By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
EDITOR: Raymond Hickey TITLE: The Handbook of Language Contact SERIES TITLE: Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics PUBLISHER: Wiley-Blackwell YEAR: 2010
Hugo C. Cardoso, Centro de Estudos de Linguística Geral e Aplicada, Universidade de Coimbra
Despite its century-long history, contact linguistics has received unprecedented attention in the past decades, and it is in this context that one must view the publication of ''The handbook of contact linguistics'' (henceforth HLC), edited by Raymond Hickey for the Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics series. While a handbook is essentially a reference work aimed at introducing particular concepts for a given discipline, it is also, by its encompassing nature, an opportunity to capture the current state of that discipline and the directions in which it is moving. HLC first and foremost testifies to the pervasiveness of contact in modern linguistic thinking. It clarifies the extent to which contact linguistics has made, and continues to make, inroads into various subfields of linguistics, and the diversity of linguistic and geographical settings to which it has been applied.
This rather large volume opens with a list of contents, a brief biographical sketch of the 42 contributors, and a short preface. The editor's introductory chapter, 'Language contact: reconsideration and reassessment', begins with a short summary of the development of contact linguistics and its integration into mainstream (Anglophone) linguistics, surveys significant recent contributions to the articulation of contact linguistics with other areas of linguistic research, and identifies a number of recurrent or pending questions in the literature, many of which are addressed in later chapters.
The remainder of the book is divided into 4 different parts. The 6 chapters in Part I, entitled 'Contact and Linguistics', explore the interaction of language contact with several domains of linguistic enquiry. 'Contact explanations in linguistics', by Sarah Thomason, essentially deals with the dichotomy between internal and external explanations for linguistic change, appealing to the notion of multiple causation. The author proposes a set of conditions under which a contact explanation may be considered valid, and goes on to list a set of broad social and linguistic predictors, interpreted as variables whose interaction may help explain certain types of change. In 'Genetic classification and language contact', Michael Noonan sketches the rationale and parameters behind genetic taxonomies of languages, noting how such contact phenomena as creolisation, koineisation or the formation of mixed languages have fuelled the emergence of alternatives to the traditional family tree model. Yaron Matras's 'Contact, convergence and typology' explores both convergence and borrowing (respectively, the replication of pattern and of matter). The phenomenon of convergence, a potential source of typological change, is articulated with grammaticalisation theory and the formation of linguistic areas. The last sections of the chapter are dedicated to matter replication, exploring various structural, semantic-pragmatic and socio-cultural inhibitors or facilitators of borrowing. Bernd Heine and Tania Kuteva's chapter, 'Contact and grammaticalization', argues that contact may either propel or accelerate grammaticalisation processes -- potentially resulting in 'grammaticalisation areas' or metatypy (i.e. wholesale contact-induced change) -- and that, inversely, universals of human conceptualisation (manifested in well-established grammaticalisation clines) constrain the effects of language contact with respect to grammatical replication. In 'Language contact and grammatical theory', Karen Corrigan notes that insights gauged from studies of contact often do not impact mainstream linguistic theory because contact languages are disregarded as exceptional or deviant. Corrigan's arguments are articulated from the perspective of generative theory, with two case studies exploring important topics of generative syntactic research (pro-drop, wh-movement and preposition stranding). Finally, April McMahon's chapter, 'Computational models and language contact', explains how language contact has presented considerable challenges to such endeavours as linguistic taxonomy or the reconstitution of proto-languages, and what solutions have been implemented in recent computational models to tease apart the effects of inheritance and of contact.
