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Idioconstructions in conflict: Ad hoc generalization in multilingual speech processing

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Mainstream grammatical theory and traditional grammaticography concentrate on single languages or varieties, which are conceptualised as pre-existing, distinct entities and analysed in terms of coherent, static, ideally variation-free language systems. This is in stark contrast to actual language usage, where various kinds of structural contact phenomena are the rule rather than the exception. In line with recent insights from contact linguistics, Diasystematic Construction Grammar assumes that multilingual speakers and communities organise their grammatical knowledge on the basis of the available input via processes of interlingual identification, abstraction, generalisation, and categorisation, regardless of language boundaries. This results in a community-specific multilingual constructicon, comprising both language-specific constructions (restricted to certain communicative contexts associated with a particular language) and constructions unspecified for language.
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Die Diasystematische Konstruktionsgrammatik (Höder 2012; 2014abc; i. Vorb.) geht in Anlehnung an moderne kontaktlinguistische Ansätze davon aus, dass das Sprachwissen Mehrsprachiger ein sprachübergreifendes Repertoire (Matras 2009, 308–309) konstituiert. Dieses Repertoire wird im Rahmen einer gebrauchsbasierten konstruktionsgrammatischen Beschreibung als mehrsprachiges Konstruktionsnetzwerk modelliert, in dem – spezifisch für die jeweilige Sprechergruppe – sprachspezifische und -unspezifische Konstruktionen (‚Idio-‘ und ‚Diakonstruktionen‘) miteinander vernetzt sind. Auch in der Produktion interagieren folglich beide Konstruktionstypen miteinander. Zunächst vor allem mit Blick auf kontaktbedingten Sprachwandel entwickelt, eröffnet dieser Ansatz neue Perspektiven für die Analyse mehrsprachiger Äußerungen, die traditionell als Transferenzen beschrieben, hier aber als Ausdruck interlingualer Produktivität verstanden werden, d. h. der spontanen Bildung nichtkanonischer Äußerungen auf diakonstruktioneller Basis.
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Uriel Weinreich (1926–1967) was one of the founding fathers of both contact linguistics and sociolinguistics. Among his best-known works are his 1953 monograph "Languages in contact", his 1954 article "Is a structural dialectology possible?", and the seminal paper on "Empircal foundations for a theory of language change" (co-authored with William Labov and Marvin Herzog, published posthumously in 1968). Besides giving a brief biographical sketch, my contribution concentrates on two aspects that make Weinreich’s classical texts worth re-reading as well as relevant for my own work dealing with a construction grammar model for language contact phenomena. Firstly, there is no fundamental difference between language contact and dialect contact; both can be tackled with the same theoretical and analytical tools (in contrast to the later establishment of contact linguistics and sociolinguistics as rather autonomous subdisciplines). Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Weinreich’s work emphasises the systematicity of language contact, both in its relation to the social parameters of the language contact situation and in the inter-systemic relations between the different languages involved, which are represented by diasystematic links.
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Language contact phenomena are often described with reference to their effect on the monolingual systems of the varieties involved, both in historical and in contact linguistics. This contribution argues that an essentially multilingual perspective on these phenomena is more adequate. Bilingual speakers in stable bilingual groups create a common system for all their languages, incorporating both interlingual links and language -unspecified elements along with language-specific structures. In a construction grammar analysis, such systems as well as changes within this type of system can be conceptualised as interlingual constructional networks, which are established, stored, and processed in exactly the same way as monolingual grammars.
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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.
Article
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In research on bilingualism it is often assumed that linguistic structures can be shared across languages. The emphasis on generalization and categorization in construction grammar also seems to imply that speakers can develop cross-linguistic representations. This contribution argues that generalizations can occur only on the semantic level. Data from typologically distinct languages shows that generalizations over form are not likely to play a role in language processing. It is further argued that neither syntactical nor grammatical form is needed in order to explain syntactic transfer.
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Usage-based CxG approaches share the central assumption that any grammar has to be acquired and organised through input-based abstraction and categorisation. Diasystematic Construction Grammar (DCxG) is based on the idea that these processes are not sensitive to language boundaries. Multilingual input thus results in multilingual grammars which are conceived of as constructicons containing language-specific as well as language-unspecific constructions. Within such systems, phonological structures play an important part in the identification of schematic constructions. However, the status of phonology in DCxG, as in CxG in general, yet remains unclear. This paper presents some arguments for including phonological elements systematically in the construction-based analysis of (multilingual) constructional systems.
