Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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EDITORS: Tent, Jan; Geraghty, Paul TITLE: Borrowing SUBTITLE: A Pacific perspective SERIES: Pacific Linguistics PUBLISHER: Pacific Linguistics YEAR: 2004
Simon Musgrave, Linguistics Program, Monash University
DESCRIPTION AND SUMMARY
This volume is a collection of sixteen papers all (except perhaps one - see below) concerned with lexical borrowing in languages spoken in the Pacific region. Most of the papers deal with borrowing into languages from the Oceanic sub-group of the Austronesian language family, but two papers discuss borrowing in non-Austronesian languages spoken in Fiji. In the following discussion, all languages referred to are Oceanic languages, unless specifically identified as belonging to some other grouping. Three of the papers have been published previously (Biggs, Clark and Milner), the remainder are either new or represent a substantial reworking of previously published material.
Biggs' paper (originally published in Lingua vol.14:383-415 ) remains a classic in the literature on Oceanic languages. Its meticulous examination of directly and indirectly inherited words in the Rotuman language is an object lesson in how it is possible to identify borrowed words even when they come from related languages.
Clark (originally published in Halim et al 1982) examines borrowing in the Ifira-Mele language (Vanuatu), and addresses the question of why borrowing takes place. Clark suggests that some borrowing is 'necessary', in the sense that contact between cultures causes the need for words to denote new artefacts and concepts. Other borrowing is, however, 'unnecessary', in that the needed words already exist in the target language but a new word is nevertheless borrowed. Clark suggests that this second type of borrowing still requires explanation, although he is unable to provide a solution.
Crowley's paper is a response to the argument of Mühlhäusler (1996), that the structural integrity of Pacific languages is threatened by borrowing, and that the languages which survive will become local relexifications of European structures. Crowley presents evidence from the Sye language (Vanuatu) to show that restructuring has indeed been caused by loan words, but that it is not necessarily in the direction of English, the main source for borrowings. He also points out that attempting to protect minority languages from outside influences means preventing the speakers from interacting with the modern world on their own linguistic terms.
Early discusses the strategies by which borrowed verbs are integrated into the language of Epi Island (Vanuatu). Loan words which were originally verbs or adjectives are treated consistently in these languages. Across the six languages of the island, borrowed verbs are barred from appearing in the structure typical of native verbs, in which the verb has an obligatory subject-referencing prefix and optional suffixes. Instead, borrowed verbs always follow a native copula, which carries any morphology needed. Early notes the parallel with the behaviour of borrowed nouns, which are also barred from appearing in a structure which would require them to be morphologically modified, the so-called directly-possessed form (see Crowley 1996 for discussion of possession in Oceanic languages). He further suggests that the remarkable parallelism across the six languages in their treatment of loans should be attributed to borrowing amongst the languages, most likely by way of one acting as a lingua franca.
The paper by Geraghty uses linguistic evidence to establish which plant names in Polynesian languages, especially Fijian, are loan words. These borrowings in turn are argued to support the idea that in prehistoric times there was greater mobility amongst Pacific populations than is often thought to be the case. Geraghty gives convincing evidence that a sizeable number of Polynesian plant names are indeed loans. He follows Clark in distinguishing between 'necessary' and 'unnecessary' borrowings, and offers examples of both types. Methodologically, Geraghty suggests that 'the most valuable service provided to the study of prehistory by historical linguistics is not reconstruction per se, but the detection of borrowings that is made possible by reconstruction' (p65).
Geraghty is also co-author of a paper, with Tent, which establishes that a small number of Dutch words (six or seven) were borrowed into Polynesian languages in the early stages of contact with Europeans. The authors provide convincing evidence that the earliest European linguistic influence in Polynesia is not English but Dutch (both are West Germanic languages), and that such influence predates Cook's voyages by at least a century. The authors also present evidence which shows that the borrowed words then spread through Polynesia, again before Cook's arrival, and therefore provide additional evidence for Geraghty's position (discussed above) that inter-island voyaging was extensive in Polynesia before European contact.
