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Article

Four types of English exist in Africa, identifiable in terms of history, functions, and linguistic characteristics. West African Pidgin English has a history going back to the 15th century, 400 years before formal colonization. Creole varieties of English have a history going back to repatriation of slaves from the Caribbean and the United States in the 19th century. Second language varieties, which are the most widespread on the continent, are prototypically associated with British colonization and its education systems. L1 (First language) English occurred mostly in Southern and East Africa, and is best represented in South Africa. The latter shows significant similarities with the other major Southern Hemisphere varieties of English in Australia and New Zealand. All four subgroups of English are growing in numbers.

Article

Terttu Nevalainen

In the Early Modern English period (1500–1700), steps were taken toward Standard English, and this was also the time when Shakespeare wrote, but these perspectives are only part of the bigger picture. This chapter looks at Early Modern English as a variable and changing language not unlike English today. Standardization is found particularly in spelling, and new vocabulary was created as a result of the spread of English into various professional and occupational specializations. New research using digital corpora, dictionaries, and databases reveals the gradual nature of these processes. Ongoing developments were no less gradual in pronunciation, with processes such as the Great Vowel Shift, or in grammar, where many changes resulted in new means of expression and greater transparency. Word order was also subject to gradual change, becoming more fixed over time.

Article

André Thibault

The first French colonial era goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries. It encompasses North American territories, the Antilles, and the Indian Ocean. The second colonial era started in the 19th century and ended in the 1960s. It first reached the Maghreb and Lebanon, followed by sub-Saharan Africa, where two colonial powers, France and Belgium, exported the use of French. The last territories affected by the expansion of the French language are to be found in the Pacific.

Article

African American English (AAE) originated from contact between Africans and Whites during slavery. The trajectory of slavery in the United States was different from that in the Caribbean, but in areas where population ratios and time frames were most like those in the Caribbean, a creole language, Gullah, emerged. In other areas, various degrees of creolization may have taken place. As a result, early AAE was not monolithic and included some regional variation. In recordings with former slaves and African Americans born during the last half of the 19th century, the reflexes of AAE’s origins appear in features that have strong parallels with Gullah and Caribbean creoles, including zero copula/auxiliary, monophthongal /e/ and /o/, fully back vowels, and non-front onsets of /au/. As African Americans moved from slavery into farm tenancy, features emerged in AAE that were shared with Southern White vernaculars. These include grammatical forms such as yall and fixin’ to and phonological features like monophthongal /ai/ and the pin/pen merger. However, even as shared features emerged, AAE maintained its distinctiveness by typically not participating in the Southern Shift that affected vowels in Southern White vernaculars. Developments during the Great Migration in the 20th century enhanced AAE’s distinctiveness. During the Great Migration such well-known features as durative/habitual be, ain’t for didn’t, and had + past as a simple past became widespread. AAE, then, is a product both of its unique heritage and the historical and demographic processes that promoted its independent development and also of people who valued (and still value) it as a mode of communication and as an instrument for identity and solidarity.

