Language Contact

Sally Thomason – University of Michigan
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
2336 Mason Hall

See Course Description

Because language contact is a fact of life for most of the world’s people and all of the world’s nations, it is hardly surprising that it often plays a major role in language change.  This course will begin (Week 1) with a survey of historical, social, and political settings of language contact (when, where, and why do languages come into contact?) and with a consideration of this question: when two languages come into contact, is one of them doomed to vanish within a few decades?  These background discussions will serve as an introduction to the main focus of the course: contact-induced language change.  The main topics that will be covered in Week 2 are social and linguistic predictors of the effects of language contact (together with a discussion of why they can never be expected to yield deterministic predictions); the effects of contact-induced language change on the structure of the receiving language; and criteria for establishing contact as a cause of a language change (and how to react when the criteria can’t all be met).  In Week 3 we will consider mechanisms of contact-induced change and linguistic areas as a special problem for the study of contact and change, and in Week 4 we’ll focus on mixed languages (pidgins, creoles, and bilingual mixed languages) and contact-induced changes in some (not all) dying languages.

, ,