Language shift occurs when a community of users replaces one language by another, or “shifts” to that other language. Although language shift can and does occur at the level of the individual speaker, it is shift at the level of an entire community that is associated with widespread language replacement and loss. Shift is a particular kind of language loss, and differs from language attrition, which involves the loss of a language over an individual’s lifetime, often the result of aging or of language replacement (as in shift). Both language shift and attrition are in contrast to language maintenance, the continuing use of a language. Language maintenance and revitalization programs are responses to language shift, and are undertaken by communites who perceive that their language is threatened by a decrease in usage and under threat of loss. Language shift is widespread and can be found with majority- or minority-language populations. It is often associated with immigrant groups who take up the majority language of their new territory, leaving behind the language of their homeland. For minority-language speaker communities, language shift is generally the result of a combination of factors, in particular colonization. A nexus of factors—historical, political, social, and economic—often provides the impetus for a community to ceasing speaking their ancestral language, replacing it with the language of the majority, and usually politically dominant, group. Language shift is thus a social issue, and often coupled with other indicators of social distress. Language endangerment is the result of language shift, and in fact shift is its most widespread cause.Since the 1960s there has been ever-increasing interest across speaker communities and linguists to work to provide opportunities to learn and use minority languages to offset shift, and to document speakers in communities under the threat of shift.
Lenore A. Grenoble
The Romance languages, despite their overall similarity, display interesting internal diversity which can be captured only very partially by looking at the six major standard languages, as typological databases often do. This diversity spans over all the levels of linguistic analysis, from phonology to morphology and syntax. Rather than making a long list of features, with no space to go much beyond their mere mention, the article focusses on just four main areas in a little more detail, trying to develop, if minimally, a discussion on their theoretical and methodological import. The comparison with the full-world typological background given by the WALS Online shows that the differences within Romance may reach the level of general typological relevance. While this is probably not the case in their rather mainstream segmental phonology, it surely holds regarding nominal pluralization and the syntax of negation, which are both areas where the Romance languages have often distanced themselves quite significantly from their common ancestor, Latin. The morphological marking of nominal plural displays four values out of the seven recorded in WALS, adding a further one unattested there, namely subtraction; the negation strategies, although uniformly particle-like, cover all the five values found in WALS concerning linear order. Finally, Romance languages suggest several intriguing issues related with head-marking and dependent-marking constructions, again innovating against the substantially dependent-marking uniformity characteristic of Latin.
Marleen Van Peteghem
Comparison expresses a relation involving two or more entities which are ordered on a scale with respect to a gradable property, called the parameter of comparison. In European languages, it is typically expressed through two constructions, comparatives and superlatives. Comparative constructions generally involve two entities, and indicate whether the compared entity shows a higher, lesser, or equal degree of the parameter with respect to the other entity, which is the standard of comparison. Superlatives set out one entity against a class of entities and indicate that the compared entity shows the highest or lowest degree of the parameter. Hence, comparatives may express either inequality (superiority or inferiority) or equality, whereas superlatives necessarily express superiority or inferiority. In traditional grammar, the terms comparative and superlative are primarily used to refer to the morphology of adjectives and adverbs in languages with synthetic marking (cf. Eng. slow, slower, slowest). However, while Latin has such synthetic marking, modern Romance languages no longer possess productive comparative or superlative suffixes. All Romance languages use analytic markers consisting of dedicated adverbs (e.g., Fr. plus ‘more’, moins ‘less’, aussi ‘as, also’) and determiners (e.g., Sp./It. tanto, Ro. atât ‘so much’). Superlatives are marked with the same markers and are mainly distinguished from comparatives by their association with definiteness. Another difference between comparatives and superlatives lies in the complements they license. Comparatives license a comparative complement, which may be clausal or phrasal, and which identifies the standard of comparison. As for superlatives, they license partitive PPs denoting the comparison set, which may be further specified by other PPs, a relative clause, or an infinitive clause. The Romance languages show many similarities with respect to the morphosyntactic encoding of comparatives and superlatives, but they also display important cross-linguistic differences. These differences may be related to the status of the comparative marker, the encoding of the standard marker, ellipsis phenomena in the comparative clause, and the dependence of the superlative on the definite article.
