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Dialect convergence across language boundaries. A challenge for areal linguistics


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Recent studies in typology and historical linguistics have yielded new insights into the geographical distribution and diffusion of linguistic phenomena. Within Europe, several linguistic areas of different types and sizes have been proposed and discussed, including a European area (Standard Average European, henceforth SAE). Such claims are largely based on the grammars of the respective standard languages. In this contribution, I argue that we need (a) to focus also on intralingual variation in order to fully understand both the synchronic facts and the diachronic processes behind the formation of linguistic areas, and (b) to systematically include non-standard dialects or varieties in areal linguistic studies in order to gain a more representative empirical basis. Moreover, we have to take (c) dialect convergence across language boundaries into account, which I consider to be an important contact linguistic process in the emergence of areal phenomena. This view is supported by three case studies on areal phenomena in Northern European languages and dialects, investigating non-standard verbal constructions, dialectal phonological features, and medium-specific syntactic traits.
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Dialect convergence across language
A challenge for areal linguistics
Steen Höder
Universität Hamburg
1. Introduction
Recent studies in typology and historical linguistics have yielded new insights
into the geographical distribution and diusion of linguistic phenomena. Within
Europe, several linguistic areas of dierent types and sizes have been proposed and
discussed, including a European area (Standard Average European, henceforth
SAE). Such claims are largely based on the grammars of the respective standard
languages. In this contribution, I argue that we need (a) to focus also on intralingual
variation in order to fully understand both the synchronic facts and the diachronic
processes behind the formation of linguistic areas, and (b) to systematically include
non-standard dialects or varieties in areal linguistic studies in order to gain a more
representative empirical basis.1 Moreover, we have to take (c) dialect convergence
across language boundaries into account, which I consider to be an important con-
tact linguistic process in the emergence of areal phenomena. is view is supported
by three case studies on areal phenomena in Northern European languages and
dialects, investigating non-standard verbal constructions (3.1), dialectal phonologi-
cal features (3.2), and medium-specic syntactic traits (3.3).
2. Does Norwegian have relative pronouns?
One of the features that many European languages have in common is pronominal
relativisation. is strategy employs a pronoun that is inected for gender and
number and, if possible, case to introduce a post-nominal relative clause, such
as German der/ die/ das, rather than an uninected subjunction (cf. Lehmann
1984:43.) such as English that. Since the relative pronoun strategy is counted as
1. Dialect and variety are used interchangeably throughout this paper.
1 Steen Höder
one of the denitional typological features of SAE (Haspelmath 2001), we have to
determine whether or not a language has relative pronouns in order to establish
its (degree of) membership in the SAE area. In areal linguistic terms, we have to
decide whether the corresponding isogloss on a linguistic map should be drawn so
as to include or exclude the language.
is approach is not unproblematic, however, as can be illustrated by ask-
ing an apparently simple and innocent question: does Norwegian have relative
pronouns? e answer is, it depends on which Norwegian we choose, Bokmål or
Nynorsk. Norwegian is, of course, special in the way that it has two distinct stan-. Norwegian is, of course, special in the way that it has two distinct stan-
dard varieties instead of one. us, a certain proportion of the (otherwise covert)
intralingual variation shows up in written texts and standard grammars: Nynorsk
doesn’t have relative pronouns (as can be inferred from any corpus of Nynorsk
texts or any grammar textbook; the usual relativiser is the subjunction som),
whereas relative pronouns are used in Bokmål texts and dealt with in Bokmål
grammars (though restricted to certain registers of the written language, among
them hvilken/ hvilket/ hvilke (Faarlund et al. 1997: 1056.)).
is shows that in an exceptional case like Norwegian, the ‘convenient ction
(Dahl 2001:1460) of areal linguistics that each language has a specic and exclu-
sive location in space is not even sustainable at the level of the standard languages.