Article

It is often said that languages for specific purposes (also named special languages or technolects) are the product of a division of labor. Although this concept was introduced only as late as 1776 (by Adam Smith, in An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations), the idea that professions or occupations of all kind are characterized by a particular vocabulary that is not understood by all native speakers was already manifest in the writings of medieval scholars (for instance, in Dante’s De vulgari eloquentia). In the Middle Ages most Romance languages conquered a more or less wide range of domains. The question arose whether they were also appropriate to serve as a medium of scholarship. The disciplines taught at the universities (arts, theology, law, medicine) had a strong Latin tradition; their knowledge was popularized by means of translations, which enriched the vocabulary and the syntactic flexibility of the emerging languages. Thus, the translators—sometimes organized in “schools”—contributed to the elaboration of the target languages and to their emancipation from Latin. Aside from the septem artes liberales, however, a second group of (seven) disciplines without Latin roots (called artes mechanicae) established and introduced mainly native vocabulary typical of the respective occupational fields. During the first centuries of modern times, more and more scholars felt that their mother tongue should take the place of Latin as a means of propagating scholarship and new findings. In the 17th and 18th centuries, French held the lead among the modern languages in nearly all fields of knowledge; it maintained its dominant position among the Romance languages until the second half of the 20th century. On a global level, German was a strong rival in the humanities and several scientific disciplines in the 19th century; for many decades, however, English has been the universal medium of communication in the scientific community. This process has given rise to many discussions about language planning measures to be taken in order to curtail the Anglo-American supremacy. Before the 18th century, special languages did not have a strong impact on the physiognomy of developed languages. In the sphere of academic disciplines, translations of canonical Latin texts entailed a general re-Latinization and, as a consequence, a process of convergence of the Romance languages. The technical languages of trade and artisanry were highly fragmented so that their special vocabulary was used and understood only in limited geographical areas. In the Age of Enlightenment, the growing prestige of experts, on the one hand, and philosophical considerations about the optimization of language(s), on the other hand, led to increasing harmonization efforts on national and supranational levels. Organizations were founded with the purpose of creating and standardizing terminologies for various kinds of subjects (technical products, medicine, etc.). Special languages, far from being homogeneous varieties, are differentiated vertically. Linguists use to distinguish between three levels of communication: specialists inter se (e.g., physician—physician), specialist—skilled worker (physician—nurse), and specialist—layman (physician—patient). Studying how technical terms seep into common language and what changes they undergo during this process is a great challenge for linguists.

Article

The linguistic history of the Italian, French, and Occitan Jewish communities may be reconstructed thanks to the survival of both written records and modern dialects. The situation of the three groups, however, sharply diverges in terms of quality and quantity of the available sources and retention of their linguistic identity after the medieval period. For the Jewish communities of the Italo-Romance area, there is a corpus of medieval and modern texts, mostly in Hebrew script, and with several dialectological inquiries for modern and contemporary dialects. As for the Jewish communities of Northern France, only a limited corpus of medieval written sources exists, because the French-speaking Jews were linguistically assimilated to their respective environments after the 1394 expulsion from the kingdom of France. On the other hand, the records of the Occitan-speaking Jews are scanty for both the medieval and the modern periods, when they apparently maintained a certain amount of linguistic distinctiveness.

Article

The Ibero-Romance-speaking Jews of medieval Christian Iberia were linguistically distinct from their non-Jewish neighbors primarily as a result of their language’s unique Hebrew-Aramaic component; preservations from older Jewish Greek, Latin, and Arabic; a tradition of translating sacred Hebrew and Aramaic texts into their language using archaisms and Hebrew-Aramaic rather than Hispanic syntax; and their Hebrew-letter writing system. With the expulsions from Iberia in the late 15th century, most of the Sephardim who continued to maintain their Iberian-origin language resettled in the Ottoman Empire, with smaller numbers in North Africa and Italy. Their forced migration, and perhaps a conscious choice, essentially disconnected the Sephardim from the Spanish language as it developed in Iberia and Latin America, causing their language—which they came to call laðino ‘Romance’, ʤuðezmo or ʤuðjó ‘Jewish, Judezmo’, and more recently (ʤudeo)espaɲol ‘Judeo-Spanish’—to appear archaic when compared with modern Spanish. In their new locales the Sephardim developed the Hispanic component of their language along independent lines, resulting in further differentiation from Spanish. Divergence was intensified through borrowing from contact languages of the Ottoman Empire such as Turkish, Greek, and South Slavic. Especially from the late 18th century, factors such as the colonializing interests of France, Italy, and Austro-Hungary in the region led to considerable influence of their languages on Judezmo. In the 19th century, the dismemberment of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires and their replacement by highly nationalistic states resulted in a massive language shift to the local languages; that factor, followed by large speech-population losses during World War II and immigration to countries stressing linguistic homogeneity, have in recent years made Judezmo an endangered language.

