Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Sat, 2 Oct 2004 13:29:50 +0100 From: Peter Sercombe Subject: Language Contact in Amazonia
AUTHOR: Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. TITLE: Language Contact in Amazonia PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press YEAR: 2003
Peter G. Sercombe, University of Northumbria, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Britain.
DESCRIPTION This monograph deals with the ways in which language contact impinges on the grammatical systems of languages that are not genetically related. It provides for a variety of linguistic interests: language typology, historical and comparative studies, sociolinguistics, language obsolescence and language maintenance. The author's hope is that other linguists will be inspired to undertake fieldwork on endangered languages, through reading about her own work.
SYNOPSIS The book's main purpose is to offer a coherent and logical description of language change as a result of contact between two typologically and genetically unrelated language families, North Arawak and Tucano, of northern Amazonia. The author deals specifically with the effects of East Tucano on Tariana, an adjacent Arawak language. An aim of the book is to determine the language features that tend to be most borrowed in language contact situations in Amazonia. The book has 12 chapters.
Chapter 1 provides a general background to language contact, describing how the book deals with the linguistic outcomes of contact in terms of phonology, morphology, syntax and discourse. The descriptions and arguments are based on recorded oral histories and language use, observed in situ, mainly among the Tariana people of two settlements, Santa Rosa and Periquitos. According to the author, the Vaupés basin, in Colombia and Brazil, is known for its multilingualism and language group exogamy, this being governed by language affiliation. Multilingualism is culturally normal, and all combinations of known languages can be heard in village contexts, with language choice in daily communication being based foremost on traditional language protocol. It is argued that convergence is common in this geographical area, conceding that divergence can also occur, but that the idea of a linguistic area is certainly fundamental to the notion of diffusion. It is also suggested, in general terms, that the most persistent borrowing normally includes categories of grammar, although lexis and grammatical meanings are also affected, along with lexical borrowing and, less commonly, grammatical forms. Aikhenvald analyses and compares: multilateral diffusion in Vaupés as a linguistic area; the present-day one-to-one language contact situation between Tariana and dominant East Tucano; the developing diglossic situation between Tariana and Portuguese (the Brazilian national language), using a large corpus of data from different genres. Clear terms of reference are given: borrowing is stated as being the 'transfer of linguistic features of any kind from one language to another as the result of contact', following Trask (2000: 44).
Code-switching and code-mixing are together described as being 'the alternate use of two languages within a sentence or between sentences' (Clyne 1987: 740). Code-switching and code-mixing are distinguished through suggesting that the former is 'meaningful and appropriate' (Hill and Hill 1986: 348), while code-mixing exemplifies disorderly usage, also following Trask (ibid: 61). Distinctions are made and examples are provided of different types of contact-induced change: diffusion, system-altering changes, system-preserving changes, lexical accommodation and grammatical accommodation. Grammatical changes are grouped into those that are complete which show no synchronic variation and of which speakers are unaware; ongoing changes which depend on a speaker's competence as well as a range of sociolinguistic variables; and discontinuous changes described as one-off deviations. In connection, grammatical borrowing is described as including wholesale system borrowing; adding a system to one already in existence; borrowing of processes; and borrowing of syntactic constructions. As one might expect, the author disagrees with Myers-Scotton's (1993) idea that there has to be structural compatibility for borrowing between languages.
Chapter 2 looks at the areal significance of East Tucanoan languages on Tariana phonology and the following are discussed: the indirect diffusion of phonemes; the East Tucanoan influence on Tariana syllable structure; how indirect diffusion affects phonological processes within a phonological word in Tariana; and shared pitch and intonation patterns of East Tucano and Tariana. In addition, the results of direct and indirect diffusion are contrasted; as well the effect of contact between Retuarã (a Central Tucanoan language) and Yucuna (an Arawak language).
Chapter three considers how areal dispersal from East Tucano into Tariana, and vice versa, help bridge differences between the morphology and pronoun systems of each and adds to the complexities in grammatical structure of the languages in contact.
Chapter four looks at the impact of areal diffusion in nominal categories in contact situations, including the language use of younger people's Tariana. What appears to take place is restructuring in the form of structural levelling in existing categories, as well as the development of new categories. East Tucano, suggests Aikhenvald, also appears to have caused Tariana categories, otherwise non-existent in Tucano, to obsolesce.
Chapter five examines the impact of areal diffusion in verbal categories in contact situations from East Tucanoan languages to Tariana, and the ways in which Tariana categories have converged towards East Tucanoan patterns. East Tucanoan languages are required to indicate how information has been acquired by a speaker, realized through the use of evidential markers merged with tense. The lack of uniformity in verbal categories of Arawak languages, compared to uniformity in nominal categories, is of interest here and this has resulted in a greater diffusion of verb categories from East Tucano, with the result that verbal categories in Tariana now tend to reflect structural influence from neighboring languages, and verbal category changes seem to match the structure of verbal features with those in East Tucano.
Chapter six considers the impact of areal diffusion in syntax and discourse in contact situations. Specifically, East Tucanoan-like clause types in Tariana, and clause linking techniques, word and constituent order, discourse in Tariana, are evident as a result of influence from East Tucanoan languages. These have resulted in new clause types in Tariana. Consequently, there also seems to be isomorphism between East Tucano and Tariana organization of discourse, with the result of similar syntactic patterns and clause types, these also correlating with morphological innovation.