Normally, though, typological investigations and areal linguistic maps are based
on one dialect per language, viz. the standard variety that is described in easily
accessible reference grammars. As an empirical basis, this is not only misleading
because it excludes deviant and typologically (potentially) relevant features of var-
ious dialects (cf. Auer 2004), but also because typical features of standard varieties
are by far overrepresented – as a result of writing, dialect levelling, standardisa-
tion, or, as claimed by McWhorter (2007), L2 acquisition. Our understanding of
areal connections across language boundaries is therefore not only based on, but
also biased toward standard varieties: how sure can we be that a putatively areal
feature doesn’t turn out to be a feature only of the respective standard dialects,
or that a linguistic area like Standard Average European doesn’t only include the
average European standard varieties?
3. Areal patterns and dialect convergence across language boundaries
Diachronically, dialects or varieties are subject to areal processes of convergence,
which is to say that they can acquire, change or lose specic properties andbecome
more similar to each other or to the standard variety over time (cf. Hinskens etal.
2005). Although normally understood as a contact-induced process, convergence
Dialect convergence across language boundaries 1
as a descriptive term may in principle also refer to a long-term result of the original
genetic relatedness of the dialects (e.g. the so-called dri phenomena) or to purely
coincidental changes, as long as it results in a new areal pattern that is not directly
traceable to a common ancestor of the dialects involved.
Dialect convergence may involve varieties of only one language, but it may
also cross language boundaries and aect dialects of other (unrelated or not
closely related) languages. is observation by itself isnt surprising. It is, however,
remarkable that because of the standard language bias in areal linguistics, inter-
lingual areal patterns at the dialectal level, including dialect convergence across
language boundaries, seem to go largely unnoticed in contact linguistics, though it
can be assumed to be at work whenever languages as a whole are converging: there
is dialect contact without language contact, but not vice versa.
In the following sections, I discuss three cases of areal patterning which
may (and in one case can be proved to) be the result of dialect convergence across
language boundaries and which thus provide a challenge to the standard-based
approach in areal linguistics.
3.1 Pseudocoordination in Germanic
In several Germanic languages, there are various types of monoclausal con-
structions that consist of two nite verbs conjoined by a conjunction (‘and’),
in which the rst is a member of a closed verb class (oen positional or direc-
tional verbs) and functions as a kind of aspectual marker, while the second is a
main verb. Such pseudocoordinating structures are found and well described
in various Germanic languages, such as the Mainland Scandinavian languages,
English, and Afrikaans (cf. Teleman et al. 1999: 334.; Tonne 2001; Hopper
2002; de Vos 2005):
(1) hun sidder og snakker med sig selv (Danish)
she sits and talks with refl self
‘she is talking to herself (progressive)’
(2) we go and buy a DVD (inchoative) (English)
(3) hy sit en lees die boeke (Afrikaans)
he sits and reads the books
‘he is reading the books (progressive)’
ese examples represent constructions that are (partly) grammaticalised, though
not paradigmatic or obligatory (unlike, say, the English progressive). Rather,
although generally accepted as a part of the standard varieties, there is a tendency
for pseudocoordination to be a feature of colloquial speech rather than formal
1 Steen Höder
styles, oen competing with alternative non-pseudocoordinating constructions
such as innitives:
(4) a. I try and do that (English)
b. I try to do that
(5) a. jag håller och skriver ett brev (Swedish)
I hold on and write a letter
b. jag håller på att skriva ett brev
I hold on to write
‘I am writing a letter (progressive)’
Since pseudocoordination is usually considered to be a relatively recent phenom-
enon and is oen discussed in terms of grammaticalisation processes (cf. Hilpert
& Koops 2008), it seems more likely that its emergence is due to convergence
than to common inheritance. From an areal linguistic perspective, we could posit
a connection between those Germanic languages that have pseudocoordina-
tion (around the North Sea) and those that lack it (on the European continent;
Figure1). Hence, there are two questions posed by this distribution: rstly, why do
Dutch and German lack pseudocoordination? Was it lost or did it never emerge?