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The use of two or more languages is common in most of the world. Yet, until recently, bilingualism was considered to be a complicating factor for language processing, cognition, and the brain. The past 20 years have witnessed an upsurge of research on bilingualism to examine language acquisition and processing, their cognitive and neural bases, and the consequences that bilingualism holds for cognition and the brain over the life span. Contrary to the view that bilingualism complicates the language system, this new research demonstrates that all of the languages that are known and used become part of the same language system. The interactions that arise when two languages are in play have consequences for the mind and the brain and, indeed, for language processing itself, but those consequences are not additive. Thus, bilingualism helps reveal the fundamental architecture and mechanisms of language processing that are otherwise hidden in monolingual speakers.
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A series of discoveries in the last two decades has changed the way we think about bilingualism and its implications for language and cognition. One is that both languages are always active. The parallel activation of the two languages is thought to give rise to competition that imposes demands on the bilingual to control the language not in use to achieve fluency in the target language. The second is that there are consequences of bilingualism that affect the native as well as the second language. The native language changes in response to second language use. The third is that the consequences of bilingualism are not limited to language but appear to reflect a reorganization of brain networks that hold implications for the ways in which bilinguals negotiate cognitive competition more generally. The focus of recent research on bilingualism has been to understand the relation between these discoveries and the implications they hold for language, cognition, and the brain across the lifespan.
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The occurrence of codeswitching, or the seemingly random alternation of two languages both between and within sentences, has been shown (Gumperz, 1976; Pfaff, 1975; Wentz, 1977) to be governed not only by extralinguistic but also linguistic factors. For the balanced bilingual, codeswitching appears to be subject to an ‘equivalence constraint’ (Poplack, 1978): i.e. it tends to occur at points in discourse where juxtaposition of L1 and L2 elements does not violate a surface syntactic rule of either language. If correct, the equivalence constraint on codeswitching may be used to measure degree of bilingual ability. It was hypothesized that equivalence would either be violated by non-fluent bilinguals, or that switch points which are ‘risky’ in terms of syntactic well-formedness (i.e. those which occur within a sentence) would tend to be avoided altogether. To test this hypothesis, I analysed the speech of 20 Puerto Rican residents of a stable bilingual community, exhibiting varying degrees of bilingual ability. Quantitative analysis of their switches revealed that both fluent and non-fluent bilinguals were able to code-switch frequently and still maintain grammaticality in both Lx and L2. While fluent bilinguals tended to switch at various syntactic boundaries within the sentence, non-fluent bilinguals favoured switching between sentences, allowing them to participate in the codeswitching mode, without fear of violating a grammatical rule of either of the languages involved. These results suggest that the codeswitching mode proceeds from that area of the bilingual's grammar where the surface structures of Lx and L2 overlap, and that codeswitching, rather than representing debasement of linguistic skill, is actually a sensitive indicator of bilingual ability.
