Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2004 14:55:25 +1000 From: Felicity Meakins Subject: The Mixed Language Debate: Theoretical and Empirical Advances
EDITORS: Matras, Yaron; Bakker, Peter TITLE: The Mixed Language Debate SUBTITLE: Theoretical and Empirical Advances PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter YEAR: 2003
Felicity Meakins, Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, University of Melbourne, Australia.
Mixed languages (MLs) were considered an oddity of contact linguistics until Thomason and Kaufman (1988) revisited the challenges they posed. Before then, debate about whether or not MLs actually existed stifled much descriptive work or discussion of their origins. Peter Bakker's 'A Language of Our Own' (1997) provided the first detailed description of a mixed language, Michif. Consequently, the debates surrounding MLs have shifted from questioning their existence to a focus on their formation and structural features. Yaron Matras and Peter Bakker bring together many of the authors who have written on MLs for the past decade in their new book 'The Mixed Language Debate' (2003). This book sweeps across the field of mixed languages, containing restated positions about ML genesis, e.g. Carol Myers-Scotton and Peter Bakker, new data for these old debates e.g. Ad Backus, and new offerings to the ever growing list of these languages, e.g. Thomas Stolz.
In their introduction, Matras and Bakker posit six types of mixed languages based on the ML speakers' knowledge of the source languages, functionality, typology of the structure, and various social factors - plain, conventionalised, special lexicon of foreign origin, radical restructuring, mixed creole and extremely heavy borrowing. They also briefly outline various theories on the emergence of MLs. Matras and Bakker describe 'plain MLs' as those MLs which have a high level of functionality in a language community (ie exist as a L1 in everyday usage) and which have lost contact with the source languages. Michif, which finds its origins in French and Cree is the only example of a plain ML. Though only spoken now by older generations, it has an everyday use for those speakers, and they do not know French or Cree. English is now the main community language.
'Conventionalised MLs' include Mednyji Aleut and Media Lengua. These MLs are usually spoken along side one of their source languages, for example Media Lengua speakers also speak Spanish. Conventionalised MLs also emerge in situations of full bilingualism. Ma'a , Para-Romani dialects, Lekoudesch, Callahuaya and Abdal/Aynu comprise the 'lexicon of foreign origin' category. Like the other categories, these languages mark an in-group identity and arise from situations of mixed parentage, however they are secret in nature and not in everyday use and therefore at the lower end of the functional continuum. For example, Lekoudesch , which mixes a Judeo-German dialect with Ashkenazic Hebrew, is the secret language of Jewish cattle traders in Germany. 'Radical restructures' in languages such as Javindo, which derives from Dutch lexicon and Javanese grammar, exhibit severe genetic ambiguity and a greatly simplified morphological system. Chavacano and Berbice Dutch are classified as 'mixed creoles' .These Spanish and Dutch-based creoles, are also influenced by other languages in the form of vocabulary and some syntactic features. The most marginal group of MLs derive from 'extremely heavy borrowing'. Unlike conventionalised MLs they do not form from situations of bilingualism, and are more easily classified genetically.
In this introduction, Matras and Bakker also outline the three major explanations for the formation of MLs - 'relexification' (Muysken 1981), 'language intertwining' (Bakker 1997), and 'matrix language turnover' (Myers-Scotton 1998). In this outline they raise a number of issues which lead into the articles offered by 'The Mixed Language Debate'. Matras and Bakker (p 15) are particularly interested in whether MLs should be considered cases of language maintenance or shift, whether they are the result of a gradual or rapid processes, the effect of the social situation, whether ML formation is deliberate or conscious, the extent to which formation is predetermined, and the role of code-switching in ML genesis. By outlining the range of mixed languages available for analysis and theory development, this chapter eases the reader into the issues that are developed in the rest of the book The groupings suggested by Matras and Bakker are based fairly broadly on a range of social, typological and genetic features. The one criticism that could be made is that Michif is still posited as the classic ML (reflected in the name 'plain'), the reference point for other MLs. In fact it remains the most unusual instance of a ML with 'conventionalised' and 'special foreign lexicon' groups accounting for a majority of these languages.