And secondly, why is Afrikaans dierent from its parent language, Dutch?
Nor Swe
Eng Ger –pseudocoordination
Figure 1. Pseudocoordination in Germanic standard languages
Kjeldahl (2008) in her investigation of pseudocoordination in Danish and
Afrikaans suggests that pseudocoordination is a cross-linguistic phenomenon that
is blocked by verbal inection. While primarily theoretically motivated, such an
explanation seems at rst to be supported by the distribution of pseudocoordi-
nation within Germanic, since Dutch and German have a relatively rich verbal
morphology, whereas there is little verbal inection le in Mainland Scandinavian
and Afrikaans. However, Kjeldahl’s suggestion can be reformulated as a falsiable
claim: if, for example, German is found to have pseudocoordination, then it can’t
be blocked by verbal inection.
So far, we have only taken Standard German (StG) into consideration. But
what about the dialects? While, of course, StG doesn’t have pseudocoordination, it
is very common in Low German (LG) dialects and even, though less frequent, in
Dialect convergence across language boundaries 1
low-status varieties of North High German (NoHG) in traditionally LG-speaking
areas (Höder in prep). As these are varieties with relatively complex verbal mor-
phology (though less complex than StG), the proposed connection between the
lack of verbal inection and pseudocoordination doesn’t seem to hold. 2
(6) ik bün bi un feuel (LG)
I am at and wipe
‘I am wiping the oor (progressive)’
(7) he güng bi un schreev dat op (LG)
he went at and wrote it up
‘he started writing it down (inchoative)’
(8) denn geht er bei und repariert das (NoHG)
then goes he at and repairs it
‘then he proceeds to repair it’
On the basis of these ndings at the dialectal level, pseudocoordination appears as
an areal feature (within the Germanic family) dened by an isogloss that doesn’t fol-
low language boundaries, but rather extends into geographical and social dialects
of German, while excluding the standard variety (Figure 2). Regardless of whether
this distribution is due to dri, coincidence or convergence, the ndings indicate
that if we take a closer look at intralingual variation in the languages in which pseu-
docoordination occurs, we can at least expand the factual basis of the theoretical
claims we make and begin to ask more fruitful questions. Why, for example, does
StG lack pseudocoordination? Is there any relation to the fact that pseudocoordina-
tion is a colloquial, rather than a formal, feature in other languages?3
Nor Swe
StG –pseudocoordination
Figure 2. Pseudocoordination in Germanic and North German
2. Another possible counterexample is Faroese with its rich verbal morphology, where con-
structions like vit sótu og ótu ‘we sat and ate’ seem to be at least partly grammaticalised as a
3. One factor could be the influence of the prescriptivist tradition in standard varieties.
1 Steen Höder
3.2 Vowel qualities and polytonicity around the Baltic Sea
As observed by several scholars, various languages around the Baltic Sea share
some interesting phonological features, among these the large size of the
vowel inventories and polytonicity. Eliasson’s (2000) survey shows that geneti-
cally unrelated languages from this area (mainly Scandinavian, Finnic, Sami,
Baltic) have rather high numbers ofphonemically distinctive vowel qualities
as compared to the global average (Maddieson 1984) and to other European
languages (cf. Ternes 1998), giving rise to relatively complex vowel systems.4
Within the monophthong system, for example, Swedish and Norwegian dis-
tinguish between nine phonemic vowel qualities, Finnish and Northern Sami
between eight, and Danish has (at the minimum) ten phonemic vowel qualities
(Eliasson 2000:28., cf. Grønnum 1998:223.). Another typical feature is the
existence of large diphthong inventories in the Finnic and Baltic languages as
well as inDanish.
e areal clustering of tonal systems in the Circum-Baltic languages is well-
established since Jakobson’s (1962 [1931]:137f.) proposal of a polytonic Sprach-
bund, which relates to the fact that many of the Circum-Baltic languages have
some kind of phonemic distinction between two suprasegmental features at the
level of the prosodic word (cf. also Koptjevskaja-Tamm & Wälchli 2001:640.).