Harlow's paper provides a survey of borrowing as it has affected the Maori language. He examines three periods in detail: the arrival of Polynesian people in New Zealand about 1000 years ago, the period of contact with Europeans (effectively from the latter half of the eighteenth century), and the revitalization activities since about 1980 (which Harlow calls 'the Maori renaissance'). Harlow shows that different pressures acted on the language in each of these periods, and that outcomes were therefore different. Adaptation of existing lexical resources was the common strategy in the first period, while borrowing was the dominant strategy in the second period, with many English words being adopted. In more recent times, there has been a conscious purism operating in Maori language planning. This has meant that borrowing from English has not been favoured as a strategy for expanding vocabulary in the third period, and Harlow also briefly discusses some of the alternative strategies.
Hollyman's brief paper examines names used in New Caledonia which contain some reference to the putative origin of the item. An example of such a name is the French (Romance) _persil chinois_ for 'coriander'. With examples from local French varieties as well as indigenous Pacific languages, Hollyman shows that these names emphasize exoticism, but exoticism understood in a non-European way.
In his fascinating paper, Langdon examines the linguistic evidence for the presence of non-Polynesian people on Futuna (north east of Fiji) before European contact. The impetus for such a study comes from a well-established tradition on Futuna concerning the Tsiaina people, the name clearly being an adaptation of 'China'. Langdon shows that there is good linguistic evidence to give this tradition an historical foundation, as well as evidence from cultural innovations. He argues that the Tsiaina had nothing at all to do with China, but possibly came from the Sangir Islands close to Sulawesi. A consequence of this research for linguists is that evidence from Futuna used in reconstructing Proto-Polynesian may not be as reliable as previously thought.
Studies of borrowing, unsurprisingly, concentrate on actual instances where a word has been taken from one language into another language. Lynch's paper, in contrast, discusses two situations in which, on the basis of the historico-social situation, extensive borrowing might have been expected but did not eventuate. The Melanesian creole Bislama underwent much of its development as a result of recruitment of people from Vanuatu for plantation labour, ships' crews and the sandalwood trade. Many people from southern Melanesia, particularly the Loyalty Islands and the current Tafea province, were recruited, but the languages of these two areas have had negligible impact on the lexicon of Bislama. Again, German presence in Samoa was significant, but there are only small numbers of German (West Germanic) loans in Samoan, either in the current language or as obsolete words previously recorded. In the first case, Lynch suggests that the phonologies and phonotactics of the possible source languages were such as to make borrowing difficult. He suggests that the southern people were also looked down on and that therefore words from their languages would have had low prestige. In the Samoan case, the difference in linguistic attitudes of the German administrators and the contemporary English missionaries led to English being a significant source of new words in preference to German.
Milner (originally published in Lingua, vol 14:416-430 ) examines some sets of doublets in Oceanic languages. He considers first the reflexes of palatal consonants, which posed problems for Dempwolff (1934-38). The doublets seem amenable to explanation as reflexes of pairs of words in the proto-language with consonants which either are pre-nasalised or are not. However, Dempwolff rejected this explanation due to the more limited distribution of homorganic nasal clusters in his reconstructed Proto-Indonesian in comparison to Oceanic. Milner gives additional evidence, and extends the argument to other (non-palatal) consonants in order to suggest that pre-nasalisation appears to have been an option for all consonants, at least in initial position, at some stage in the history of the Austronesian languages. His position is that the languages of the Oceanic branch, and also Malagasy (Western Malayo-Polynesian), are conservative in this respect. Dempwolff's tendency to place greater weight on evidence from the western branch of the family misled him in dealing with this problem.
