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Review of  Sprachkontakt und Mehrsprachigkeit als Herausforderung für Soziolinguistik und Systemlinguistik.

Reviewer: Felecia Ann Lucht
Book Title: Sprachkontakt und Mehrsprachigkeit als Herausforderung für Soziolinguistik und Systemlinguistik.
Book Author: Imke Mendoza Bernhard Pöll Susanne Behensky
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 23.5018

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EDITORS: Mendoza, Imke; Pöll, Bernhard; Behensky, Susanne
TITLE: Sprachkontakt und Mehrsprachigkeit als Herausforderung für Soziolinguistik und Systemlinguistik.
SUBTITLE: Ausgewählte Beiträge des gleichnamigen Workshops der 37. Österreichischen Linguistiktagung 2009. (Language contact and multilingualism as a challenge for sociolinguistics and theoretical linguistics. Selected papers from ÖLT 2009.)
SERIES: LINCOM Studies in Language Typology 20
YEAR: 2011

Felecia A. Lucht, Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (CMLLC), Wayne State University


This volume of the LINCOM Studies in Language Typology (LSLT) series contains a diverse selection of papers from the workshop “Language Contact and Multilingualism as a Challenge for Sociolinguistics and Theoretical Linguistics” held during the 37th Austrian Linguistics Conference at the University of Salzburg in 2009. Ten papers from the workshop were selected for this publication, seven in German (Braselmann & Ohnheiser, Jungbluth, Ladilova, Lavric and Steiner, Rabus, Schwägerl-Melchior, and Zeller and Tesch) and three in English (Döhla, Frías Conde, and Gregersen). In the foreword to the book, the editors describe the wide variety of issues and perspectives in language contact and multilingualism studies represented in these papers, including: structural aspects of language contact (Döhle), mixed varieties (Frías Conde and Zeller and Tesch), codeswitching (Gregersen), sociolinguistic aspects of language use in multilingual communities (Junbluth and Ladilova), applicability of language contact models (Rabus), multilingual domains (Lavric and Steiner and Schwägerl-Melchior) and language policy (Braselmann and Ohnheiser), each discussed below in the order they appear in the book.

In “Wie kontrollieren Frankreich und Polen die Umsetzung ihrer Sprachgesetze?” authors Petra Braselmann and Ingeborg Ohnheiser compare French and Polish language policies, describing the respective laws and agencies responsible for implementing and supervising these policies. The choice of comparing the policies of France and Poland was based on the fact that both countries are often seen as models and prototypes. They undertake their comparison by looking at three different areas: language policy goals, supervisory bodies and reports, and terminologies and commissions. They note that both countries have similarities in general language policy goals, namely protecting the languages against undesired influences (such as Anglicisms, substandard forms, etc.) and promoting their languages on the national and international level. But they note differences in laws, the supervisory agencies and terminology, and conclude that the system in France is more transparent and coordinated.

Hans-Jörg Döhla examines the potential influence of Spanish on several South American Indian languages in “Differential object marking (DOM) in some American Indian languages -- Contact induced replication and convergence or internal development?” As defined by the author, differential object marking “refers to variation in the marking of the direct object depending on the semantic and discourse pragmatic properties of the direct object, as well as the lexical semantics of the verb”. To answer the question of Spanish influence on DOM in South American Indian languages, the author takes into consideration whether the languages have the same criteria for DOM as Spanish (animacy and referentiality), how it is marked, and the historical development of object marking. Among the Amerindian languages investigated, Döhla argues that DOM in four of the languages (Nahuatl, Yucatecan Maya, Mapuche and Páez) is not likely due to Spanish influence because they do not use animacy as a criterion and are marked differently. However, he believes that DOM in P’urhépecha, Southern Aymara and Paraguayan colloquial Guaraní was probably influenced by Spanish.