In Part II, entitled 'Contact and change', 6 chapters focus on different outcomes of language contact. Raymond Hickey's chapter, 'Contact and language shift', explores the motivation, process and possible effects of language shift. This is amply illustrated with examples from the encounter of English and Irish, not only in terms of their respective roles in the emergence of Irish English, but also with regard to ongoing changes in modern Irish motivated by pressure from English. In 'Contact and borrowing', Donald Winford proposes a conceptual split between 'borrowing' and 'imposition' based on whether the speaker's dominant language is the source or the recipient language. The chapter exemplifies the effect of both social and linguistic constraints on borrowing, and surveys the debate on the borrowability of patterns, before establishing a contrast between borrowing and such contact phenomena as relexification, mixed-language formation and classic code-switching. The latter is readdressed in the following chapter, Penelope Gardner-Chloros's 'Contact and code-switching', which highlights the difficulty of distinguishing code-switches from loans and the diachronic link with mixed-language formation. The author focuses to a large extent on the social significance of code-switching and claims that, depending on concrete social circumstances, it may signal either the decline of one of the contributing languages or the vitality of both. David Britains's chapter, 'Contact and dialectology', goes on to describe how routine dialect contact related to day-to-day mobility may trigger isolated acts of linguistic accommodation and, in turn, form the basis for community-level processes of change. The constrained definition of his topic of enquiry leaves out more radical and extreme forms of contact such as those brought about by mass population displacement, which are said to differ, not so much in terms of the nature of resulting changes as in their degree, and constitute the object of Paul Kerswill's chapter, 'Contact and new varieties'. Here, the formation of new dialects of a transplanted language is discussed from a developmental perspective and articulated with the current debate on the extent to which it may be dependent on social variables. John Holm's 'Contact and change: pidgins and creoles' then describes processes of contact-induced change which go one step further, leading to the creation of new languages. Holm briefly summarises the history of research on pidgins and creoles, the principal theoretical approaches to their formation, and some of the major links between this field of research and the wider field of language contact.
Part III, 'Contact and society', opens with Pieter Muysken's 'Scenarios for language contact'. In this chapter, Muysken defines a number of scenarios (i.e. patterns of community-level responses to multilingualism/contact, such as borrowing, convergence or attrition) in terms of their frequency of occurrence, the social valuation of the languages involved, and potential structural constraints. In 'Ethnic identity and linguistic contact', Carmen Fought looks at instances of language or dialect contact which take place across ethnic boundaries. Through a survey of relevant studies (with particular reference to the U.S.A.), the author notes that significant convergence may result, which is subject to variables such as social relations, nature and depth of contact, or ideology. Peter Trudgill's 'Contact and sociolinguistic typology' assumes contact (or lack thereof) as one of the relevant parameters in the hypothetical correlation between certain linguistic types and certain types of society. The main issue addressed here is the effect of contact on linguistic complexity. Having observed that there is ample evidence of both contact-induced complexification and simplification, Trudgill proposes that the former is often associated with child bilingual acquisition and the latter with adult second-language acquisition. Suzanne Romaine's 'Contact and language death' reminds us that contact may trigger language shift, and that shift is usually at the root of language endangerment and death. The chapter is amply illustrated with examples from around the world, highlighting not only well-established regularities in language attrition, but also some differences and the relative unpredictability of death-by-shift scenarios. The last chapter in this section is Claire Bowern's 'Fieldwork in contact situations', which interprets language contact as both an opportunity and a challenge for fieldwork-based language description. According to the author, linguists engaging with contact settings should be aware of the history of contact and social dynamics at play, devise methods to diagnose shift in progress, and ensure that samples are both representative of the community and socially informed.
All of the remaining chapters constitute Part IV, entitled 'Case studies of contact'. The first of these is 'Macrofamilies, macroareas, and contact', in which Johanna Nichols revisits proposed macrofamilies in an attempt at disentangling the role of inheritance and/or areal diffusion in their formation. Theo Vennemann's 'Contact and prehistory: the Indo-European Northwest' argues for the substratal influence of Vasconic languages on incoming Indo-European languages as the source of such features as vigesimal numeral systems or the use of two copulas. Paul Roberge's 'Contact and the history of Germanic languages' encompasses various historical periods, describing contact between Germanic and Finno-Ugric languages, Germanic and other Indo-European languages, as well as contact within the subfamily.