Romance periphrastic passives are valency-reducing constructions, involving detransitivization of the clause which is variously manifested in: (a) the defocusing of the Agent through its suppression or demotion to an oblique adjunct; (b) the topicalization and subjectization of an affected non-Agent; and (c) the stativization of the predicate through the use of dedicated verb forms consisting of an auxiliary and nonfinite verb form (viz., participle) which mark the perfective-resultative aspect of the denoted event. Standard and nonstandard Romance varieties present a wealth of periphrastic passive constructions which exhibit a great deal of microvariation, both within individual varieties and across larger areal groupings, in the various formal dimensions of use, meaning, formation, and distribution of the periphrastic passive. These parameters of varation include, among other things, some quite remarkable degrees of diachronic, diatopic, diamesic, and diastratic variation in the distribution and frequency of individual passive periphrases; the choice of passive auxiliary which, in accordance with various syntactic, semantic, and lexical factors, can variously surface as be, become, stay, have, come, go, see, make, remain/stay, want; the distribution of the defocused Agent, especially in relation to a general preference for the so-called short passive, and variation, both diachronic and synchronic, in the formal marking of the defocused Agent both within and across individual Romance varieties; the range and availability of different arguments to undergo subjectization (Theme/Patient > Recipient/Benefactive); the availability and formal properties of the impersonal-passive which, to varying degrees, may enter into competition with a number of the available passive periphrases; the formal licensing conditions operative on participle agreement, in a number of cases linked to the choice of passive auxiliary and the semantic role of the subjectized argument; and the distribution and availability of formal distinctions in the participle to mark the active–passive opposition.
Louise Esher, Franck Floricic, and Martin Maiden
The term finite morphology corresponds to the morphological expression of person and number and of tense, mood, and aspect in the verb. In Romance languages, these features are typically expressed “synthetically,” that is, in single word forms. These latter generally comprise a ‘root’, usually leftmost in the word, which conveys the lexical meaning of the verb, and material to the right of the root which conveys most of the grammatical meaning. But lexical and grammatical information is also characteristically ‘compressed’, or ‘conflated’ within the word, in that it can be impossible to tease apart exponents of the grammatical meanings or to extricate the expression of lexical meaning from that of grammatical meaning. The range of grammatical meanings encoded in Romance finite verb forms can vary considerably cross-linguistically. At the extremes, there are languages that have three tenses of the subjunctive, and others that have no synthetic future-tense form, and others that have two future-tense forms or no (synthetic) past-tense forms. There can also be extreme mismatches between meanings and the forms that express them: again, at the extremes, meanings may be present without formal expression, or forms may appear which correspond to no coherent meaning. Both for desinences and for patterns of root allomorphy, variation is observed with respect to the features expressed and their morphological exponence. While some categories of Latin finite synthetic verb morphology have been entirely lost, many forms are continued, with or without functional continuity. An innovation of many Romance varieties is the emergence of a new synthetic future and conditional from a periphrasis originally expressing deontic modality.
Balkan-Romance is represented by Romanian and its historical dialects: Daco-Romanian (broadly known as Romanian), Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian (see article “Morphological and Syntactic Variation and Change in Romanian” in this encyclopedia). The external history of these varieties is often unclear, given the historical events that took place in the Lower Danubian region: the conquest of this territory by the Roman Empire for a short period and the successive Slavic invasions. Moreover, the earliest preserved writing in Romanian only dates from the 16th century. Between the Roman presence in the Balkans and the first attested text, there is a gap of more than 1,000 years, a period in which Romanian emerged, the dialectal separation took place, and the Slavic influence had effects especially on the lexis of Romanian. In the 16th century, in the earliest old Romanian texts, the language already displayed the main features of modern Romanian: the vowels /ə/ and /ɨ/; the nominative-accusative versus genitive-dative case distinction; analytical case markers, such as the genitive marker al; the functional prepositions a and la; the proclitic genitive-dative marker lui; the suffixal definite article; polydefinite structures; possessive affixes; rich verbal inflection, with both analytic and synthetic forms and with three auxiliaries (‘have’, ‘be’, and ‘want’); the supine, not completely verbalized at the time; two types of infinitives, with the ‘short’ one on a path toward becoming verbal and the ‘long’ one specializing as a noun; null subjects; nonfinite verb forms with lexical subjects; the mechanism for differential object marking and clitic doubling with slightly more vacillating rules than in the present-day language; two types of passives; strict negative concord; the SVO and VSO word orders; adjectives placed mainly in the postnominal position; a rich system of pronominal clitics; prepositions requiring the accusative and the genitive; and a large inventory of subordinating conjunctions introducing complement clauses. Most of these features are also attested in the trans-Danubian varieties (Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian), which were also strongly influenced by the various languages they have entered in direct contact with: Greek, Albanian, Macedonian, Croatian, and so forth. These source languages have had a major influence in the vocabulary of the trans-Danubian varieties and certain consequences in the shape of their grammatical system. The differences between Daco-Romanian and the trans-Danubian varieties have also resulted from the preservation of archaic features in the latter or from innovations that took place only there.