Xavier Frías Conde looks at the language varieties of the Principality of Asturias in Spain in his paper, “The sociolinguistic situation of Asturias: The state of the question.” Addressing inaccuracies regarding how these varieties are sometimes labeled, he proceeds to provide a clearer picture of language use in this region. He discusses the statuses of Asturian, Mirandese and Galician-Asturian and describes a general shift toward Regional Spanish, which is replacing Asturian in many domains and observes that despite the standardization of Asturian, this has not stopped the spread of Spanish. Contact with Spanish has produced a hybrid Asturian-Spanish sociolect, which the author sees it as a “last breath” for Asturian.

In the fourth chapter, “Gestural code switching: Why and wherefore?”, Tammy Gregersen investigates codeswitching on the non-verbal level, exploring potential reasons why individuals sometimes use gestures from one language while speaking another. Providing an overview of the wide variety of reasons why bilingual speakers verbally codeswitch, Gregersen uses verbal codeswitching as the basis for her study, focusing on a list of 10 linguistic and non-linguistic reasons itemized by Baker (1993) including emphasis, clarification, and marking group identity. She identifies different kinds of gestures which often accompany speech, and illustrates the multifunctionality that gestures can have. Acknowledging that gestures can be highly individual, Gregerson makes the claim that types of gestures and their frequency can also be linked to culture. Summarizing the ways in which there could be cross-linguistic gestural transfer, she catalogs observations on perceived gestural transfer and classifies them according to Baker’s list. One set of data is based on interactions of bilingual U.S. couples and the other was comprised of a group of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) university students. Each group journaled their observations about the gestural use of their counterparts (spouses, international students). When asked to label instances of gestural transfer, the TESOL students found examples for each of Baker’s items, but there was little evidence of gestural transfer noted by the spouses, which Gregerson believes is likely due to the fact that the spouses have been in the US for a longer time. So while Baker’s list proved to be a good starting point, the data from the spouses suggests that there are other categories which need to be looked at: emotion, religious/superstitious, and politeness gestures. Gregerson maintains that these types of gestures have been fossilized and maintained by the spouses, even when speaking English.

In “Die Americanos von Samaná: Sprachverwendung und Attitüden innerhalb einer dominikanischen Minderheit” , Anja Jungbluth presents findings from her fieldwork on language use, language attitudes and identity in an English-speaking language island (Sprachinsel) near Santa Barbara de Semaná in the Dominican Republic. She provides a short historical overview of the Americanos of Samaná, which began with the arrival of African-American immigrants in the 1820s to the island of Hispaniola, highlighting factors which have likely contributed to the maintenance of English in the community, including geographic isolation, religious differences between the Americanos and the surrounding Spanish-speaking community, as well as the arrival of additional English-speaking immigrants from other areas. After providing a summary of the linguistic research on the community, she introduces her study investigating language use among speakers today. Using questionnaires and short interviews, she finds that in this bilingual community, Spanish is increasingly used in more domains, with varieties of English used in the home.

Looking at a different language island, Anna Ladilova discusses her pilot study of Volga Germans in Argentina in “Sprachkontaktsituation der Wolgadeutschen in Argentinien.” She describes the double migration history of the Volga Germans; first immigrating from German-speaking regions to Russia in the 18th century, and then immigration to Argentina in the 19th and 20th centuries. She describes two phases of Volga German communities, the first phase in which the language of the dominant community was used primarily outside of the community (1874-1940), and a second phase (1940-today) in which Volga German communities experienced societal changes which fostered greater integration with the outside community. Ladilova then introduces her research, which was a survey gathering background information on speakers and investigating language use, and attitudes toward languages and speakers. She finds that Spanish was most often used, had the highest competence levels and ranked the most important, but that there was still interest in German varieties.

In “‘Wenn er die Sprache kann, spielt er gleich besser‘ -- 11 Thesen zur Mehrsprachigkeit im Fußball” authors Eva Lavric and Jasmin Steiner discuss communication issues in multilingual soccer teams based on research conducted through the University of Innsbruck. Drawing mostly from interviews and questionnaires from the multilingualism project, the authors present 11 theses resulting from the study, the number 11 chosen because that is also the number of players on a team. Lavric and Steiner split the theses into four categories: language ability and communication strategies, language support for players, the need to communicate, and a final grouping as synthesis.