Examples are the two tones in the pitch accent languages Norwegian and Swedish,
Danish stød or the tonal distinction in Latvian:
(9) Swedish anden /Áand6n/duck-def’ – anden /Áànd6n/ ‘spirit-def
(10) Danish mor /mo˜r/ ‘mother’ – mord /mo˜ôr/murder’
As far as the standard languages are concerned, these two features dene a rela-
tively coherent area whose southern boundary coincides with the Danish- German
language border: Danish has ten phonemic monophthong qualities, eleven
diphthongs and stød (Braunmüller 2007:103.), while German has eight monoph-
thong qualities, three diphthongs and no tonal contrast (Figure 3).5
. Maddieson’s (1984) figures are based on phonemic analyses that abstract as little as pos-
sible from the phonetic realisation. Such analyses regularly result in higher numbers for
languages where short and long vowels have different qualities (such as the Scandinavian
languages or Standard German) than the numbers assumed here.
. Only those diphthongs are included that can arguably be analysed as monophonemic (e.g.
German /ai
ˆ/, but not [o
] = /o˜r/).
Dialect convergence across language boundaries 1
Danish iyu – eøo –7œf– a (±˜)
11 diphthongs
German iyu– eøo –7– a (±˜)
3 diphthongs
no tonal contrast
Figure 3. Vowels and tonal contrast: Danish/German
However, the picture becomes more complex if we don’t only consider the
standard varieties, but also take the regional languages and dialects on both sides
of the border into account, viz. (a) South Jutlandic (SJ) north of the border and (b)
dialects of Low German and the North German variety of High German south of
the border. As far as the size of vowel inventories and polytonicity are concerned,
all of these varieties share more features with Standard Danish than with StG. LG
has fourteen monophthongs and ve diphthongs (Höder 2007: 98., forthcom-
ing), NoHG has fourteen distinctive monophthong qualities and three diphthongs
(Ternes 1999:90.). None of these varieties, including SJ, have a stød-like system,
but both SJ and LG are pitch accent languages with a suprasegmental distinction at
the word level, similar to the system of Norwegian or Swedish (Ejskjær 2005:1723;
Ternes 2006; Prehn 2007, Höder in prep. a; cf. Figure 4):
(11) lys /lys/ ‘light’, lys /lŷs/ ‘to shine, glow’ (SJ)
(12) laat /lot/ ‘late’, laad /lôt/ ‘load-1sg (LG)
e areal distribution (Figure 5) shows that, although established as features
shared by a number of Circum-Baltic languages, large vowel inventories and
polytonicity aren’t conned to the regions where the respective standard varieties
are used. Again, the isogloss dening the corresponding area crosses the Danish-
German language boundary and includes non-standard dialects under the roof of
StG, while excluding the standard variety itself.
Two questions remain to be answered: does this areal pattern at the dialectal
level reect a process of dialect convergence? And if so, was it contact-induced?