José Ignacio Hualde
The Romance varieties spoken in the Iberian Peninsula fall into three major groups: Galician-Portuguese, Central Ibero-Romance and Catalan. All these varieties have their origins in the evolution of Latin in the northern fringe of the Iberian Peninsula and spread southward in the Middle Ages. One of the main features that distinguish the Central Ibero-Romance group from its neighbors to the west and east is the diphthongization of /ɛ/ and /ɔ/ from Latin short ĕ and ŏ in stressed syllables (as in tierra ‘land’, puerta ‘door’ vs. Pt. and Cat. terra, porta). Besides Spanish, which historically derives from the evolution of Latin in the original territory of the Kingdom of Castile, the other main Central Ibero-Romance varieties are Astur-Leonese (including Mirandese, in Portugal) and Aragonese. For the medieval period, Old Navarrese Romance is well documented, as is, to a lesser extent, the transitional variety of La Rioja. There are no documents entirely written in Andalusi Romance, the set of Romance varieties spoken in Islamic Spain in medieval times, but we can infer some of its features from short texts and several other sources.
Markku Filppula and Juhani Klemola
Few European languages have in the course of their histories undergone as radical changes as English did in the medieval period. The earliest documented variety of the language, Old English (c. 450 to 1100 ce), was a synthetic language, typologically similar to modern German, with its three genders, relatively free word order, rich case system, and verbal morphology. By the beginning of the Middle English period (c. 1100 to 1500), changes that had begun a few centuries earlier in the Old English period had resulted in a remarkable typological shift from a synthetic language to an analytic language with fixed word order, very few inflections, and a heavy reliance on function words. System-internal pressures had a role to play in these changes, but arguably they were primarily due to intensive contacts with other languages, including Celtic languages, (British) Latin, Scandinavian languages, and a little later, French. As a result, English came to diverge from its Germanic sister languages, losing or reducing such Proto-Germanic features as grammatical gender; most inflections on nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and verbs; verb-second syntax; and certain types of reflexive marking. Among the external influences, long contacts with speakers of especially Brittonic Celtic languages (i.e., Welsh, Cornish, and Cumbrian) can be considered to have been of particular importance. Following the arrival of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from around 450 ce onward, there began an intensive and large-scale process of language shift on the part of the indigenous Celtic and British Latin speaking population in Britain. A general wisdom in contact linguistics is that in such circumstances—when the contact is intensive and the shifting population large enough—the acquired language (in this case English) undergoes moderate to heavy restructuring of its grammatical system, leading generally to simplification of its morphosyntax. In the history of English, this process was also greatly reinforced by the Viking invasions, which started in the late 8th century ce, and brought a large Scandinavian-speaking population to Britain. The resulting contacts between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings also contributed to the decrease of complexity of the Old English morphosyntax. In addition, the Scandinavian settlements of the Danelaw area left their permanent mark in place-names and dialect vocabulary in especially the eastern and northern parts of the country. In contrast to syntactic influences, which are typical of conditions of language shift, contacts that are less intensive and involve extensive bilingualism generally lead to lexical borrowing. This was the situation following the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066 ce. It led to an influx of French loanwords into English, most of which have persisted in use up to the present day. It has been estimated that almost one third of the present-day English vocabulary is of French origin. By comparison, there is far less evidence of French influence on “core” English syntax. The earliest loanwords were superimposed by the French-speaking new nobility and pertained to administration, law, military terminology, and religion. Cultural prestige was the prime motivation for the later medieval borrowings.