The case-study section proceeds with a cluster of chapters dedicated to English in contact. Markku Filppula's 'Contact and the early history of English' focuses specifically on the medieval period, surveying the arguments put forth in support of contact scenarios for the development of the English progressive, cleft constructions and relative clause structures. In 'Contact and the development of American English', Joseph Salmons and Thomas Purnell describe the process by which native or immigrant languages have impacted some monolingual varieties of American English. The topic is exemplified with an analysis of certain characteristics of the Upper Midwest dialect. Edgar Schneider's 'Contact Englishes and Creoles in the Caribbean' describes British colonial involvement with the region, with particular emphasis on socio-demographic factors, to explain the formation of its English-lexified Creoles, pointing out the extent to which studies of language contact in the Caribbean have shaped current theories of creolisation. Highlighting the sociolinguistic heterogeneity of the Asian settings of English use, Umberto Ansaldo selects Singapore as an illustration for his chapter 'Contact and Asian varieties of English'. Ansaldo approaches the development of Singlish from an evolutionary perspective of language change, and makes the particular claim that typological congruence impacts the outcome of language contact. Rajend Mesthrie then zooms in on Africa in 'Contact and African Englishes'. After a brief survey of the chronology of English contacts in Africa and the formation of pidgins and creoles around the continent, Mesthrie describes some features of modern-day Sub-Saharan varieties of English (especially from the Bantu sphere) potentially motivated by substratal transfer. The author clarifies that, in addition to more classical contact processes, modern varieties also show the hallmarks of mass tutored second-language acquisition.
The remaining chapters revolve around non-Germanic languages. Joseph Eska's 'Contact and the Celtic languages' explains that, despite the evidence of contact in the pre-history of Celtic both in continental Europe and the British Isles, contact explanations have been most often invoked in reference to certain non-Indo-European features of Insular Celtic. As an illustration, Eska describes the classical debate on whether the substratum of Insular Celtic may have been Afro-Asiatic. In 'Spanish and Portuguese in contact', John Lipski surveys the geographical dispersion of Castilian Spanish and of Portuguese around the world, and proceeds with an analysis of a few contact-induced linguistic features in different varieties of the two languages. Examples for Spanish are selected from diverse ecologies in diverse parts of the world (e.g. the Andes, North America, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Gibraltar, Equatorial Guinea), but the only varieties of Portuguese mentioned involve contact with Spanish across the Brazilian border. 'Contact and the development of the Slavic languages', by Lenore Grenoble, clarifies the extent and diversity of contact undergone by the Slavic languages in different moments of their history, and the role of contact in their diachronic individuation. Various concrete cases are discussed, involving contact not only with non-Slavic languages, but also within the subfamily. Grenoble mentions the hypothesis of Finno-Ugric substratal transfer in the formation of Russian, which is then readdressed in Johanna Laakso's 'Contact and the Finno-Ugric languages', alongside other instances of contact involving these languages. It should be clarified that, in this chapter, Laakso applies the 'Finno-Ugric' label not only to the subfamily of languages commonly subsumed under this designation, but to the entire Uralic family. The author notes that most Finno-Ugric languages are presently minority languages in their respective locations, a situation which has led to convergence as well as obsolescence. Brian Joseph's 'Language contact in the Balkans' introduces the Balkan Sprachbund, its major participants, and typological commonalities. Based on the distribution of Balkanisms across the region and socio-historical evidence of multilingualism, Joseph then debates the mechanisms of contact involved in the formation of this particular linguistic area. In 'Contact and the development of Arabic', Kees Versteegh explores the role of contact in the evolution of Arabic in the Arabian Peninsula and, especially, in the individuation of Arabic spoken vernaculars in the wake of its expansion. Versteegh also dedicates some attention to the role of Arabic as a lingua franca and the formation of Arabic-lexified contact varieties (viz. Ki-Nubi and Bongor Arabic), as well as patterns of change in diasporic Arabic-speaking communities. Lars Johanson's 'Turkic language contacts' describes intra- and extra-family contact settings across the length and breadth of the Turkic-speaking world, from the Balkans to Siberia, and also in the diaspora. Case studies revolve mostly around loanwords and their phonological/morphosyntactic adaptation to the recipient language. Marianne Mithun's 'Contact and North American languages' covers a genetically diverse group of languages and a region with several well-established linguistic areas. Mithun invokes diffusion to explain the prevalence of certain