Samoan, which is briefly discussed in Lynch's paper, is the focus of the paper by Mosel which gives an overview of borrowing into that language. There are two areas of variation in the language which have interesting consequences for the phonological treatment of borrowed words. Firstly, there are two registers of the language, one of which consistently replaces the phoneme /t/ with /k/. The differentiation is socio-cultural: the K-register is associated with indigenous Samoan culture. Borrowed words therefore often have different forms in the two registers. For example, the English word 'teapot' becomes _tipoti_ in the T-register, but _kipoki_ in the K- register. However, some words with an original /t/ (or /d/) are commonly used in the T-register with a /k/. Mosel suggests that use of /k/ hides the English origin of the word, and is used to indicate that a word has been fully integrated into Samoan culture. Similar considerations apply to the treatment of /r/ in loan words. Samoan historically has no phoneme /r/, and this sound would be expected to become /l/. However, the actual results are more complex. There is a tendency for the T-register to retain /r/ and for the K-register to prefer /l/, but there are words which retain /r/ in both registers and other words which have /l/ in both. Mosel suggests that the explanation is again cultural: /r/ is retained for words which connote Christianity and European concepts, regardless of register, while use of /l/ indicates that a concept is considered as part of everyday Samoan life.
(The following summaries deviate from the published order, which is by author's surname. Sperlich's paper therefore appears between Schütz and Tent.)
Sperlich's paper discusses borrowing in the Niuean language under two heads: borrowing before and after European contact. The first topic is of interest as the position adopted by most scholars (e.g. Clark 1979) is that Niuean is a Tongic language, but with features which suggest the possibility of other influences. Sperlich examines in some detail the evidence proposed (especially by McEwen 1970) for borrowings from Eastern Polynesian into Niuean, and concludes that almost all the putative examples can be explained adequately by factors internal to Niuean. He therefore concludes that there is little support for extensive contact between Niue and Eastern Polynesia. After European contact, Samoa was an important influence as Christianity came to Niue via Samoa. Religious language therefore shows a strong Samoan influence, but there was little impact in the everyday language. After 1900, Niue was under the control of the British and then of New Zealand. Influences then came from the Cook Islands (that is Rarotonga), from Maori, and of course from English. The first two of these have left traces in contemporary Niuean, but the major impact is from English, to the extent that Sperlich believes that the Niuean language is endangered.
Three papers (by Mugler, Schütz and Tent) deal with the complex linguistic ecology of Fiji, where the indigenous Fijian language co- exists with English and a variety of Hindi (Indo-Aryan), as well as several other languages with small speaker communities. Mugler discusses the role of Hindi and other Indian languages, both as sources for borrowing and as receptors. Fijian Hindi is the dominant language of the substantial Fijian population of Indian ethnic background, although the Dravidian languages Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam are also present. The imbalance between Hindi and the others is seen in the fact that although the Dravidian languages have borrowed some Hindi words, there has been little or no borrowing in the opposite direction (or from Dravidian languages into Fijian or English). Mugler also argues that loans from Fijian or English have only reached the Dravidian languages via Fijian Hindi. Mugler's other focus is on the vector of some early borrowings from English into Fijian Hindi. She suggests that some of these may have occurred in India, before the indentured Indian labourers were brought to Fiji, and that they therefore are more properly considered as items contributed to Fijian Hindi, viewed as a koiné, by one of its source languages.
Schütz's paper examines English words borrowed into Fijian, and offers an account of the process of assimilation which takes prosody to the primary consideration. Fijian favours simple syllable structures without consonant clusters or codas; this is of course rather different to English phonotactic patterns. Schütz argues that, in adapting English patterns to Fijian, the crucial unit of analysis is what he terms 'measure'. Prosodic fit is accomplished ''not with individual consonants or vowels, or with syllables, but with a larger unit that is determined by accent'' (p263). (This description suggests to me that what Schütz calls 'the measure' is very similar to what many phonologists call 'the foot'.) The process of matching between the two languages works with these units; the assimilated Fijian word need not have the same number of syllables as the English source, but it should have the same number of accented units. Schütz gives numerous examples of how this process works. He also exemplifies the correspondences which are seen at the segmental level, and shows that where Fijian phonotactics require an additional vowel, the quality of the vowel can often be predicted from the preceding consonant. In recent data, Schütz finds examples of loan words in Fijian publications spelt more according to English phonotactics, that is with final consonants and consonant clusters. Such data raise the question of the relation between orthography and phonology: do these new examples show that the Fijian system is changing under the pressure of English?