André Thibault and Nicholas LoVecchio
The Romance languages have been involved in many situations of language contact. While language contact is evident at all levels, the most visible effects on the system of the recipient language concern the lexicon. The relationship between language contact and the lexicon raises some theoretical issues that are not always adequately addressed, including in etymological lexicography. First is the very notion of what constitutes “language contact.” Contrary to a somewhat dated view, language contact does not necessarily imply physical presence, contemporaneity, and orality: as far as the lexicon is concerned, contact can happen over time and space, particularly through written media. Depending on the kind of extralinguistic circumstances at stake, language contact can be induced by diverse factors, leading to different forms of borrowing. The misleading terms borrowings or loans mask the reality that these are actually adapted imitations—whether formal, semantic, or both—of a foreign model. Likewise, the common Latin or Greek origins of a huge proportion of the Romance lexicon often obscure the real history of words. As these classical languages have contributed numerous technical and scientific terms, as well as a series of “roots,” words coined in one Romance language can easily be reproduced in any other. However, simply reducing a word’s etymology to the origin of its components (classic or otherwise), ignoring intermediate stages and possibly intermediating languages in the borrowing process, is a distortion of word history. To the extent that it is useful to refer to “internationalisms,” related words in different Romance languages merit careful, often arduous research in the process of identifying the actual origin of a given coining. From a methodological point of view, it is crucial to distinguish between the immediate lending language and the oldest stage that can be identified, with the former being more relevant in a rigorous approach to comparative historical lexicology. Concrete examples from Ibero-Romania, Gallo-Romania, Italo-Romania, and Balkan-Romania highlight the variety of different Romance loans and reflect the diverse historical factors particular to each linguistic community in which borrowing occurred.
Across a large part of Asia are found a variety of verb-verb collocations, a prominent subset of which involves collocations typically displaying completive or resultative semantics. Such collocations are found in Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages of South Asia, Turkic and Iranian languages of Central Asia, and in Chinese languages. In South and Central Asian languages, verb-verb collocations usually involve some added aspectual/Aktionsart element of meaning, frequently (though not exclusively) indicating completion of an event and sometimes involving speaker evaluation of the event (e.g., surprise, regret). Thus Hindi Rām-ne kitāb paṛh diyā, literally “John read-gave the book,” with the sense “John read the book out.” In Chinese languages, many verb-verb collocations involve a resultative sense, similar to English “Kim ran herself/her shoes ragged.” However, earlier Chinese verb-verb collocations were agent-oriented, for example, She-sha Ling Gong“(Someone) shot and killed Duke Ling,” where she is “shoot” and sha is “kill.” In Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, and Central Asian languages, we find verb-verb collocations that evolve from idiomaticization and grammaticalization of constructions involving converbs, for example, a collocation meaning “he, having eaten food, left” acquires the meaning “he ate food (completely).” Similarly, the Chinese verb-verb resultatives derive from earlier verb-verb “co-ordinate” constructions (originally with an overt morpheme er: ji er sha zhi “struck and killed him”), which functionally is similar to the role of converbs in South and Central Asian languages. While these Asian verb-verb collocations are strikingly similar in broad strokes, there are significant differences in the lexical, semantic, and morphosyntactic properties of these constructions in different languages. This is true even in closely related languages in the same language family, such as in Hindi and Nepali. The historical relation between verb-verb collocations in different Asian languages is unclear. Even in geographically proximate language families such as Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, there is evidence of independent development of verb-verb collocations, with possible later convergence. Central Asian verb-verb collocations being very similar in morphosyntactic structure to South Asian verb-verb collocations, it is tempting to suppose that for these there is some contact-based cause, particularly since such collocations are much less prominent in Turkic and Iranian languages outside of Central Asia. The relation between South and Central Asian verb-verb collocations and Chinese verb-verb collocations is even more opaque, and there are greater linguistic differences here. In this connection, further study of verb-verb collocations in Asian languages geographically intermediate to Central and South Asia, including Thai, Vietnamese, and Burmese, is required.