typologically-rare morphological features among these languages. Another genetically diverse region within which specific Sprachbünde have been identified is Africa, which constitutes the topic of G. Tucker Childs's 'Language contact in Africa: a selected review'. The author illustrates the extent of language contact in the continent with particular reference to the encounter and competition of the Atlantic and Mande branches of Niger-Congo in coastal areas between Senegal and Liberia, with the formation of pidgins and creoles, and the emergence of urban varieties in South Africa and Guinea. Brigitte Pakendorf's 'Contact and Siberian languages' describes instances of contact in this vast region. The discussion covers contact between Siberian languages (with particular focus on Evenki) in the pre-colonial and colonial periods, their interaction with Russian, and the formation of contact varieties. As one of the classical Sprachbünde and the object of pioneering studies of language contact, South Asia finds its rightful place in this volume through Harold Schiffman's chapter 'Language contact in South Asia', which places great emphasis not only on processes of convergence, pidginisation and creolisation, but also on areal patterns of (contact-induced) grammaticalisation. In 'Language contact and Chinese', Stephen Matthews starts by exploring the role of contact and substratal transfer in the individuation of modern Chinese varieties, and their ongoing interactions. Matthews also describes the role of Chinese in the formation of contact varieties in China and elsewhere (e.g. Chinese Pidgin English, Macanese Creole, Hawaiian Pidgin English), in code-mixing, and as a lexical donor to various languages. Patrick McConvell's 'Contact and indigenous languages in Australia' describes pre-colonial Australia as a region of many languages spoken by relatively small populations and how resulting structural and lexical diffusion poses a difficulty for the genetic classification of Australian languages. McConvell also discusses the formation of pidgins and creoles, as well as the development of indigenous Australian varieties of English and contemporary contact phenomena. William Foley's chapter focuses on 'Language contact in the New Guinea region', an area defined here as the non-Austronesian-speaking Pacific Northwest. This being a region where multilingualism has traditionally been valued as an accomplishment, it is also a zone of intense contact among 'Papuan' languages with languages of a different extraction (such as Austronesian). Foley discusses several products of contact in the region -- including borrowing, metatypy and pidginisation -- and highlights the urgency of conducting research in this linguistically rich and volatile part of the world. Lastly, Jeff Siegel's 'Contact languages of the Pacific' describes the rich history of contact in this highly diverse region, focusing particularly on the contact-induced development of new languages and dialects. Various case studies exemplify contact among the region's indigenous languages, and also between Pacific languages and relevant colonial and/or immigrant languages, from New Guinea to Hawai'i.
An Author Index and a Subject Index round off the volume.
HLC congregates many of the leading specialists in the study of language contact, scholars who, on account of their active research agendas, are uniquely poised to comment on recent developments in their respective areas of enquiry. As most other handbooks, this one is likely to be consulted not only by specialists, but also by non-specialists expecting a review of the state-of-the-art in a format that privileges scope and approachability over detail. In general, HLC will not disappoint, even if there is some variation in the tone and depth of the various chapters: while some are rather theoretical in nature, others are essentially descriptive; while some authors opt for a balanced review of different theoretical proposals or contact settings, others select one or a few to explore in more detail by way of illustration. The volume is well edited and produced, with remarkably few typos and an attractive layout. Chapters are designed as self-contained units, with a list of references at the end of each one. However, very few include a list of abbreviations, and there is also no general list for the entire volume, which at times may obscure the interpretation of glosses. Considering the amount of languages and toponyms mentioned, I find that the book would also have profited from the inclusion of more maps. The final indices are comprehensive and accurate, allowing the reader to easily locate references to particular concepts, languages and authors.
The publication of HLC adds to the rapidly expanding literature on language contact. Because of its nature, there is no unified 'thesis' or 'proposal' to be assessed. What becomes clear from reading it is that language contact is firmly established as a central aspect of linguistic research, with ramifications into a growing number of sub-disciplines. It is striking that, in addition to the study of languages on which the hallmark of contact is especially conspicuous (such as pidgins, creoles, or new varieties of colonial languages), contact linguistics now accommodates more nuanced analyses pertaining, for instance, to dialect contact or bilingual first-language acquisition.