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The regular use of two languages by bilingual individuals has been shown to have a broad impact on language and cognitive functioning. In this monograph, we consider four aspects of this influence. In the first section, we examine differences between mono-linguals and bilinguals in children's acquisition of language and adults' linguistic processing, particularly in terms of lexical retrieval. Children learning two languages from birth follow the same milestones for language acquisition as mono-linguals do (first words, first use of grammar) but may use different strategies for language acquisition, and they generally have a smaller vocabulary in each language than do monolin-gual children learning only a single language. Adult bilinguals typically take longer to retrieve individual words than monolin-guals do, and they generate fewer words when asked to satisfy a constraint such as category membership or initial letter. In the second section, we consider the impact of bilingualism on nonverbal cognitive processing in both children and adults. The primary effect in this case is the enhancement of executive control functions in bilinguals. On tasks that require inhibition of distract-ing information, switching between tasks, or holding information in mind while performing a task, bilinguals of all ages outperform comparable monolinguals. A plausible reason is that bilinguals recruit control processes to manage their ongoing linguistic per-formance and that these control processes become enhanced for other unrelated aspects of cognitive processing. Preliminary evi-dence also suggests that the executive control advantage may even mitigate cognitive decline in older age and contribute to cognitive reserve, which in turn may postpone Alzheimer's disease. In the third section, we describe the brain networks that are responsible for language processing in bilinguals and demon-strate their involvement in nonverbal executive control for bilinguals. We begin by reviewing neuroimaging research that identifies the networks used for various nonverbal executive control tasks in the literature. These networks are used as a ref-erence point to interpret the way in which bilinguals perform both verbal and nonverbal control tasks. The results show that bilinguals manage attention to their two language systems using the same networks that are used by monolinguals performing nonverbal tasks. In the fourth section, we discuss the special circumstances that surround the referral of bilingual children (e.g., language delays) and adults (e.g., stroke) for clinical intervention. These referrals are typically based on standardized assessments that use normative data from monolingual populations, such as vocabulary size and lexical retrieval. As we have seen, however, these measures are often different for bilinguals, both for children and adults. We discuss the implications of these linguistic differences for standardized test performance and clinical approaches. We conclude by considering some questions that have important public policy implications. What are the pros and cons of French or Spanish immersion educational programs, for example? Also, if bilingualism confers advantages in certain respects, how about three languages—do the benefits increase? In the healthcare field, how can current knowledge help in the treatment of bilingual aphasia patients following stroke? Given the recent increase in bilingualism as a research topic, answers to these and other related questions should be available in the near future.
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Grammaticalization is based on universal strategies of conceptual transfer. Contact-induced language change on the other hand is an areally confined process resulting from specific historical events. What this suggests is that the two constitute quite divergent phenomena and, in fact, in the relevant literature they tend to be described as mutually exclusive processes. Accordingly, this literature abounds with discussions on whether some specific grammatical change is due to the former or the latter. The position taken in this paper is that the two are in no way mutually exclusive; rather, perhaps more often than not, they jointly conspire in triggering grammatical change.
Chapter
This chapter aims at an integrative approach to the phenomenon of language interaction, dealing specifically with contact-induced language change within a code-copying framework. It gives a short introduction to this framework, discussing global and selective copying, structural accommodation and adaptation, habitualization and conventionalization. The chapter focuses on frame-changing developments through successive copying processes, problems of typological and genetic classification and the roles of code-internal and extra-linguistic factors.
Book
This volume provides a much-needed, critical overview of the field of constructions and construction grammar in the context of Singapore English, and poses the question of identifying a construction in contact when the lexicon is derived from one language and the syntax from another. Case studies are illustrated in which the possibility of a 'merger'-construction is offered to resolve such problems. The book is intended for students of construction theories, variation studies, or any researcher of contact grammars.
Chapter
Conceptual integration, also called "blending," is a basic mental operation that works over mental spaces and conforms to a set of constitutive principles: a partial cross-space mapping connects some counterparts in the input mental spaces. For example, the girlfriend and the bride are connected in the wedding example. There is a generic mental space, which maps onto each of the inputs and contains what the inputs have in common. In the wedding example, the generic space has a man and a woman engaged in sustained pair bonding. There is a fourth mental space, the blended space, often called "the blend." It is in this space that the man is in the process of marrying his girlfriend. There is selective projection from the inputs to the blend. It is important to emphasize that not all elements and relations from the inputs are projected to the blend. Composition, completion, and elaboration lead to emergent structure in the blend; the blend contains structure that is not copied from the inputs.
Article
It is quite commonplace for bilingual speakers to use two or more languages, dialects or varieties in the same conversation, without any apparent effort. The phenomenon, known as code-switching, has become a major focus of attention in linguistics. This concise and original study explores how, when and where code-switching occurs. Drawing on a diverse range of examples from medieval manuscripts to rap music, novels to advertisements, emails to political speeches, and above all everyday conversation, it argues that code-switching can only be properly understood if we study it from a variety of perspectives. It shows how sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic, grammatical and developmental aspects of code-switching are all interdependent, and findings in each area are crucial to others. Breaking down barriers across the discipline of linguistics, this pioneering book confronts fundamental questions about what a & #x2018;native language & #x2019; is, and whether languages can be meaningfully studied outside of the individuals who use them. © Penelope Gardner-Chloros 2009 and Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Article
The past decade has seen an unprecedented growth in the study of language contact, associated partly with the linguistic effects of globalization and increased migration all over the world. Written by a leading expert in the field, this much-needed account brings together disparate findings to examine the dynamics of contact between languages in an immigrant context. Using data from a wide range of languages, including German, Dutch, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish, Croatian and Vietnamese, Michael Clyne discusses the dynamics of their contact with English. Clyne analyzes how and why these languages change in an immigration country like Australia, and asks why some languages survive longer than others. The book contains useful comparisons between immigrant vintages, generations, and between bilinguals and trilinguals. An outstanding contribution to the study of language contact, this book will be welcomed by students and researchers in linguistics, bilingualism, the sociology of language and education.