Contact is commonly agreed to be an important factor in the emergence of
similarities among the Circum-Baltic languages in general, as language contacts
have been manifold and intensive throughout this area (Koptjevskaja-Tamm &
1 Steen Höder
Danish iyu– eøo –7œf– a (±˜)
11 diphthongs
SJ iyu– eøo –7œf– a (±˜)
11 diphthongs
pitch accent
German iyu– eøo –7– a (±˜)
3 diphthongs
no tonal contrast
LG iyu–~– eøo –7œf(˜) – a(˜)#
5 diphthongs
pitch accent
NoHG iyu–~– eøo –7œf(˜) –a(˜)#
3 diphthongs
no tonal accent
Figure 4. Vowels and tonal contrast: Danish/German varieties
+other tonal contrast
+pitch accent
Nor Swe Fin –pitch accent
Dan Est
Ltv +large vowel inventory
–large vowel inventory
Figure 5. Large vowel inventories and polytonicity
Wälchli 2001:616.). Similarly, if not even more so, the Danish-German border
region has been a region of intensive bi- and multilingualism, language contact,
and language shi from prehistoric times until today, as reected in, for example,
large-scale bidirectional lexical borrowing between SJ and LG. Furthermore, large
vowel inventories and polytonicity are relatively recent innovations in both SJ and
LG (and possibly NoHG under the inuence of the original LG dialects spoken in
Northern Germany; the Middle Low German vowel system was rather like Modern
StG; cf. Stellmacher 2000:54.). Inheritance from a common ancestor can thus
be ruled out. Coincidental convergence, however, could be a possible explana-
tion, since neither large vowel inventories nor tonal systems are exceptional in the
Dialect convergence across language boundaries 11
world’s languages. On the other hand, both features are exceptional enough, partic-
ularly among the European languages, to set the respective languages apart from
their neighbours. In summary, these ndings can only suggest contact-induced
dialectal convergence across language boundaries. ey may, however, motivate
further research on the topic.
3.3 Clause linking in old Swedish
e third case clearly involves language contact, namely between Latin and
Swedish within a cultural elite group of clerics, most prominently the nuns and
monks in Vadstena Abbey during the Late Middle Ages. Previous studies (Höder
2009, 2010) show that this bilingualism led to or at least reinforced some syntactic
changes concerning the clause linking strategies in Old Swedish (OSw) texts. Two
of these changes are particularly widespread in the source texts, namely the emer-
gence of various adverbial subjunctions and relativisers.
ese innovations were part of a tendency to introduce a clause with a con-
nective element that overtly and unambiguously species the semantic rela-
tion between the preceding and the following clause, i.e. conveys more, or more
explicit, semantic information than older, ambiguous elements. e eect was not
only an increase in the use of such elements, but also a substantial extension of
the inventories of subjunctions (such as for þy at ‘because’, än þo atalthough’) and
relativisers (relative pronouns such as hviliken, cf. §2). e innovative clause link-
ing strategies competed with the original strategies that nevertheless continued to
be used, viz. (a) less explicit clause-initial elements (semantically vague subjunc-
tions: än ‘but, and, if, than’, okand’ (cf. Kotcheva 2002); relative subjunctions: sum,
þär), (b) clause-internal connectives (e.g. deictic adverbs: þo ‘yet’, þy ‘therefore’),
(c) zero, i.e. implicit clause-linking.
OSw clause linking eventually came to resemble the strategies of Latin quite
closely, both in actual use and in the inventories of connectives, and both with
respect to the semantic relations that could be expressed by a special, i.e. mono-
semic, subjunction and with respect to the constructional form of the innovative
connectives (cf.the parallel construction in OSw for þy at and Latin pro eo quod
or the homophony between a relative pronoun and an interrogative determiner
‘which’ in OSw hviliken and Latin qui).
I have demonstrated in previous studies that this change, which can be
explained as a process of replica grammaticalisation in the sense of Heine & Kuteva
(2005), relates to an increase in the OSw text production, which was mainly the
work of Swedish speakers used to writing in Latin and very oen translating from
Latin originals. us, the contact-induced syntactic innovations in OSw aected
primarily the (emerging) written variety while having a lesser eect on the spoken
12 Steen Höder
language, and intensied a medial split within Swedish that has continued until
today. As a consequence, for example, relative pronouns generally aren’t used in
Spoken Modern Swedish and probably never were used in the spoken language
at all, while they do occur in Written Modern Swedish, though decreasingly (cf.
Pettersson 1976). is contact-induced change represents a type that could be
classied as medium-specic dialect convergence across language boundaries with
intralingual dialect divergence (Written Swedish becomes more similar to Latin
while becoming more dierent from Spoken Swedish).
