Tag Archives: Historical/Change
6/29-30 Diachronic Syntax

June 29-30, 2013
2330 Mason Hall

Organizer contact: David Lightfoot (lightd@georgetown.edu)

Click here for Workshop website.

See Workshop Description

Work on diachronic syntax has developed remarkably over recent decades, primarily through two impetuses: (i) seeking to explain change in I-language through changes in E-language and principles of language acquisition, and (ii) using search mechanisms linked to computerized corpora of partially parsed historical texts.  The workshop will be devoted to exploring these developments.  Both developments link work on sociolinguistic variation with the emergence of new I-languages and this will be an emphasis of the workshop.

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7/06 Sociolinguistic and Linguistic Issues Involved in Heritage Languages

July 6, 2013
2407 Mason Hall

Organizer contacts: A.M. Backus ( A.M.Backus@uvt.nl), Pieter Muysken (p.muysken@let.ru.nl)

See Workshop Description

Workshop on Sociolinguistic and Linguistic Issues

Involved in Heritage Languages

LSA Institute, July 6, 2013

Organizers: Ad Backus and Pieter Muysken

In order to be able to order enough coffee and snacks, and not too much, please send an email to p.muysken@let.ru.nl if you aim to take part in the workshop, and do so before Thursday.


9.00     Introduction

9.20       Presenting the planned heritage languages book chapter by chapter + discussion

We are currently writing an introductory textbook on Heritage Languages and want to go through the projected contents with you, in a focus group-like setting. You are, after all, representative of the audience we are writing the book for.

10.40     Coffee and snacks, provided by the Traces of Contact grant to Pieter Muysken of the European Research Council

Presentations (15 minutes plus discussion)

11.10     Sandhya K. Narayanan (University of Michigan). Living in a zone of contact: Linguistic and anthropological directions to investigate the Quechua-Aymara “language boundary”

11.30     Eva Bosch Roura (Universitat de Barcelona). First names and the perception of linguistic identity: an ethnolinguistic analysis of the most popular names in Catalonia in 2008

11.50     Nicholas Emlen (University of Michigan). The circulation of discourse markers in a trilingual Andean-Amazonian community

12.10               Lunch outside

13.30               Belem G. López and Jyotsna Vaid (Texas A&M University). Speed of Translation Verification and Motivations for Code-Switching: Does Language Brokering Make a Difference?

13.50               Tridha Chatterjee and Marlyse Baptista (University of Michigan). Contact effects from English onto Bengali:  The Case of Copular Predicates.

14.10               Chloé Diskin (University College Dublin). Sociolinguistic Issues and Migration in Ireland: A Study of Polish and Chinese Speakers of Irish-English

14.30               Discussion in subgroups

Group discussions, monitored and assisted by us, in which we discuss the issues briefly described below, all of them relevant to the study of Heritage Languages from some perspective. If you have other suggestions for subgroup discussion themes, please email or tell one of us.


Issues for the subgroup discussions:

  1. What is the effect of globalization and cyclic migration in heritage languages and their study?

We have gotten used to the three generations rule, stating that most immigrant communities shift from their ancestral language to their new language in the course of three generations. In modern times, with its easy and cheap possibilities for communication and travel, this may not be the automatic result of immigration anymore. Also, new influences in the languages may travel back and forth.

  1. Compare the position of heritage languages in different countries. What other names are found in the languages of these countries and in the research literature?

The term ‘Heritage Language’ is especially popular in North America. It is unclear to what extent the term is synonymous with approximate equivalents in European and other settings, such as ‘immigrant varieties’, ‘minority languages’ and ‘community languages’. Also remember that names are very interesting, often more than mere labels.

  1. What are the most important cognitive processes involved in the formation of heritage languages as a separate group?

Heritage Languages look different from their ancestral variety, as they have undergone various contact-induced changes. These can take the form of direct foreign influence (lexical borrowing, loan translation, grammatical interference) as well as indirect effects of contact, or of not being in touch with the norms of the homeland or ancestral variety anymore: attrition and imperfect acquisition are terms that have been used for these processes.

  1. What grammatical features of heritage languages can be studied cross linguistically?

For contact linguists, it is of interest to know whether there are aspects of grammar that are particularly vulnerable to outside influence in contact settings, and others that are particularly robust. Is it possible to compare, for example, argument structure, case marking, TAM inflection or word order across heritage languages?

  1. Should heritage languages be treated any differently from the traditional native languages of a specific country?

Heritage languages can be the result of language shift and language loss in immigrant languages or in indigenous minority languages. In terms of creating socio-political support, there seem to be good reasons for supporting indigenous minority languages more than immigrant languages, but to what extent does that hold true?

