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Review of  Lexical Borrowings as Sociolinguistic Variables in Saint-Louis, Senegal

Reviewer: Iris F. Levitis
Book Title: Lexical Borrowings as Sociolinguistic Variables in Saint-Louis, Senegal
Book Author: Fallou Ngom
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 18.3538

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AUTHOR: Ngom, Fallou
TITLE: Lexical Borrowings as Sociolinguistic Variables in Saint-Louis, Senegal
SERIES TITLE: LINCOM Studies in Sociolinguistics 05
YEAR: 2006

Iris Flannery, U.C. Davis

This monograph is the result of a study of lexical borrowings in Saint-Louis
Senegal. The use of lexical borrowings from Arabic, French, English, and Wolof
by inhabitants of Saint-Louis is examined across registers, age groups, and
genders. The main goal of this study is to demonstrate that lexical borrowings
vary between age groups and genders and that lexical borrowings can be viewed as
sociolinguistic variables. This book is relevant reading for anyone interested
in multilingualism, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, Arabic,
Francophone, or Wolof linguistics. Lexical Borrowings as Sociolinguistic
Variables in Saint-Louis, Senegal consists of seven chapters, an appendix of
methodology and a bibliography. It is the fifth book in the Studies in
Sociolinguistics series published by LINCOM.

Chapter 1: Background
In Chapter 1 the author begins by stating the hypotheses of the study, and then
provides a general history of Senegal, as well as the Arabic, French, English,
and Pulaar linguistic influences in the country, and concludes with a
description of Saint-Louis.

The author begins with some perceived shortcomings of the literature on lexical
borrowing. These shortcomings arise from simplifying assumptions, such as using
a paradigm of contact between only two languages, or generalizing study results
to entire communities, rather than to social groups within a community, or
overlooking the wider social context of lexical borrowings. The following
predictions, termed hypotheses by the author, are intended to correct for these
errors. The author's first prediction is that the number of lexical borrowings
used by an individual is influenced by their sex, age and social group. In
particular, younger speakers, who are thought to have greater exposure to
multiple languages and cultures, are predicted to use more lexical borrowings
than other age groups. The author goes on to predict that lexical items used by
the entire speech community are those which have become phonetically,
morphologically and syntactically Wolof. It is then suggested that loanwords
borrowed for reasons of prestige, rather than practicality, are inroads by which
introduced languages and cultures begin to infiltrate Wolof. Building from this,
it is predicted that a greater understanding of lexical change in multilingual
societies requires consideration of the influence of social and political
variables on lexical borrowing. Finally the author predicts that the process of
lexical borrowing varies between individuals in part because they use particular
mechanisms of borrowing to identify themselves as members of a specific age group.

The rest of the chapter provides an overview of Saint-Louis, Senegal, and the
country's major linguistic influences. Senegal is a large country with a
multiplicity of languages. The government recognizes six national languages:
Wolof, Pulaar, Seereer, Mandinka, Joola, and Soninke. Arabic lexical borrowings
in Senegalese speech are due to the Arabic invasion and the conversion of
inhabitants to Islam. The French influence on Wolof result from colonization by
the French. The author attributes the spread of English lexical borrowings to
various smaller events, and more recently the rise of English as an
international language. The influence of Pulaar on Wolof derives from the
prominence of Pulaar speakers in Saint-Louis. To conclude this section the
author delineates the history and geography of the city of Saint-Louis.

Chapter 2: Review of the Literature
In this chapter the author reviews and comments on theoretical constructions of
lexical borrowing, typologies of borrowing, the sociological importance of
lexical borrowings, and the creation of language ideology. The author
distinguishes between borrowing, interference, code switching and mixing (citing
Haugen (1956)). Then he draws on the work of Gingras (1974) and Pfaff (1979) to
define clearly what lexical borrowing is (one lexical unit) and what it is not
(more than one lexical unit - code switching). Crystal's (1997:66) definition of
lexical borrowing is introduced stating that a lexical borrowing can be
''phonological, morphological or syntactic'' (30). This broad definition allows
consideration of the greatest amount of data.

The author draws on the literature to distinguish two types of loanwords:
Unassimilated (perceived as alien) and assimilated (not perceived as alien)
(Deroy 1956). The author acknowledges that these are not discrete, but
continuous and that the progression from unassimilated to assimilated is
considered an essential element of loans to some theories, such as Deroy's
(1956). The author goes on to say that Deroy (1956) discovered some of the
processes which loanwords undergo to become phonologically acceptable words
(assimilated) in the borrowing language. To illustrate the morphological aspects
of lexical borrowing the author provides some examples [such as _liiraat_ (to
read again) _lire_ (Fr 'to read') + -_aat_ (Wolof 'to do again')] to show the
fusion of French and Wolof.

