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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach

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Academic Paper


Title: Language contact outcomes as the result of bilingual optimization strategies
Author: Pieter C. Muysken
Institution: Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Sociolinguistics
Abstract: This paper sketches a comprehensive framework for modeling and interpreting language contact phenomena, with speakers’ bilingual strategies in specific scenarios of language contact as its point of departure. Bilingual strategies are conditioned by social factors, processing constraints of speakers’ bilingual competence, and perceived language distance. In a number of domains of language contact studies important progress has been made, including Creole studies, code-switching, language development, linguistic borrowing, and areal convergence. Less attention has been paid to the links between these fields, so that results in one domain can be compared with those in another. These links are approached here from the perspective of speaker optimization strategies. Four strategies are proposed: maximize structural coherence of the first language (L1); maximize structural coherence of the second language (L2); match between L1 and L2 patterns where possible; and rely on universal principles of language processing. These strategies can be invoked to explain outcomes of language contact. Different outcomes correspond to different interactions of these strategies in bilingual speakers and their communities.

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This article appears IN Bilingualism: Language and Cognition Vol. 16, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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