15.15               Presentation and discussion of the subgroup results

16.00-17.00     Closing discussion


Living in a zone of contact: Linguistic and anthropological directions to investigate the Quechua-Aymara “language boundary”

Sandhya K. Narayanan, University of Michigan

This short presentation will build an argument for future study investigating the socio-historical and linguistic nature of Quechua-Aymara contact. Current literature on the linguistic situation in the Andes has identified Quechua and Aymara speakers co-existing together predominantly in the areas surrounding Lake Titicaca (from the department of Puno, Peru to the department of La Paz, Bolivia); and also extending to the regions north of the department of Potosi, Bolivia. However, the exact nature of Quechua-Aymara contact has not been fully addressed in the linguistic or anthropological literature concerning speakers of both languages within these regions.

In addition to briefly reviewing the literature that provides foundation for this research, this talk will go more specifically into the ways that ethnographic research of Quechua and Aymara speakers surrounding Lake Titicaca can help elucidate the specific social situations that contribute (or could have contributed) to the particular language contact effects that have been noted and hypothesized in the literature. Finally, this talk will hopefully raise questions and general discussion about the current social and linguistic state of speakers living in what is today a trilingual contact zone (Quechua-Aymara-Spanish), which still remains relatively undocumented.


First names and the perception if linguistic identity: an ethnolinguistic analysis of the most popular names in Catalonia in 2008

Eva Bosch Roura, Universitat de Barcelona

Anthroponyms are linguistic items that carry a heavy symbolic load. Thus, a first name links its bearer to a certain ethnolinguistic identity, which is both transmitted and perceived, in part, through this anthroponym. This communication explores the relationships between language, anthroponymy, and identity, to analyse the linguistic ideologies that they may disclose. We do so through ethnolinguistic surveys in which informants where asked to assign a linguistic identity to a speaker only by means of his or her first name. Data shows important differences in the perception that the two main linguistic communities in Catalonia have, not only of their most popular names, but also of linguistic identity itself. The differences are accounted for in terms of the ideologies of authenticity and anonymity.


The circulation of discourse markers in a trilingual Andean-Amazonian community

Nicholas Emlen, University of Michigan
In a small community on the Andean-Amazonian borderland of Southern Peru, Spanish, Quechua, and Matsigenka are spoken. There is significant contact-induced variation among each of the languages, though these effects are unevenly distributed both among the community members and among interactional contexts. In this talk, I will present data on the circulation of discourse-marking strategies among the three languages and discuss some of the social implications of these changes.


Speed of Translation Verification and Motivations for Code-Switching: Does Language Brokering Make a Difference?

Belem G. López and Jyotsna Vaid, Texas A&M University


Language brokering refers to the practice of informal translation prevalent in many immigrant or refugee communities whereby children are called upon to serve as linguistic and cultural intermediaries on behalf of family or community members. Previous work on this topic has primarily addressed sociocultural and psychological correlates of brokering experience, e.g., in relation to parentification, stress, self-efficacy, academic attainment, acculturation, etc. (see Morales & Hanson, 2005, for a review). Research in our lab has sought to extend inquiry into the impact of brokering by exploring long term cognitive, linguistic, and affective repercussions of language brokering experience. Our studies have typically used a quasi-experimental approach in which we compare the performance of proficient bilingual adults with prior brokering experience (“brokers”) with bilinguals without such experience (“non-brokers”).  Tasks we have  studied to date include ambiguity detection, sound segmentation, plausibility judgments, and category exemplar generation (see Vaid & López, in prep.; Vaid, Milliken, López & Rao, 2011). Here we present findings from two additional domains: translation verification and code-switching. In the former case we hypothesized that brokers would be significantly faster than non-brokers at translation verification of idiomatic expressions, reflecting their prior experience as informal translators. In the latter study we hypothesized that brokers might be more likely than non-brokers to report engaging in code-switching for social/interpersonal reasons (e.g., to show solidarity, to make someone feel more comfortable, or to show closeness) than for  expressive or other reasons. Participants in both studies were Spanish-English speakers recruited from a large university in central Texas. In both studies our expectations were confirmed. We suggest that studying heritage language users from the perspective of differences in the extent of prior informal translation experience provides a way of systematically examining psycho- and sociolinguistic repercussions of variation within bilingual communities instead of foregrounding comparisons between bilinguals and monolinguals.