In the first chapter, Sarah Thomason considers some of the social factors which may have contributed to the genesis of a mixed language. Most of this material comes from her 2001 book. At the heart of her proposal is the conscious and deliberate nature of formation, and the role of codeswitching. Thomason begins by restating her position on MLs which is broadly defined by the genetic ambiguity of the ML. Under this definition, she includes pidgins and creoles as well as bilingual MLs (referred to elsewhere as just MLs) which are differentiated due to their "particular structural and lexical subsystems [which] are adopted intact from each source language" (p. 22). She then outlines seven mechanisms which she suggests contribute to the development of MLs. Of these, only two are found to affect bilingual ML genesis. Firstly she considers 'codeswitching', which she believes is the most important mechanism in the genesis of Michif (p. 27). Bakker (1997) himself objects to the idea that Michif arose from codeswitching between French and Cree mainly due to evidence which suggests that codeswitching does not occur where only certain categories (e.g. nouns or verbs) are taken from another language. Thomason cites evidence from the codeswitching practises of the Montagnais French (Drapeau 1991), which she argues looks very similar to the structure of Michif. Bakker has also examined this data but maintains that codeswitching was not a factor in Michif's formation. The other mechanism which Thomason proposes as a contributor to ML genesis is the 'deliberate decision' of a speech community. One type of deliberate change suggested is the systematic distortion of a language's lexicon to make it unintelligible to outsiders. Thomason suggests that small speech communities and MLs that emerge abruptly are indicative of a deliberate change. She also links this level of consciousness to the use of MLs as symbols of an in-group identity, whether it be new or an already existing threatened social entity (p. 36). As Thomason acknowledges, the problem with any of these claims is that there is no empirical evidence to support them, and therefore methodological grounds must be resorted to. Thomason has done this to a certain extent, however the progression from, for e.g., codeswitching to an ML is still not as clearly spelt out as other writers such as Carol Myers-Scotton, who restates her own genesis theory in the next chapter.
In "What lies beneath: Split (mixed ) languages as contact phenomena", Carol Myers-Scotton provides a reiteration of her position on the formation of mixed languages (which she calls split languages). Myers-Scotton's approach differs quite radically from Bakker's on the question of language genesis. She considers MLs to be a strong language contact phenomenon, the result of pervasive CS practices. Myers-Scotton classifies MLs based on their morphological structure, rather than a more general lexical/grammatical approach, or a sociolinguistic approach. A distinction is made between early system morphemes and late system morphemes. Both differ from content morphemes in that they neither assign nor receive thematic roles (e.g. noun and verb forms) (p. 77). However early system morphemes pattern with content by specifying the meaning of the phrase head, for e.g., plural marking in English (p. 77). Late system morphemes are structurally assigned by constituents higher than their phrase head. Case marking by verbs in some languages is one such instance (p. 78). These late system morphemes become crucial for Myers-Scotton's classification of MLs. Myers-Scotton believes that MLs are the result of an arrested Matrix Language Turnover, where the shift from the dominance of one language to another in code-switching situations becomes fossilised. The reason it stops is attributable to sociological reasons (p. 90). The result takes one of three forms according to Myers-Scotton - Type A (late system morphemes from the less dominant language are still present), Type B (the less dominant language provides some late system morphemes which may replace those from the dominant language) and Type C (late system morphemes from the less dominant language appear in the dominant language's frame but are reanalysed) (p. 92). Most MLs are classified as Type B MLs. There are only two surprises. Firstly, Media Lengua is not classified as a ML under this system because of the absence of an abstract grammatical structure from both languages (p. 91). Secondly, Michif is classified as a Type C ML and therefore quite marginal. In fact, because Michif retains quite a strict language split between the NP and VP structures, most of the system morphemes retained are early ones. However French verbs integrated into the Cree VP show the dummy element from French as well as Cree inflectional suffixes and the French infinitive form (p. 99). Myers-Scotton suggests that "this form has been re-analysed as a structurally-assigned element (it has a late system morpheme) to fill a grammatical role that Cree requires in VPs" (p. 99). However by Myers-Scotton's reckoning, Michif is quite marginal as a ML. Whilst it is always refreshing to read a ML theory not assuming Michif as the prototypical from, it is seems somewhat problematic that Michif is considered so marginal, particularly when it represents the most intertwined form of a ML presented in the literature. In general, Myers-Scotton has not added much new material to her position on language mixing, however her overview of her position is presented very neatly.