Article

The geographical varieties of Romanian spoken in Romania, the Republic of Moldova, and adjacent regions are largely mutually intelligible. More important are the differences between these varieties (known as “Dacoromanian”) and the South-Danubian varieties of Aromanian, Meglenoromanian, and Istroromanian, which have been separated from (Daco-)Romanian for a very long time, but qualify as dialects of Romanian from a historical and comparative Romance perspective. Standard Romanian is based on the southern dialect of Dacoromanian, in particular the variety of Muntenia, but also includes features taken from other dialects (e.g., the 3pl imperfect -au, the absence of “iotacism” in verb forms—văd instead of the etymological vă(d)z ‘see.1sg’ < Lat. *uidi̯o < uideō, with the regular sound change -di̯->-dz->-z-). A unified standard language was established around the middle of the 19th century. Some of the differences between the high and the colloquial register of standard Romanian are due to innovations characterizing southern varieties: the demonstrative system (high register acest(a), acel(a) versus colloquial ăsta, ăla), the future (high register voi [inflected] + infinitive versus colloquial o [uninflected] + subjunctive), the use of the infinitive (more restricted in the colloquial register than in the high register), and the presumptive mood (mostly colloquial, representing a modal epistemic specialization of a future form oi + infinitive, which is itself an innovation with respect to voi + infinitive). Some of the features by which substandard varieties differ from the standard language represent innovations: the replacement of the inflectional dative and genitive by prepositional constructions, the change of the relative pronoun care into a complementizer, and the loss of the number contrast in the 3rd person of verbs (the latter representing a recent development, mostly found in the southern varieties, but also in parts of Crişana and Transylvania). The loss of agreement with the possessee on the genitival article al is an innovation that first appeared in the northern dialect and subsequently gained ground across substandard varieties. Northern varieties, especially in peripheral areas (Crişana, Maramureş, northern Moldova), preserve a number of archaic features that disappeared from the standard language, for example, the productivity of verb-clitic word orders (with both auxiliary and pronominal clitics), the use of al-Genitive-N word orders, the conditional periphrases vream + infinitive and reaş + infinitive (the latter in Banat), and, as a widespread phenomenon, the 3sg=3pl homonymy in the perfect auxiliary (in the form o < au). Compared to the colloquial standard language, northern varieties preserve the infinitive better. An innovative feature characteristic of northern varieties is the use of periphrastic forms for the imperfect and pluperfect. As conservative features found in some nonstandard southern varieties, we may cite the use of the synthetic perfect (which in the standard language is restricted to the written register) and the stress on the oblique determiner/pronominal endings (ăstúia vs. ắstuia).

Article

Mikael Parkvall

Pidgin languages sometimes form in contact situations where a means of communication is urgently needed between groups lacking a common code. They are typically less elaborate than any of the languages involved in their formation, and in comparison to those, reduction characterizes all linguistic levels. The process is relatively uncommon, and the life span of pidgins is usually short – most disappear when the contact situation changes, or when another medium of intergroup communication becomes available. In some rare cases, however, they expand (both socially and structurally), and may even nativize, i. e. become mother tongues to their speakers (when they may be re-labelled “creoles”). Pidgins are severely understudied, and while they are often mentioned as precursors to creoles, few linguists have shown a serious interest in them. As a result, many generalizations have been based on extremely limited amounts of data or even on intuition. Some frequently occurring ones is that pidginization is a case of second language acquisition, that power and prestige are important factors, and that most structures are derived from the input languages. My work with pidgins has led me to believe the opposite to be true in these cases: pidgins form through a trial-and-error process, where anything that is understood by the other party is sanctioned, this process is one of collaborative language creation (rather than one involving one group of teachers and one group of learners), and much of what finds its way in the resultant contact language do so independently of what the creators spoke prior to their encounter. As for theoretical implications, pidgins may shed light on which features in traditional languages are necessary for communication, and which are superfluous from the point of view of pure information transmission.