A few earlier handbooks have had a considerable contact component; in the Blackwell series alone, these include, e.g., Coulmas (1996), Chambers et al. (2002), Kachru et al. (2006), and Kouwenberg & Singler's (2008) “The handbook of pidgin and creole studies''. Their scope is, however, either more circumscribed or considerably different from that of HLC. A few introductory course books such as Thomason (2001) and Winford (2003) also take a global look at the field, although these are by necessity shorter and typically privilege the detailed exploration of select case-studies for the benefit of the students. The only publication I am aware of which is comparable to HLC in scope and format is the 2-volume, trilingual ''Kontaktlinguistik/Contact Linguistics/Linguistique de contact: Ein internationales Handbuch zeitgenössischer Forschung/An international handbook of contemporary research/Manuel international des recherches contemporaines'' (Goebl, Nelde, Starý & Wölck, 1997). While it is by no means the purpose of this review to compare the two handbooks, one should note basic similarities and differences in order to assess the pertinence of the book under review. HLC has, in principle, the advantage of presenting more recent data and, for readers fluent in English but not in German and/or French, that of being entirely written in English. Goebl et al. (1997) is a much larger publication and involves more contributors. It features shorter chapters which make finer distinctions, especially with regard to the interaction between language contact and other scientific disciplines, the social significance of language contact, or the methodology of research in contact settings. While the chapters of HLC are generally broader, they still introduce new and/or deeper explorations of certain topics, such as grammaticalisation, typology or dialect contact. Descriptive chapters in HLC are organised either around a particular language, a language (sub-)family, or a geographical unit. When it comes to the selection of case studies, HLC has a slight bias toward contact settings involving English, which is probably justified by the language in which the book is written and the intended readership. Some readers may find that other equally relevant languages (e.g. French or Malay) are underrepresented, and others may take issue with the absence of specific studies on certain regions (e.g. South America or Southeast Asia); but this does not detract from the fact that the editor aimed for wide geographical representation. And here, in my opinion, resides its most important innovation, given that the case-study volume of Goebl et al. (1997) is really circumscribed to the European continent. The two handbooks do differ substantially in certain respects and, therefore, there is good reason to treat them as complementary sources.
In my view, HLC's greatest achievement is that of presenting an extraordinary wealth of information -- with particular emphasis on the description of different contact languages and contact ecologies -- in an approachable and manageable format. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone seeking a first approach to specific aspects relating to language contact, and I suspect teachers and students at universities around the world will find the book especially useful. In addition, specialists will also find plenty of food for thought in the pages of this book, including some theoretical tools and discussions relevant for the general advancement of the field. HLC also provides researchers with easy access to a host of arguments and case-studies with which to complement their own studies, as well as the appropriate bibliographical references to pursue them in more detail.
Chambers, J. K., P. Trudgill & N. Schilling-Estes (eds). 2002. The Handbook of Language Variation and Change. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Coulmas, F. (ed). 1996. The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Goebl, H., P. H. Nelde, Z. Starý & W. Wölck (eds). 1997. Kontaktlinguistik/Contact Linguistics/Linguistique de contact: Ein internationales Handbuch zeitgenössischer Forschung/An international handbook of contemporary research/Manuel international des recherches contemporaines, 2 vols. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Kachru, B., Y. Kachru & C. L. Nelson (eds). 2006. The Handbook of World Englishes. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Kouwenberg, S. & J. V. Singler (eds). 2008. The Handbook of Pidgin and Creole Studies. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Thomason, S.G. 2011. Language contact: An introduction. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.
Winford, D. 2003. An introduction to contact linguistics. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Hugo Cardoso is a researcher at the CELGA (Centro de Estudos de Linguística
Geral e Aplicada) of the University of Coimbra, Portugal. His research has
concentrated mostly on the documentation and description of the
Portuguese-lexified Creoles of Asia, with particular focus on India.