Peter Bakker's article "Mixed languages as autonomous systems" is nicely juxtaposed to the Myers-Scotton article as it provides the other strong position in the debate about the role of code-switching in ML genesis. Bakker sets out on the same program as Myers-Scotton - to classify the corpus of MLs and posit a theory for their formation. Unlike Myers-Scotton, his classification is largely synchronic (based more on typological characteristics which he doesn't relate to his theory of intertwining), and his theory of language genesis presents specific processes for ML formation, unlike Myers-Scotton and others (e.g. Auer 1999) who argue that MLs are the extraordinary result of ordinary processes such as codeswitching. Bakker argues for four types of mixed languages: 1. Intertwined languages (lexical-grammar MLs) e.g. Angloromani and Media Lengua; 2. Converted languages (form-semantic MLs) e.g. Modern Sri Lankan Portuguese; 3. Lexically mixed languages (lexicon A+B ML) e.g. Russenorsk, and 4.Verb-Noun MLs e.g. Michif. Of these, the largest category are the intertwined languages of which there are 25 documented languages, compared with Verb-Noun MLs where only 2 have been noted (p. 125). Perhaps the most interesting part of this paper is his arguments against the codeswitching hypothesis. He provides seven arguments in all, some new some old. He repeats one of his earlier arguments against CS that the codeswitching patterns between source languages do not look like the MLs which have formed from those languages. He wisely glosses over his own egs of CS between Cree and French, which have been presented fairly convincingly in opposition to Bakker's own claims. Instead Bakker uses the example of a Turkish-Romani ML and codeswitching between the source languages (p. 132-33). The most interesting argument against a CS genesis that he presents is typological. Bakker cites work by Muysken (2000). Muysken demonstrates that if an agglutinative language is the matrix language in CS, then the resulting CS will be insertional. On the other hand, if both languages are flectional, alternational CS will be the result. In these cases, you will rarely find L1 stems with L2 endings. Bakker claims that "in mixed languages it makes no difference whether that 'matrix language' is inflectional or agglutinative: the mixed language is invariably insertional (L-G type)" (p. 131). Bakker goes on the re-present his Intertwining Model, first suggested in 1997. He emphasises the social factors (women/men-grammar/lexical split), and admits that ironically enough the model does not account for Michif unless typological features are considered. Whilst Bakker provides social factors, where Myers-Scotton does not, the same question arises. If the language community are not codeswitching between the source languages, what does the language situation look like at the point of intertwining? For example, what are the children of mixed ethnicity speaking to each other and to their parents? The other element missing from this re-presentation of the intertwining theory is the processes by which intertwining occurs. In his 1997 book, he does provide some more explicit processes (p. 211). Whilst his refutation of codeswitching has some strong arguments, more work is needed to provide a convincing alternative.
Yaron Matras' article, "Mixed languages: Re-examining the structural prototype", marks a shift into newer work on MLs. This article examines typological features across seven very different MLs, concentrating on those grammatical categories which are rarely borrowed in situations of standard borrowing. Matras uses these to construct a typology of an ML which differentiates it from standard borrowing. He begins by criticising the grammar/lexicon split ML prototype (p. 152-53), then considers the types of constraints which have been posited for standard borrowing in order to help establish how the structures of MLs are unique. He cites the Swadesh list as a good indicator for judging the extent of lexical borrowing, and a number of grammatical categories such as the copula, in/definite articles, bound TAM verbal markers and sentential negators as structures which have been shown to be rarely borrowed in standard borrowing. Putting lexical borrowing aside, Matras examines many of these grammatical features across a number of mixed languages including traditional gram/lex split MLs such as Media Lengua, NP/VP ML, Michif and secret MLs e.g. Para Romani. He posits a divide between the INFL language and lexifier language which is more well defined than the gram/lex split traditionally used to define MLs. The INFL language, which provides the finite verb inflection, tends to supply rules for word order, and anchors the predicates. It is not unlike, but more specific than Bakker's notion of the grammar language or Myer Scotton's Matrix Language. The lexifier language generally provides the verb roots (Michif being the exception), and modal verbs (p. 165). This patterning is not unlike standard borrowing restrictions, however one main difference is that MLs seem to include "a licence to incorporate classes of grammatical items that are otherwise rarely borrowable" (p. 166). He notes that many grammatical categories are less 'loan proof' in the situation of MLs than in general borrowings. For example, the copula tends to pattern with the INFL-language, where the INFL-language is historically continued, and with the lexifier language where there has been a shift in the INFL-language (p. 167). This article is a renewed attempt to construct a structural prototype for MLs. It looks more closely at the gram/lex split, defining it more rigidly and outlines some interesting "extraordinary" processes which seem to have contributed to MLs.