In “Innerslavischer Kontakt: Sprach- oder Dialektkontakt?” Achim Rabus tests several theoretical models to determine which one can best account for language contact between closely related varieties, focusing specifically on contact between Slavic languages. The first model he considers is Thomason’s Borrowing Scale (2001), which presents a hierarchy of levels of borrowing based on intensity of contact. Rabus notes that while some inner-Slavic language contact phenomena correspond to levels of the borrowing scale, he also cites examples of semantic expansion as the result of contact which are not classified in the model. He then turns to Trudgill’s model of dialect contact (1986), which allows for contact phenomena which are not necessarily the result of a need to communicate, as the varieties in contact are to a certain degree mutually intelligible. He then cites Baunmüller (1997) who incorporates both high and low varieties of language in his model. While none of these models on their own can completely encapsulate inner-Slavic contact, Rabus argues that future research should look at combining aspects of these models and incorporating both structural and sociolinguistic analysis to better explain contact of related varieties.
Verena Schwägerl-Melchior presents a complex picture of language use in administrative domains in “Vom Umgang mit sprachlicher Pluralität in der frühen Neuzeit: Aspekte der Verwaltungskommunikation im spanischen Vizekönigreich Neapel”. Using historical documents, she investigates language use in Regno di Napoli in the 16th century, an Italian viceroyalty under Spanish rule. She provides an overview of the administrative bodies and contexts of intensive language contact in interinstitutional, extrainstitutional and intrainstitutional communication.

Jan Patrick Zeller and Sviatlana Tesch examine the morphology and phonetics of Transianka, a mixed variety spoken in Belarus, in “Zum Zusammenhang von morphologischer und phonischer Variation in gemischter weißrussisch-russicher Rede.” Zeller and Tesch begin by describing the linguistic situation in Belarus, in which asymmetrical bilingualism exists, stating that while Belarusian and Russian both carry status, Russian is more dominant. Transianka emerged after World War II when masses migrated to the dominantly Russian-speaking cities. The name Transianka translates literally as “bad cattle feed” and is often viewed as a substandard form of Russian or Belarusian. Using a corpus of approximately 25,000 words from transcribed conversations of twelve speakers from four generations of a family in Belarus, Zeller and Tesch examine the morphological and phonetic structures of words in Trasianka to identify Russian and Belarusian elements. In analyzing these elements, they discover that the morphological affinity of a word will likely influence its phonetic affinity, and that this relationship is unidirectional.


The editors have been successful in putting together a volume which represents the multifaceted nature of research on multilingualism and language contact, and encompasses a wide range of topics and theoretical perspectives. The papers include structural and sociolinguistic analyses, detailed case studies of historical and contemporary language contact situations, as well as discussion of language policy. Despite this great diversity, however, the volume reads as a coherent work, demonstrating recent trends in language contact studies.

While the contact phenomena covered in the volume can be found worldwide, the majority of the papers address contact between or with European languages (French, German, Greek, Polish, Spanish). However, there is also research related to American Indian languages, American English, and Slavic languages, as well as minor references to others (Arabic, Korean, Tagalog).

The book will be of particular interest to students in language contact, historical linguistics, and sociolinguistics. However, reading knowledge of German is required for the majority of articles.


Baker, Colin. 1993. Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism. Philadelphia: Clevedon.

Braunmüller, Kurt. 1997. Kontaktlinguistische Probleme im Ostseeraum zur Zeit der Hanse. In Moelleken, Wolfgang W./Weber, Peter J. (Publisher). Neue Forschungsarbeiten zur Kontaktlinguistik. Bonn, 81-88.

Thomason, Sarah G. 2001. Language Contact. An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Trudgill, Peter. 1986. Dialects in Contact. Oxford: Blackwell.
Felecia Lucht is an Assistant Professor of German in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Wayne State University. She earned her PhD in German Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Lucht specializes in language contact and German-American studies. Her research interests include: language maintenance and shift, language change, codeswitching, Second Language Acquisition, and pedagogy.