Article

J. Clancy Clements

The Portuguese colonial enterprise has had myriad and long-lasting consequences, not the least of which involves language. The many Portuguese-lexified creole languages in Africa and Asia are the product of Portugal’s colonial past. The creoles to be discussed that developed in Africa belong to two subgroups: the Upper Guinea Creoles (Cape Verdean, Guiné Bissau Creole, Casamance Creole) and the Gulf of Guinea Creoles (Santome, Angolar, Principense, Fa d’Ambô). Among the Asian Portuguese creoles, three subgroups are distinguishable, based on shared linguistic traits: the northern Indian group (Diu, Daman, Korlai), which retains some verbal morphology from Portuguese and distinguishes the subject/object case and informal-formal forms in the pronominal systems; Sri Lanka Creole, which retains less Portuguese verbal morphology but distinguishes the subject/object case and informal-formal forms in the pronominal system; and the East Asian group (Papiá Kristang, Makista), which retains very little, if any, Portuguese verbal morphology and has no informal-formal or subject/object case distinctions in the pronominal systems. Despite these differences, all creoles share a common lexicon, to a large extent, and, to varying degrees, aspects of Portuguese culture.

Article

Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade and Carmen Ebner

Taking a sociolinguistic approach to prescriptivism in English usage, this article presents different methods by which highly frequent usage problems can be analyzed as to their current acceptability. These methods comprise different ways of studying a selected number of well-known items—try and/try to, the placement of only, the split infinitive and the dangling participle—focusing on their treatment in British and American usage guides from the beginning of the prescriptive tradition onward, combined with the application of special elicitation techniques to probe the views of informants. Such a multi-modal approach represents a distinct improvement from earlier attempts at presenting targeted groups of informants with attitude surveys only. By studying representative samples of British and American usage guides, the article shows that attitudes became more lenient across time (though not for all usage problems analyzed), with the sociolinguistic variable age playing an important role in the process, but also that instead of usage guides becoming more descriptive in the course of the history of the tradition, today in effect two trends can be distinguished in the type of usage advice given. While one trend indeed shows an increasingly descriptive approach to the items treated, a continuing proscriptive approach characterizes usage guides published down to the beginning of the 21st century.

Article

Matthew J. Gordon

William Labov (b. 1927) is an American linguist who pioneered the study of variationist sociolinguistics. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Labov studied English and philosophy at Harvard University (BA, 1948) and worked as an industrial chemist for several years before entering graduate school in linguistics at Columbia University in 1961. He completed his PhD in 1964, under the direction of Uriel Weinreich. He worked at Columbia until 1971, when he joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught until his retirement in 2014. Labov’s influence on the field began with research he conducted in graduate school. His study of changing pronunciations on Martha’s Vineyard, the subject of his master’s thesis, introduced a method for observing sound change in progress and broke with tradition by exploring social motivations for linguistic innovations. For his PhD dissertation, Labov carried out a study of dialect patterns on the Lower East Side of New York City. Using a systematic, quantitative methodology, he demonstrated that linguistic variation is socially stratified, such that the use of pronunciation features (e.g., dropping of post-vocalic /r/) correlates with social class, ethnicity, etc. in regular patterns. Labov’s early research was greatly influential and inspired many scholars to carry out similar projects in other communities. The paradigm came to be known as variationist sociolinguistics. Much of Labov’s scholarship seeks to advance our understanding of language change. Historical linguists traditionally study completed linguistic changes, often long after they occurred, but Labov developed a method for examining active changes through a quantitative comparison of speakers representing several generations. This approach produces a new perspective on the change process by revealing intermediate stages. Labov has brought insights from this research to bear on theoretical debates within historical linguistics and the field more broadly. His work in this area has also documented many active sound changes in American English. Among these changes are innovations underway in particular dialects, such as the vowel changes in Philadelphia, as well as broader regional patterns, such as the Northern Cities Shift heard in the Great Lakes states. Throughout his career, social justice concerns have fueled Labov’s research. He has sought to demonstrate that the speech of stigmatized groups is as systematic and rule-governed as any other. He led a pioneering study in Harlem in the late 1960s that shone new light on African American English, demonstrating, for example, that grammatical usages like the deletion of the copula (e.g., He fast) are subject to regular constraints. Labov has served as an expert witness in court and before the U.S. Congress to share insights from his study of African American English. He has also worked to promote literacy for speakers of non-standard dialects, carrying out research on reading and developing material for the teaching of reading to these populations.