The final few chapters of this book moves away from the larger theoretical issues of mixed languages to zero in on particular problems, specifically that of the role of speaker intentionality in the formation of a ML. Evgeniy Golovko begins this section with his article, "Language contact and group identity: The role of 'folk' linguistic engineering". Golovko begins by aligning himself with Bakker's notion of language intertwining. He highlights one important distinction between the formation of a creole versus an ML. Golovko suggests that MLs are not formed due to a lack of a communication vehicle, rather ML groups always have two fully functioning languages at their disposal (p. 191). There are other imperatives driving language formation, the most of important Golovko considers to be a conscious and deliberate marking of identity. Golovko supports this claim by examining lexical re-orientation as an example of intentional language manipulation (p.192-96). He posts language re-orientation, along with other contact induced mechanisms which are not controlled by speakers, as an alternative to code-switching as the main process in ML genesis.
Maarten Mous continues with the idea of 'lexical re-orientation' which he calls 'lexical manipulation', in his article, "The linguistic properties of lexical manipulation and its relevance for Ma'a". He also suggests that this sort of process is quite conscious, suggesting it is "the 'conscious' creation of lexical forms that are parallel in semantic and morphosyntactic properties to an existing lexical item in the language" (p. 209). He examines Ma'a as a specific instance of lexical manipulation, noting that Ma'a's lexicon comes from a variety of languages in order to mark it as different from its grammar language Mbugu. Some of the manipulations that have occurred include simple borrowings (into the same morphosyntactic categories such as gender or argument structure) (p. 210-11), the truncation of Mbugu words, adding a dummy vowel, and substituting consonants with marked consonants (p. 214). He goes on to look at lexical manipulation in other language contact situations, for example respect registers, taboo, slang and urban youth languages. He compares these situations with that of MLs to begin constructing a set of lexical manipulation strategies which are similar across these different language situations,. Mous concludes that lexical manipulation "occurs not only in mixed languages but in a variety of situations in which speakers attempt to exercise conscious control over their language' (p. 230).
In "Can a mixed language be conventionised alternational codeswitching?", Ad Backus sets out to answer this question. Backus reviews the arguments against fossilised codeswitching (CS), and concludes that insertional CS could become so conventionalised that it becomes predictable, although MLs do not look enough like CS for this to be the only process at work. However he concedes that alternational CS involves "unbridled variation" (p. 239), and suggests that predictability is an important factor in CS fossilising. He suggests that a ML borne from alternational CS would have to contain lots of converntionalised utterances where the choice of language was predictable (p. 256). This predictability would be on the basis of content not discourse. However, through his own Turkish-Dutch CS data and Hill and Hill (1986) study of Mexicano, Backus finds differences between the functional motivations of alternational and insertional CS. He finds that lexico-semantics motivates CS in insertional CS and pragmatics in alternational CS. Moreover the structural configuration of insertional CS is monolingual, whereas alternational CS requires bilingualism. He concludes by suggesting that alternational CS serves a communicative function through the choice of language, and an ML must contain two languages which do not index anything separately(p. 264).
