Constraints on Structural Borrowing in a Multilingual Contact Situation

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Jun 21 15:21:30 UTC 2005

Forwarded from Linguist-List

Author: Tara Sanchez

Dissertation Title: Constraints on Structural Borrowing in a Multilingual
Contact Situation

Linguistic Field(s): Morphology

Subject Language(s): Papiamentu (PAE)

Dissertation Abstract:

Many principles of structural borrowing have been proposed, all under
qualitative theories. Some argue that linguistic conditions must be met
for borrowing to occur ('universals' of borrowing); others argue that
aspects of the socio-demographic situation are sometimes more relevant
than linguistic considerations (e.g. Thomason and Kaufman 1988). This
dissertation evaluates the roles of both linguistic and social factors in
structural borrowing from a quantitative, variationist perspective via a
diachronic and ethnographic examination of the language contact situation
on Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaao, where the Iberian creole, Papiamentu, is in
contact with Spanish, Dutch, and English. Data are from texts (n=171)
dating 1776-1999 and sociolinguistic interviews (n=129) collected in 2003
by the author, a non-native speaker of Papiamentu. The periphrastic
progressive (marked by ndo), the passive construction (wordu, ser, keda
alternate as passivizing verbs), and focus fronting (marked by ta) are
examined. In addition, variationist methods were applied in a novel way to
the system of verbal morphology in an effort to systematically assess the
effect of those borrowing 'universals' which refer to the grammar as a
whole (e.g. 'grammatical gaps are filled by borrowing') on the forms which
were eventually borrowed.

At the systemic level, linguistic factors are primarily responsible for
determining what will be borrowed and what will not. Some 'universals' of
structural borrowing are shown to have merit, such as 'structural
compatibility', 'morphological renewal' and 'convergence'. However,
'grammatical gaps' are not filled by borrowing. Only one non-linguistic
factor was significant, and implicates indirectly that the longer speakers
are bilingual, the more likely they are to borrow verbal morphology.
However, none of the other social and demographic factors quantified here
were significant. So for example, observed changes in 'amount and degree
of bilingualism' as measured by census reports were not correlated with
increased integration of foreign forms. Well-integrated foreign forms such
as the individual variables studied here may become sociolinguistic
variables. This is seen at first in the language contact factors (i.e.
dealing with individual speakers' proficiency in, attitudes toward, and
use of the various languages in contact), which may be quantitatively
stronger constraints than linguistic factors. Eventually, the variables
may become sensitive to social factors traditionally significant in
monolingual communities (such as social class, gender, etc.). At this
point, borrowings behave like any other sociolinguistic variable, and
familiar patterns are observed, including those related to change from
above and the hypercorrect pattern of the second-highest status group
(here, Bonaire speakers). Thomason and Kaufman's position is not supported
at the systemic level in terms of what is borrowed and what is not, but it
is supported in terms of factors governing the use of borrowed
formssocial/demographic factors relating to language contact are stronger
than linguistic constraints.

This study is one of the first to use quantitative methods to evaluate
principles of structural borrowing. The findings contribute to our
understanding of the long-term consequences of language contact.

Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005

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