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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Turns of Phrases: Formulaic directionals and grammaticalization in Dutch language change and German second language acquisition Add Dissertation
Author: Kevin Wiliarty Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of California, Berkeley, Department of German
Completed in: 2001
Linguistic Subfield(s): Applied Linguistics; Semantics;
Subject Language(s): Dutch
Director(s): Eve Sweetser
Thomas Shannon
Claire Kramsch

Abstract: This dissertation explores the role of formulaic language in the collective negotiation of form and meaning in the historical development of Dutch and in adult acquisition of German. In both areas of inquiry, the author considers 1) how formulaic expressions contribute to the emergence of grammatical constructions and 2) how cognitive, social and pragmatic pressures shape grammatical development. The author proposes that many details of synchronic idiom make sense only from a historical, cognitive and social perspective.

In the first half of the dissertation, the author demonstrates how idiosyncratic features of the Dutch postpositional construction reflect its context of emergence in a quantified adverbial phrase construction. These observations are based on a corpus study of over 300 pages of modern Dutch fiction by three different writers. Details of the postpositional construction's synchronic distribution and semantics suggest that its emergence was facilitated, perhaps even prompted, by a formulaic postpositional phrase in Middle Dutch whose modern reflex represents the most frequent instantiation of the construction in the modern corpus.

In the second half of the dissertation, the author presents and analyzes the results of written and oral tests of prepositional usage administered to more than 100 native and non-native German speakers. These results demonstrate that formulaic language plays an important role in the development of learner German. All subjects preferred phrases that felt familiar to them, but this preference sometimes led non-native speakers to unidiomatic responses. Subjects overgeneralized certain prepositional phrases, and some patterns of overextension were characteristic of more proficient speakers. The author argues that these systematic overextensions do not represent interference from the learners' native language, but an independent development within the learner community that exploits openings in the German grammar itself. These novel patterns of learner German can be traced directly to specific, highly prominent prepositional phrases in the learner variety.

The author concludes that grammatical change operates not directly on abstract grammatical constructions, but rather on specific-often formulaic-instantiations of a construction in pragmatically, socially and culturally saturated contexts