The final article in this volume, written by Thomas Stolz, considers whether the two languages , Chamorro and Malti should be classified as MLs. Chamorro and Malti are both languages which have been in contact with Romance languages, and undergone significant language change as a result. Chamorro is an agglutinative Austronesian language with features of fusional morphology. It has a VSO word order with a split ergative case system. Malti is an Afro-Asiatic language which is highly fusional with a relatively free word order and a nominative /accusative structure. Stolz examines their grammatical and lexical structures in relation to MLs. He begins with Chamorro. Stolz finds that the grammatical systems of Chamorro and Malti are essentially Austronesian and Afro-Asiatic respectively, with Romance words taking on Chamorro/Malti inflections. In Chamorro he notes some Spanish derivational morphology, and the Spanish gender distinctions. His study of the makeup of Chamorro and Malti lexicons is perhaps more interesting. Bakker and Mous (1994) suggest that languages which exhibit extreme borrowing contain around45% of another language's lexicon, whereas they suggest a figure of 90% for MLs. At the time of their proposal they noted that no languages contained borrowings between 45 and 90%. Stolz provides evidence that Chamorro and Malti exist in this range. He finds that Chamorro contains 55% Spanish lexicon, and Malti, 57% non-Semitic material. However these figures diminish when bilingual synonyms are considered, to the extent that Stolz says "it becomes doubtful whether Chamorro and especially Malti would even qualify as instances of massive borrowing" (p. 292).
CRITICAL EVALUATION The majority of papers draw on a wide ranges of languages identified as mixed in order to debate some crucial issues in the field - ML genesis and the contribution of extra/ordinary social, typological and general language contact processes, the typology of MLs, and the role of speaker group identity and intentionality. This book is not an introductory volume on MLs, however it does represent a wide range of views on these ML issues, which makes it a useful reference for those with an interest in language contact. One trivial, but fundamental problem that arises with representing such a wide field is nomenclature. MLs are variably referred to as mixed languages, fused lects (Auer), split languages (Myers-Scotton) and bilingual mixed languages (Thomason). Some uniformity in the field would avoid reader confusion and necessary explanation at the beginnings of articles.
"The Mixed Language Debate" demonstrates an evolution in the field of mixed language studies. Stolz ends the this 'debate' where it began a decade ago with identification and description of potential MLs (see for e.g. Bakker and Mous 1994). This article also gives an idea of where the field may be heading. Stolz's study is interesting in its inability to satisfactorily classify Malti and Chamorro. It highlights the problem of attempting to compartmentalise and search for homogeneic features of language contact phenomena which are the result of highly varied, and variable social factors. The variation of these languages is probably not unusual, however it is rare for descriptions of MLs to admit to variation of this level. Stolz's focus on extreme variation highlights to need to deal with and classifying this 'mess' rather than merely emphasise the patterns. As more fundamental identification and descriptive work is done, more light will be shed on some of these issues. Unfortunately there is still a certain amount of elitism involved in classifying a language as mixed, such that criteria tend to be restrictive (and sometimes somewhat arbitrary in the case of Bakker and Mous' borrowing scale) rather than inclusive.
REFERENCES Auer, Peter.1999. From Code-Switching via Language-Mixing to Fused Lects: Toward a Dynamic Typology of Bilingual Speech. International Journal of Bilingualism 3: 309-32.
Bakker, Peter. 1987. A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif - The Mixed Cree-French Language of the Canadian Metis. New York: Oxford UP.
Bakker, Peter and Maarten Mous (Eds).1994. Mixed Languages: 15 Case Studies in Language Intertwining. Amsterdam: IFOTT.
Drapeau, Lynn. 1991. Michif Replicated: The Emergence of a Mixed Language in Northern Quebec. Paper presented at the 10th International Conference on Historical Linguistics, Amsterdam.
Muysken, Pieter.1981. Halfway between Quechua and Spanish: The Case for Relexification. In Historicity and Variation in Creole Studies. Ed. A. Highfield and A. Valdman. Ann Arbor: Karoma. 52-78.
Myers-Scotton, Carol.1998. A Way to Dusty Death: The Matrix Language Turnover Hypothesis. In Endangered Languages: Language Loss and Community Response. Ed. Lenore Grenoble and Lindsey Whaley. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Thomason, Sarah. 2001. Language Contact: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP.
Thomason, Sarah and Terrence Kaufman. 1988. Language Contact, Creolization and Genetic Linguistics. Berkley: California UP.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Felicity Meakins is a PhD Student at the University of Melbourne. She is a part of the Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition (ACLA) project, and is working on a mixed language, Gurindji Kriol, which is spoken in Northern Australia. Meakins previously worked with a number of Ngumbin languages in Northern Australia through the Katherine Regional Aboriginal Language Centre.