As mentioned in §2, the relative pronoun strategy is counted among the typical
features of a larger linguistic area, SAE, and the particular set of adverbial subjunc-
tions shared by Latin and OSw is at least a characteristic feature of SAE languages,
too (Kortmann 2001). e isogloss dening the area, however, separates two medial
varieties of the same language (both OSw and, to a lesser extent, Modern Swedish)
as well as two standard varieties of another language (Bokmål and Nynorsk, cf. §2).
While it is in principle possible to visualise the relevant part of the SAE area (cf.
Figure 6), it is clear that a traditional areal linguistic map can’t capture the actual
course of such an isogloss convincingly, which cuts across a variety continuum
rather than geographical space.
Nyn Bok WrSwe
(SAE languages) –pronominal relativisation
+pronominal relativisation
Figure 6. Relative pronoun strategy
. Conclusion
e case studies show that the distribution of areal features cannot be investi-
gated on the basis of standard varieties alone. Instead, we also need to include
non- standard dialects into areal linguistic studies, particularly considering that
language contact without variety contact is impossible. Dialect convergence across
language boundaries results in isoglosses that include some varieties while exclud-
ing others, which may be the standard dialects. Furthermore, a literally areal con-
cept of linguistic areality, as implicitly suggested by the visualisation of isoglosses
on linguistic maps, is simplistic, since varieties can also be delimited by, say, social
or medial boundaries in addition to geographical ones (cf. Muysken 2008:4).
Dialect convergence across language boundaries 13
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Pseudocoordination with posture verbs in Mainland Scandinavian (e.g. the Norwegian Han sitter og arbeider ‘he sits and works’) is traditionally considered a grammaticalized progressive construction. The posture verb is said to have a bleached meaning, and to have the grammatical status of an auxiliary or a light verb. In recent years, some researchers have expressed doubt about this view. In this article, I argue that the traditional arguments for grammaticalization do not hold. However, I also give new evidence for early grammaticalization. Posture verbs can to some extent be used as light verbs in sentences such as Kebab må sittes og nytes ‘kebab must sit. pass and enjoy. pass ’, which have never been discussed in connection with grammaticalization. Finally, I argue that pseudocoordination with posture verbs should not be seen as progressive, but rather as a locational (or situative) construction.
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Guest lecture, Institut für deutsche Sprache und Linguistik, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 4 June 2012.
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Das Niederdeutsche hat im 20. Jahrhundert massive Veränderungen durchlaufen, die sich in Zukunft eher noch verstärken dürften, und zwar vor allem im Hinblick auf seinen sprachsozialen Status, aber auch in sprachsystematischer Hinsicht. Diese Entwicklung hat im Wesentlichen mit dem hochdeutsch-niederdeutschen Kontakt zu tun. In diesem Beitrag möchte ich deutlich machen, dass dieser – aus puristischer Sicht gewiss bedauerliche – Wandel sich aus der Perspektive der bilingualen Sprecher als ökonomisch und damit als vorteilhaft verstehen lässt. Zugleich möchte ich zeigen, dass das Niederdeutsche dabei gerade in jüngster Zeit demselben Typ von Sprachwandel ausgesetzt ist, der sich zuvor bereits bei der Ausprägung des norddeutschen Hochdeutschen ausgewirkt hat.
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This contribution claims that Modern Low German (as represented by North Low German dialects) is a rather prototypical word language according to the model provided by Auer (2001) and others. The interaction between syllable structure, stress, and phonemic alternations in different contexts is better explained as a consequence of word-related as opposed to syllable-related rules and restrictions. Apart from the relatively high complexity of possible consonant clusters at word boundaries, this view is supported by (a) the stress sensitivity of vocalic and consonantal syllable nuclei, including a highly differentiated vowel system, (b) word-level phonological processes such as word-medial obstruent voicing, and (c) the existence of a word-level suprasegmental phenomenon similar to a pitch accent. On the whole, Low German is even closer to the word language pole of the continuum between word and syllable languages than Standard German. The findings are also relevant in a wider perspective. First, it is of general importance to include dialectal or non-standard varieties in cross-linguistic typological studies and theoretical models. Second, some of the features found in Low German are also found in other non-standard varieties of (Northern) Germany as well as in neighboring languages, such as Danish (including South Jutlandic) and other Scandinavian and Circum-Baltic languages, which suggests an areal or contact-induced relation.