Chapter seven shifts focus slightly to look at contact between Tariana and Portuguese. Most speakers of Tariana are described as having a good grasp of Portuguese, being largely formally educated in this medium. The author states that the two languages are in diglossic relation to each other (in accordance with Ferguson's 1964 notion of diglossia), compared to Tariana and other indigenous languages which can be and are used in the same contexts. The use of Portuguese language items are mentioned as being situation-dependent and are considered foreign. Use of Portuguese is interpreted as exemplifying code-switching rather than borrowing. At the time of writing, Aikhenvald had observed five old Portuguese loans, but it is not made clear why they are necessarily loans or what led to them being borrowed. Nonetheless, it is certainly clear that there appears to have been less influence from Portuguese on Tariana than from East Tucanoan languages.
Chapter eight has a sociolinguistic orientation with discussion of code-switching and code-mixing and rules for these in different languages of the area, including East Tucano, Portuguese, and Baniwa and Tariana dialects. It is argued that multilingualism is maintained through a strong proscription against the language mixing. Acceptable instances of code-switching are observed as being intrasentential and considered to be mostly functionally quotative. Perhaps not surprisingly, English seems to be making inroads (reflecting some of the effects of globalization on small communities), but does not have the same negative associations as Portuguese does for speakers of Tariana.
Chapter nine discusses language awareness among Tariana speakers and how this influences language change and what is considered to be accurate Tariana. The discussion relates to language structure, the author distinguishing between lexical and morphemic awareness, phonological awareness, morphosyntactic awareness, as well as generational differences and how the latter determines the standing and influence of individuals in the community.
Chapter ten summarizes the outcomes of direct and indirect diffusion as well as discussing examples of partial convergence. This includes the East Tucanoan languages' influences on Tariana in terms of: lexis and lexical semantics; independent innovations; and other examples of partial convergence between Tariana and East Tucano. Indirect diffusion seems to have led to the emergence of new categories in Tariana through those that already exist, as well as entirely new categories, and the increased use of more peripheral constructions. It is argued that indirect diffusion from Portuguese is limited because of the diglossic relationship with Tariana.
Chapter eleven considers the ways in which language obsolescence affects previous traditional patterns of areal diffusion and the consequences of this in terms of language. The situation of Tariana in Santa Rosa is described as being one of gradual language death with women not speaking the language, but not in Periquitos where men, women and children can all Tariana. Another outcome seems to be a shift from traditional multilingualism to bilingualism. Also described in this chapter are some of the linguistic outcomes of language attrition.
Chapter twelve summarizes the consideration of the three types of language contact between and diffusion from East Tucano to Tariana. It also puts different kinds of language contact into cross-linguistic perspective and ends with suggestions for future consideration, in particular, work focused on the Tariana lexicon under influence from East Tucanoan languages, as well as Tucano spoken as a first language by those not of Tucano ethnic origin.
EVALUATION Overall, this is an impressively detailed synchronic study replete with careful linguistic analysis. The book is rich with supplementary information: there are thirty-seven tables, forty-five pages of appendices, providing details of the Arawak language family and features of particular languages: phonology, vocabulary and grammar, as well as evaluation of Santa Rosa Tariana speakers' proficiency. There are also sixteen black and white plates, eighteen pages of references, reflecting the author's level of background research, with regard to relevant literature (including a considerable list of Aikhenvald's own publications, either in print or in progress). Particularly appealing is the fact that the author has foregrounded these politically not- very-significant ethnolinguistic groups, giving focus to their multilingual circumstances. This is a refreshing choice, and highlights the importance of studying linguistic norms in pre-industrialized community settings, especially when many linguistic and sociolinguistic ideas are based on insights from modern industrialized societies (cf. Rischel 1995), where minority languages are often in a binary position to a supraregional one, such as English.
My concerns with presentation include the following: more maps, especially ones that showed the geographical distribution of individual languages would have been a useful addition; a full text of Tariana, perhaps a story or two, or a transcript of interaction between speakers would have been of interest. I would like to have read more about the social and cultural circumstances of the Tariana. I feel that while the linguistic description is fulsome, the sociolinguistic sections were given lower priority, as reflected in the amount of text devoted to them, since 'the basic problem is one of how culture articulates with language in such a way that changes in culture bring about specific changes in language', as succinctly articulated by Kulick (1992: 7-8).
The book is impeccably arranged. However, while Duranti appears in the list of references, his name is absent from the index of authors. There is also a typing error in the eighth line up on page 13. However, given the academic breadth and depth of this text, these minor omissions and infelicities are really insignificant.
I would disagree that free morphemes are necessarily borrowed before bound ones. Theoretically, this seems more likely but need not be the case in practice. I would also disagree with use of the terms 'correct and 'incorrect' (p. 220) and would see them as being pertinent to the halls of academia and non-specialists' use (of these terms), although one can see that they are meaningful to Tariana speakers. More applicable terms, regarding speech are the terms 'appropriate' and 'inappropriate' (cf. Aitchison 1995).
Chapter ten uses frequency of occurrence as a way of distinguishing between borrowing and code-switching, the former occurring more often, and this seems slightly arbitrary to me. How often does a feature have to occur to be considered a borrowing? Why not ask speakers if the occurrence of a particular feature is considered either part of their language or from another one. If they are not sure, ask them if they know of an equivalent in their own language and whether it is still used as an alternative. These questions may not reveal definitive answers but seem to be more credible than an undefined level of frequency.
REFERENCES Aitchison, J. 1995. Learn to live with change. The Guardian Weekly, January 29.
Kulick, D. 1992. Language shift as cultural reproduction. In Dutton, T. (ed.) Culture change, language change: Case studies from Melanesia. Pacific Linguistics, Series C-120. Canberra: Australian National University, pp. 7-26.
Rischel, J. (1995) Minor Mlabri: A hunter-gatherer language of Northern Indochina. Copenhagen: Tusculanum Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER The reviewer, Peter G. Sercombe, is employed at Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. He worked in Borneo from 1982-2002 and, among other academic interests, continues to focus on language contact between diverse and rurally located communities in central Borneo.