Contact effects from English onto Bengali:  The Case of Copular Predicates

Tridha Chatterjee and Marlyse Baptista, University of Michigan


The presence of the British in India dates back to the early 1600s and ended with Independence in 1947.  Not surprisingly, the English language has had and continues to exert much influence on Indian languages, particularly after British English was established as a language of instruction in Indian schools in the second half of the 19th century. While studies like Kachru (1979) and Bhatia (1982) have examined the influence of English on Hindi, no study has investigated how English has impacted other major languages like Bengali.  The objective of this paper is to fill this gap by examining specific grammatical modules where such influences may be detected.  This study provides a diachronic and synchronic overview of copular predicates in Bengali.

Methodologically, we examined a portion of a Bengali play Nil Darpan published in

1860, prior to the dominance of English in education.  We compared the use of copulas in this play to their use in both monolingual and bilingual speakers of Bengali, based on field work corpora.

We noted the presence of Bengali copulas ach, chilo and thaka in both the play and the speakers in our corpora.  Bengali is SOV and a copula like ach appears sentence-finally:


1.              e               ghɔr-er                    moddhe                 bhut       ach-e

This         house-LOC           inside                      ghost     exist.PRS-3P.PRS

There are ghosts inside this house. (BP)


In addition to the copulas mentioned above, our monolingual and bilingual Bengali corpus data also show evidence of another copula like element hocche ‘be-PRS.PROG-3P’ occurring mostly in equational sentences containing two NPs. The examination of thirty pages of the 1860 play reveals a distribution of 24 equational sentences without the occurrence of any copula whatsoever. All these 24 sentences have the structure ‘NP NP’, as seen in (2). There is not a single occurrence of a ‘NP be NP’ structure in the portion of the play we studied.


2.              Tini                            di:n-er                     rokkhok

2sg.HON                poor-GEN              keeper

He/She  (is) the keeper of the poor.           (BP)


In contrast to the 1860 play, the modern Bengali corpus data reveals 15 occurrences of equational sentences with the ‘NP be NP’ structure.  In modern Bengali the copula in equational sentences is not obligatory but can certainly be overt, as shown in (3).


3.              Tar           baba                        ho-cch-e                                  ei              bisshobiddaloy-er            oddhapok

3sg.GEN  father                   be-PRS.PROG-3P                this         university-GEN                    professor

His/her father is a professor at this university (Thompson 2010)

The occurrence of this copula within NP + NP structure in modern Bengali, which is unattested in the

1860 play shows that this construction is possibly a result of English influence, where the copula is obligatory.  In addition to the fact that this copula can occur, it is important to note that it occupies the same position as the English copula, unlike other Bengali copulas that occur sentence-finally. The

presence and distribution of hocche in modern Bengali combined with its absence from the play may be interpreted as evidence that this construction may be the result of English influence on Bengali, due to longstanding contact between the two language.


Sociolinguistic Issues and Migration in Ireland: A Study of Polish and Chinese Speakers of Irish-English

Chloé Diskin, University College Dublin, Ireland

Taking a sociolinguistic approach to Second Language Acquisition, this presentation examines language variation and change among adult speakers of English as an L2. It looks at Polish and Chinese migrants who came to Dublin during the economic boom years and poses the question whether these migrants, having not been exposed to Irish-English previously, can acquire this variety. If so, which features do they use and why?

It has been shown that the fluency with which a non-native speaker uses discourse-pragmatic markers in the L2 is an indication of their level of integration into the speech community (Sankoff et al. 1997). A relationship between language and ethnicity has been established in works such as D’Arcy (2010).

This presentation will firstly discuss the acquisition and use of discourse-pragmatic markers (like, you know and I mean) and quotatives by L2 speakers of Irish-English. It will discuss the rate, type and function of use of these features as compared to a native speaker sample. Initial analyses have shown that there are marked differences, which may not all be explained by differences in language proficiency.

Secondly, it will examine qualitatively the views of recently-arrived migrants towards Irish-English and aim to ascertain whether acquisition of the variety is viewed as a key aspect of integration. It will also look more generally at the link between language and identity and the participants’ views of transnationalism and cosmopolitanism within a post-industrial migration context.

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Attitudes, Ideologies, Variation, and Change

Dennis Preston – Oklahoma State University
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 9:00-10:50 am
1401 Mason Hall