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From a global and historical perspective, multilingualism or at least multilectalism is the rule rather than the exception. However, linguistic theory continues to focus on the idea of a prototypically coherent, static, and monolingual language system. A more realistic approach can set out from the notion of ‘diasystems’, i.e. linguistic systems including more than one variety. Apart from being theoretical constructs, diasystems are also an important component of multilectal speakers’ linguistic knowledge. Within a usage-based construction grammar approach, this paper argues that multilectal speakers (re-)organise their grammars by generalisation over individual constructions and across language boundaries. Therefore, the multilectal system can be modelled as an inventory of constructions that are partly language-specific and partly unspecified for language.
Introduction Dialect change can have several different manifestations. Among these, dialect convergence (dc) and dialect divergence (dd) noticeably affect the relationships between related dialects. Dc and dd have probably been present for as long as dialects have existed. Various historical developments, including the ‘modernisation’ of society, have left their mark on the very nature of dialects and have partly changed the dynamics of dc and dd; moreover, they have broadened them to dialect – standard language convergence. This chapter sets the stage for the various aspects of the study of dc and dd presented in this book, in that it both provides a general introduction and constitutes a springboard for the discussion of the themes and approaches which play a role in the individual chapters. As an introduction, the chapter presents the central terminology (section 2), provides the background information necessary for the interested non-specialist (section 3), sketches what we see as the main research methods (section 4), and binds together the issues featured in the various chapters (section 5). Definitions of the Key Concepts We will use the notion of ‘dialect’ to refer to a language variety which is used in a geographically limited part of a language area in which it is ‘roofed’ by a structurally related standard variety; a dialect typically displays structural peculiarities in several language components (cf. Chambers and Trudgill 1998: 5), though some of the authors in this book deal mainly with phonetic (or ‘accent’) features.
Foreigners often say that the English language is "easy". A language like Spanish is challenging in its variety of verb endings and gender for nouns, whereas English is more straightforward. But linguists generally deny claims that certain languages are 'easier' than others, since it is assumed that all languages are complex to the same degree. For example, they will point to English's use of the word "do" - Do you know French? This usage is counter-intuitive and difficult for non-native speakers. This book agrees that all languages are complex, but questions whether or not they are all equally complex. The topic of complexity has become an area of great debate in recent years, particularly in creole studies, historical linguistics, and language contact. This book describes when languages came into contact (when French-speakers ruled the English for a few centuries, or the Vikings invaded England), a large number of speakers are forced to learn a new language quickly and thus came up with a simplified version, a pidgin. When this ultimately turns into a "real" language, a creole, the result is still simpler and less complex than a "non-interrupted" language that has been around for a long time. This book makes the case that this kind of simplification happens by degrees, and criticizes linguists who are reluctant to say that, for example, English is simpler than Spanish for socio-historical reasons. It analyzes how various languages that seem simple but are not creoles, actually are simpler than they would be if they had not been broken down by large numbers of adult learners. In addition to English, the book looks at Mandarin Chinese, Persian, Malay, and some Arabic varieties.
In the Late Middle Ages, when Old Swedish develops into a written language it acquires simultaneously several innovative syntactic features, such as new relativisation patterns. On the basis of an annotated digital corpus of Late Old Swedish texts, appositive relative clauses and the pronominal relativisation strategy are singled out as the typologically most salient innovations. In this contribution the author argues that the emergence of these features has to be explained as a grammatical replication of Latin features in a process of language Ausbau. Furthermore, it is argued that these changes affect only the emerging written variety of Old Swedish and mark the beginning of a medial split, with the written language converging towards Latin and diverging from the spoken varieties.