Finally, Tent's paper examines borrowing into Fijian English. Although English is the first language of only a very small proportion of the population (less than 2%), it has disproportionate influence as the main language of education, administration and the media, and is widely used as a lingua franca. Tent argues that the overall structure of the lexicon of Fijian English is similar to that of other post-colonial varieties of English. It is, however, unique because of the mix of sources which has contributed to its current state. In common with other Pacific varieties of English, it has nativised many indigenous words. And it shares the contribution of Hindi with varieties spoken in other former colonies where indentured labour was used. But the combination of these two factors is only found in Fiji. One phenomenon to which Tent draws attention, and which he suggests is often overlooked, is that of reborrowing. This occurs where a word has been borrowed from English to Fijian and nativised, and that form is then borrowed back into Fijian English, often with a semantic shift. An example of this process is the English word 'threepence', which is nativised in Fijian as _ciriveni_. This form has now been borrowed into Fijian English with the meaning 'miserly'. Tent also notes the presence of calques and hybrids in Fijian English and that the influence of Fijian in Fijian English is much greater than that of Hindi, not surprising given that the Indian community arrived in Fiji well after contact with Europeans commenced.
This collection is a valuable source of information for scholars interested in language contact phenomena, and especially lexical borrowing. Although the studies here are restricted to a specific geographical area which is populated mainly by speakers of languages from a single family, there is nevertheless sufficient variety in the histories and social situations of the various languages discussed to ensure that each paper makes a distinct contribution. There are possible contributions which one can think of and regret not having, for example a paper on the Hawaiian situation and one on borrowing into New Zealand English, but the range of the collection as it stands is wide. The re-presentation of three previously-published papers in a relatively accessible location is another excellent feature of the book.
My only reservation about this volume is that it gives the impression of being under-edited. By this, I do not mean that the physical presentation is problematic (there are some distracting typographical errors, but not a huge number); rather I mean that the editors' intention appears to have been to minimize their presence. There is no introduction to the collection and the contributions are arranged according to the authors' surnames. As regards the first point, I would have welcomed some editorial overview of the linguistic situation of the region, as varied as it is, and some indication of the contribution which the editors saw each paper as making. For example, I would have been very interested in their ideas as to why the paper by Milner was included. To this reader at least, this is an important paper on comparative Austronesian linguistics, but one with little to say directly about borrowing. And as to the second point, the relationships between the papers might have been clarified by a more thematic ordering. For example, as implied by my re-ordering for summarisation above, in the case of the papers about Fiji, the purely alphabetical organisation obscured the relationships between the papers. Perhaps the reviewer's strategy of reading the volume from beginning to end is unnatural in the case of such a book. However, if the typical reader will approach such a collection looking for specific information relating to a single theme, then the case for a thematic organisation is all the stronger.
Clark, Ross (1979) Language. In J. D.Jennings (ed) The prehistory of Polynesia, 249-270. Cambridge MA/London: Harvard University Press.
Crowley, Terry (1996) Inalienable possession in Paamese grammar. In Hilary Chappell and William McGregor (eds) The grammar of inalienability: a typological perspective on body part terms and the part-whole relationship, 3-30. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Halim, Amran, Lois Carrington and S.A. Wurm (eds) (1982) Papers from the Third International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. Vol.3, Accent on Variety. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
McEwen, J. M. (1970) Niue Dictionary. Wellington: New Zealand Government Printer.
Mühlhäusler, Peter (1996) Linguistic ecology: language change and linguistic imperialism in the Pacific region. London and New York: Routledge.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Simon Musgrave is a post-doctoral fellow at Monash University, working in the project Endangered Maluku Languages. His research interests include the languages of Maluku, Austronesian syntax and typology, non-derivational models of grammar, and computational tools for linguistics.