles are typologically distinct from non-creoles. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 26.1: 5–42. Reprinted 2013, in Creole Languages and Linguistic Typology, P. Bhatt & T. Veenstra (eds), 9–45. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Bell, A. 1984. Language style as audience design. Language in Society 13: 145–204.

Cornips, L. 1994. De Syntactische Variatie in het Algemeen Nederlands van Heerlen. PhD dissertation, University of Amsterdam.

Johnstone, B. 2016. Enregisterment: How linguistic items become linked with ways of speaking. Language and Linguistics Compass 10: 632–643.

Moormann, J. G. M. 1932. De geheimtalen. Een studie over de geheimtalen in Nederland, Vlaamsch Belgi., Breyell en Mettingen. Zutphen: W. J. Thieme & Cie.

Moormann, J. G. M. 2002. De geheimtalen: Het Bargoense standaardwerk, met een nieuw, nagelaten deel, N. van der Sijs (ed.), met een inleiding van Enno Endt. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij L.J. Veen.

Muysken, P. C. 1988. Are creoles a special type of language? In Linguistics: The Cambridge Survey, Vol. 2, F. J. Newmeyer (ed.), 285–307. Cambridge: CUP.

Talmy, L. 2000. Toward a Cognitive Semantics, 2 Vols. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.

Trubetskoj, N. S. 1928. Proposition 16. In Actes de 1er Congrès international de linguistes, 17–18. Leiden: A.W. Sijthoff’s Uitgeversmaatschappij.


Nantke Pecht is currently at the University of Groningen, and holds a PhD from Maastricht University, the Netherlands. For her PhD dissertation, she investigated the mixed language practices of former miners in Belgian Limburg. Her research interests include language-dialect contact, language mixing, aspectual constructions, morphosyntax, corpus linguistics and language related to migration and mobility.

Page Updated: 01-Oct-2021