Article
This chapter focuses on the difficulties that should be ironed out if the theories of two very much disunited varieties of linguistics, structural and dialectological, are to be brought closer together. In deference to the nonstructural sense of dialect as a type of speech which may itself be heterogeneous, some linguists have broken down the object of description even further to the idiolect level. Structural linguistic theory at present needs procedures for constructing systems of a higher level out of the discrete and homogeneous systems that are derived from description and that represent each a unique formal organization of the substance of expression and content. Dialectology would be the investigation of problems arising when different systems are treated together because of their partial similarity. A specifically structural dialectology would look for the structural consequences of partial differences within a framework of partial similarity.
Chapter
Convergence and divergence are usually defined as changes in opposite directions – convergence increases, divergence decreases interlingual similarities between two given languages or varieties. Additionally, convergence is often explained as the ‘natural’, expectable process in language contact, whereas divergence is associated with psychosocial mechanisms. Based on observations from the recent development of Low German in its present intense contact with High German, this contribution argues that the distinction between convergence and divergence is not as straightforward as it seems and that it is not convergence as such that can be explained without the involvement of any extralinguistic factors, but rather pro-diasystematic change (as opposed to counter-diasystematic change) – i.e. innovations that facilitate the establishment of language-unspecific structures in a common constructional system.
Article
Most societies in today's world are multilingual. ‘Language contact’ occurs when speakers of different languages interact and their languages influence each other. This book is an introduction to the subject, covering individual and societal multilingualism, the acquisition of two or more languages from birth, second language acquisition in adulthood, language change, linguistic typology, language processing and the structure of the language faculty. It explains the effects of multilingualism on society and language policy, as well as the consequences that long-term bilingualism within communities can have for the structure of languages. Drawing on the author's own first-hand observations of child and adult bilingualism, the book provides a clear analysis of such phenomena as language convergence, grammatical borrowing, and mixed languages.
Article
This book presents a profound critique of syntactic theory and syntactic argumentation. Recent syntactic theories are essentially formal models for the representation of grammatical knowledge. These theories posit complex syntactic structures in the analysis of sentences, consisting of atomic primitive syntactic categories and relations. The result of this approach to syntax has been an endless cycle of new and revised theories of syntactic representation. The book argues that these types of syntactic theories are incompatible with the grammatical variation found within and across languages. The extent of grammatical variation demonstrates that no scheme of atomic primitive syntactic categories and relations can form the basis of an empirically adequate syntactic theory. This book defends three theses: (i) constructions are the primitive units of syntactic representation, and grammatical categories are derivative; (ii) the only syntactic structures are the relations between a construction and the elements that make it up (that is, there is no need to posit syntactic relations); and (iii) constructions are language-specific. Constructions are complex units pairing form and meaning. Grammatical categories within and across languages are mapped onto a universal conceptual space, following the semantic map model in typology. The structure of conceptual space constrains how meaning is encoded in linguistic form, and reflects the structure of the human mind.
Article
Two views of bilingualism are presented--the monolingual or fractional view which holds that the bilingual is (or should be) two monolinguals in one person, and the bilingual or wholistic view which states that the coexistence of two languages in the bilingual has produced a unique and specific speaker-hearer. These views affect how we compare monolinguals and bilinguals, study language learning and language forgetting, and examine the speech modes--monolingual and bilingual--that characterize the bilingual's everyday interactions. The implications of the wholistic view on the neurolinguistics of bilingualism, and in particular bilingual aphasia, are discussed.
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