Subsequently the author discusses prestige as an aspect of loanword promotion,
and how it affects which lexical items are borrowed from which languages. Deroy
(1956) is invoked as arguing that lexical items are borrowed if there is not an
equivalent in the borrowing language or to satisfy reasons of prestige. Then the
author focuses on the factors which make a language more highly valued
ideologically. Beginning in colonial times the French language was promoted as
superior to the national languages of Senegal, and of all the languages in the
French colonial empire. This high prestige can be thought to account for the
abundance of lexical borrowings. An essential understanding of prestige
relations is stated by the author as ''History shows that a language or
linguistic variety is worth what those who speak it are worth, i.e., their
economic, political, social or cultural power, prestige and authority'' (47). The
author concludes with an explanation of how this study will extend the
examination of lexical borrowings from phonological variation in monolingual
communities to a more holistic examination of variation in multilingual communities.

Chapter 3: Methodology
Chapter 3 consists of a description of the Labovian sociolinguistic interview, a
section on the participants, an overview of interviews and modules, a
description of variables, the data transcription and coding, the analysis, the
modified coach tests, a section on education levels in Arabic, French and
English, and concludes with research difficulties.

The Labovian Sociolinguistic interview was used for the advantages that Labov
(1994:157) cited for it, that it yields a large corpus of speech data, and
allows the author to study linguistic variation in the community. The author
spent four months in 2000 collecting speech data and interviewed 200
participants. Half the participants were male, half were female, and they were
divided by age into two groups. All participants were from Saint-Louis. The
interviews consisted of six modules and lasted twenty minutes. The modules were
designed to bring out a response in one of three registers: Political,
religious, and cultural. These registers were selected due to their close
association with French, Arabic, and English. The six modules were: explanation
of study, subjects' biography, warm-up, political register, religious register,
and the cultural register.

In the next section the author defines the variables of the study. The
independent are variables the age, gender, and register of the participants. The
dependent variables are the number of Arabic, French and English borrowings, and
the degree of assimilation they have undergone in Wolof. The author then
describes the transcription and coding of the speech data according to the
previously identified variables. Linguistic processes which indicate the degree
of assimilation into Wolof are: Verlanization, hypercorrection, lexical
innovation, semantic change, nasal unpacking, denasalization, cluster
simplification, category change, truncation, calque, lexicalization,
unincorporated and incorporated loans.

The author applied two statistical analysis tests to the data: Wilcoxon Rank
sums test, and the Test of Contingency Tables. The author then describes Labov's
Coach Test (1994). The Coach Test was designed by Labov (1994) to determine the
phonological competence of members of a monolingual community (1994). The author
modified the test to determine the lexical proficiency of study participants in
a multilingual community. He describes the two modified coach tests, one for
older subjects, and one for younger subjects. He adds education level as an
independent variable, and defines it as years spent studying French, Arabic, or
English. On average older subjects have more education in Arabic. Younger
subjects have more education in French, and English. He concludes the chapter
with a brief overview of a research difficulty that was encountered - older
subjects reluctance to participate - and overcome.

Chapter 4: Results of the Statistical Analysis
This chapter summarizes the statistical analysis applied to the data. The first
section indicates that the lexical hybridization is a reflection of the cultural
hybridization. The next three sections address lexical borrowings as they
correlate with register, age group, and gender respectively. The concluding
three sections address linguistic processes as they correlate with register, age
group, and gender respectively.

The results of the statistical analysis show that French and Arabic have a high
percent of loans incorporated in Wolof. English has fewer. Pulaar and Spanish
have the same amount. One example from the data is [sarax-a:t] ('to give charity
again'), which is a combination of [sadaqa] (Arabic 'charity') and -_aat'_
(Wolof iterative morpheme). The author states that based on the mixing of
lexemes Saint-Louis is a ''Creolized society'' (88). Lexical borrowings are a
linguistic reflection of the cultural melding.

The next three sections deal with the relationship between lexical borrowings
and the register, age group, and gender of participants. Lexical borrowings from
French are highest in the political and cultural register. Borrowings from
Arabic are highest in the religious register. English borrowings are highest in
the cultural register. The relationship between age and lexical borrowings shows
that older participants use Arabic borrowings more frequently than younger, and
English borrowings are more common for younger participants. There is no
difference in the use of French borrowings between older and younger
participants. In the final section on lexical borrowings the independent
variable is gender. The results show that there is no statistically significant
difference between genders regarding the number of lexical borrowings from
Arabic or French. There is a significant difference in the use of English loans,
in that male participants use more.

The final three sections of this chapter address the relationship between
linguistic processes and the independent variables, register, age group, and
gender. The results show that the linguistic processes verlanization,
hypercorrection, category change, unincorporated, and incorporated loans are not
statistically different across registers, whereas the other dependent variables
are significant. The linguistic processes, lexical innovation, semantic change,
nasal unpacking, denasalization, cluster simplification, lexicalization,
unincorporated, and incorporated loans, are found to be statistically
significant across age groups as well. The linguistic processes, semantic
change, unincorporated, and incorporated loans, are the only variables of
statistical significance across gender.