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Research about beliefs about language and reactions to it has gone beyond interest in such matters for their own sake, and researchers have used internal, classificatory mechanisms related to attitudes and beliefs to explain both the deployment of linguistic resources and the paths of language change. This course will examine historical and current trends in the study of attitudes and ideologies with reference to their role in more structured accounts of language variation and change. We begin with Hymesian ethnographic studies and social psychological approaches to attitude as developed by Lambert et al. Early uses of ideology and attitude in variationist studies will also be noted, and the continuation of the Hymesian tradition by linguistic anthropologists will be discussed. The course next elaborates on two recent turns — indexicality, as developed by Silverstein, and accounts of variability in linguistic theory, as suggested in attempts to build variable OT representations and the attaching of sociocultural information to forms in exemplar theory. The course also evaluates trends in both discoursal and experimental investigations. In the first, we look at content analyses, at linguistic anthropologists’ use of interaction in extracting ideologies from actions, and at more recent attempts to link attitudinal and ideological content to form in critical discourse analysis as well as proposals to link form and attitude by means of pragmatic analyses. Finally, we investigate task-based and experimental procedures in identifying and interpreting attitudes and ideologies, ranging from overt tasks such as those used in work on perceptual dialectology, including very recent uses of georeferencing techniques, to matched-guise and experimental response settings that seek to expose respondents’ unconscious reactions. We will look carefully at the design of experiments that relate attitudinal and ideological factors to structural elements, including techniques developed in social psychology in implicit research design. We conclude with an overview of the cognitive foundations of attitudinal and ideological processing, touching on acquisition, change, and deployment.

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Computational Modeling of Sound Change

James Kirby – University of Edinburgh
Morgan Sonderegger – McGill University
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-5:20 pm
2347 Mason Hall

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Decades of empirical research have led to an increasingly nuanced picture of the nature of phonetic and phonological change, incorporating insights from speech production and perception, cognitive biases, and social factors. However, there remains a significant gap between observed patterns and proposed mechanisms, in part due to the difficulty of conducting the type of controlled studies necessary to test hypotheses about historical change. Computational and mathematical models provide an alternative means by which such hypotheses can be fruitfully explored. With an eye towards Box’s dictum (all models are wrong, but some are useful), this course asks: how can computational models be useful for understanding why phonetic and phonological change occurs?  Students will study the growing and varied literature on computational and mathematical modeling of sound change that has emerged over the past decade and a half, including models of phonetic change in individuals over the lifespan, phonological change in speech communities in historical time, and lexical diffusion. Discussion topics will include the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches (e.g.simulation-based vs. mathematical models); identifying which modeling frameworks are best suited for particular types of research questions; and methodological considerations in modeling phonetic and phonological change. For this course, some background in probability theory, single-variable calculus, and/or linear algebra is helpful but not required.

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Individual Differences in Sound Change

Jeff Mielke – University of Ottawa
Alan Yu – University of Chicago
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
2407 Mason Hall

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One of the great mysteries of linguistics is the so-called actuation problem, first articulated in Weinreich, Labov, and Herzog 1968, and still largely unanswered to this day. The question is what causes the inception of language change, if the linguistic conditions favoring particular changes are always present? Previous studies on sound change have mainly focused on group effects, that is, effects observed in a population as a whole. Recent work has drawn on interspeaker variation for a solution to the actuation puzzle. The main impetus for considering individual differences in the context of sound change comes from the need to build a linking theory that bridges the gap between the emergence of new linguistic variants and their eventual propagation.

This course will explore sources of individual linguistic differences, and the role they may play in the initiation and propagation of sound change.  Idiosyncratic variation provides an opportunity to understand the limits and flexibility of the human capacity for language, and to better understand the observed properties of natural languages, which are systems that must be shared by individuals who differ from each other in important ways.  We will focus on three types of individual-level factors that have been implicated in language variation and change, namely covert linguistic/phonetic differences (e.g., differences in lexicon, articulation, and cue weighting), social-attitudinal matters, and neuro-cognitive factors.

Students enrolling in this course should have at least one course in phonetics and/or phonology.

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Language Contact

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

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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.

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Standard English, Prescriptivism, and Language Ideology

Anne Curzan – University of Michigan
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 9:00-10:50 am
2407 Mason Hall

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The prescriptive-descriptive binary, a commonplace in most introductory linguistics textbooks, can make it seem like prescriptivism lies outside the purview of serious linguistic study. This course puts prescriptivism at its center, as an important sociolinguistic factor in the development of Modern English as well as a key challenge to linguists in engaging the public in dialogue about linguistic diversity. In this course we will briefly cover the rise of standardization and Standard English in the history of English, and discuss the ways that morality—discourses of good and bad, right and wrong, pure and corrupt—has become entangled with grammar over the past three centuries. The course will tackle the definitions of Standard English and prescriptivism, as well as the nature of standard language ideology and authority. We’ll read a few key theoretical pieces as background and then address: (a) evolving attitudes about the prescriptive authority of usages guides and dictionaries; and (b) “grammar teaching” and Standard English in the educational system. At the end of the course, we will examine recent debates in the national media about language and “correctness” to think through how linguists can most productively engage in public discussions about language given the prescriptive language ideologies in widespread circulation.

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