Sprachen verändern sich im Laufe der Zeit. Gerade der Lautwandel ist seit dem 19. Jahrhundert in der historischen Linguistik intensiv erforscht worden. Wir verfügen deshalb heute über enorme Kenntnisse in der Lautgeschichte einzelner Sprachen. Aber wie können lautliche Verände- rungen adäquat beschrieben werden? Wodurch werden sie ausgelöst? Wie laufen sie im Detail ab? Welche Rolle spielen dabei inner- und außersprachliche Faktoren? Kann Lautwandel erklärt werden, und wenn ja, wie? Bei solchen Fragen bestehen noch immer erhebliche Differenzen zwischen Vertretern unterschiedlicher Theorien, eine Synthese ist derzeit nicht in Sicht. Der Autor vertritt den Standpunkt, dass einander widersprechende The- orien nicht einfach koexistieren können, sondern miteinander konkurrie- ren. Es muss also ein Vergleichsmaßstab entwickelt werden, der nicht nur eine Gegenüberstellung, sondern auch eine Bewertung verschiede- ner Modelle erlaubt. Daher wird in diesem Buch eine Annäherung an entsprechende theorieunabhängige Kriterien versucht. Dies geschieht anhand einiger klassischer Theorien zum Lautwandel. Die Modelle werden zunächst kontrastiv aus einer wissenschaftsge- schichtlichen Perspektive dargestellt. Dabei werden Lautwandeltheorien von den Junggrammatikern über strukturalistische und generative An- sätze bis zur modernen Variationslinguistik diskutiert. Anschließend wird analysiert, wie der Wandel jeweils beschrieben und wie er erklärt wird: Wie verhalten sich die Beschreibungskategorien der einzelnen Modelle zu den phonetischen Daten, auf welchem Abstraktionsniveau wird also operiert? Welche Rolle spielen jeweils Beschreibungssystem und Fach- terminologie? Welches Verhältnis besteht zwischen Erklärungsanspruch und Erklärungswert? Was sagen einzelne Modelle tatsächlich aus? Wie verlässlich sind diese Aussagen? Nach welchen Kriterien kann man die Vor- und Nachteile einzelner Theorien bewerten? Und schließlich: Welche Forderungen an die künftige Forschung zum Lautwandel lassen sich aus der Analyse ableiten – und richten sich diese Forderungen nur an ein- zelne oder an alle Forschungsrichtungen? Als Einstieg in das Thema des Laut- bzw. Sprachwandels ist dieses Buch auch gerade für Studierende geeignet. Sprachwissenschaftliche und phonetische Grundkenntnisse sind für das Verständnis ausreichend.
Das Schwedische wird im Spätmittelalter zur Schriftsprache ausgebaut und zwar in einer mehrsprachigen Gesellschaft, in der Latein und Niederdeutsch einen prägenden Einfluss haben. Zugleich ist im Schwedischen dieser Zeit erheblicher Sprachwandel zu beobachten. Welche Rolle spielt der Sprachkontakt zum Lateinischen für die syntaktische Entwicklung des Altschwedischen? Wie wirken sich die kommunikativen Rahmenbedingungen der Schriftlichkeit im Wandel aus? Wie interagieren beide Faktoren miteinander? Wie lässt sich diese komplexe sprachliche Situation aus der Perspektive moderner kontakt- und soziolinguistischer sowie sprachtheoretischer Modelle erfassen? Diese Studie behandelt solche Fragen einerseits in einer theoretischen Diskussion des Sprachausbaus im Altschwedischen, andererseits in einer detaillierten quantitativen und qualitativen Analyse syntaktischer Sprachwandelphänomene auf der Basis eines eigens erstellten digitalen Korpus altschwedischer Texte mit syntaktischer Annotation.