Chapter 5: Discussion and Interpretation of the Results
Chapter 5 is composed of three sections interpreting the results of the lexical
borrowings according to register, age group, and gender. The first section deals
with the relationship between lexical borrowings and register. French loans are
most common in the political and cultural registers, Arabic in the religious,
and English in the cultural. The author states that this indicates that Arabic,
French, and English are the dominant languages, distributing lexical borrowings
to Wolof.

Next, the author discusses loans and age groups. The author suggests that older
study participants use more Arabic borrowings to show their cultural, and
religious knowledge; which has been gained with age. Younger participants, more
concerned with demonstrating cultural hipness, use more English loans.

The chapter concludes with a section on loans and gender. Although there is no
statistical relationship between gender and the number of Arabic and French
loans used, the author interprets the trend for females to use them with greater
frequency, and their significantly lower use of English, to indicate the
linguistic conservatism of women. The author cites Foley (2000:302) who
suggested that women are more conservative in their speech, using more standard
prestigious forms than men.

Chapter 6: Sociolinguistic Implications of Linguistic Processes
In this chapter the author analyzes the linguistic processes that are common to
lexical borrowing in Saint-Louis. First the author gives a brief description of
the phonotactic systems in Wolof, French, English and Arabic. This is followed
by sections on incorporated Arabic, French and English loans. A chart of Wolof
incorporations from Arabic, French and English is provided showing the
linguistic processes which each item has undergone to become incorporated. The
author proceeds to discuss the linguistic processes (verlanization,
hypercorrection, lexical innovation, semantic change, nasal unpacking,
denasalization, cluster simplification, category change, truncation, calqueing,
lexicalization, unincorporated, and incorporated loans) in relation to age
group. Each of these processes can be studied as an indicator of social identity.

Chapter 7: Conclusion
The author concludes the book by reviewing how this study has tested and
expanded Labovian and variationist approaches by studying lexical borrowings in
a multilingual community. The assumption that sociolinguistic variables must be
phonological, is incomplete, and should be enlarged to include morphological or
syntactic variables as well. The author reiterates the importance of lexical
borrowings in the formation of identity. He concedes that there are two
limitations for his study of lexical borrowing: Human error in transcription and
coding, and the larger theoretical issue of frequency and semantic equivalency.
He also indicates areas for further research.

This book is an excellent introduction to the world of sociolinguistic analysis.
There are only minor inconsistencies which distract from the overall focus and
structure of the book. The first oddity is in the introduction which includes a
section on Arabic, French, English and Pulaar influence in Senegal, but no
section devoted just to Wolof. To understand the influence of other languages it
seems important to understand the language being influenced. The second
inconsistency occurs in Chapter 4 when Spanish suddenly appears in Table 2 (86)
and Figure 6 (92), though Spanish was not mentioned previously. While one cannot
take into account all the languages possibly influencing a speech community, the
sudden inclusion of Spanish and the addition of it to the figure and chart seems
arbitrary. As the results indicate that Pulaar and Spanish have each lent fewer
than one percent of lexical borrowings to Wolof, both should be left out, or
included. To treat them differently, even though they are roughly equivalent in
the number of lexical borrowings lent to Wolof is inconsistent. Both of these
issues are minor and do not touch on the main thesis of the book.

This study is unique in its application of theory in a multilingual community.
It is grounded in Labovian theory and provides the reader with an understanding
of the uses of the theory, as well as the shortcomings. The author undertook a
great amount of field work, and data analysis to complete this study. The result
is a succinct, data-rich examination of lexical borrowing.

Crystal, D. (1997). _The Cambridge encyclopedia of language_. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Deroy, L. (1956). _Les emprunts linguistiques_. Paris: Belles Lettres.

Foley, William A. (2000). _Anthropological Linguistics: An introduction_.
Cambridge Massachussetts: Blackwell Publishers.

Gingras, R.C. (1974). Problems in the description of Spanish-English
intrasentential code switching. In G. Bills (Ed.), _Southwest Areal Linguistics_
(pp. 167-174). University of California at San Diego: Institute for Cultural

Haugen, E. (1956). _Bilingualism in the Americas: A bibliographical and research
guide_. Alabama: University of Alabama Press.

Labov, W. (1994). _Principles of linguistic change: Internal factors_.
Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers.

Pfaff, C.W. (1979). Constraints on language mixing: Intrasententential
code-mixing and borrowing in Spanish/English. _Language_, 55, 291-331.

Iris Flannery is a former Peace Corps Volunteer (in Niger). She is a graduate
student in Linguistics at UC Davis. Her research interests include West African
languages, Slavic languages, language planning, literacy, and second language