1-11 of 11 Results  for:

  • Language Families/Areas/Contact x
  • Historical Linguistics x
  • Sociolinguistics x
Clear all


African Englishes From a Sociolinguistic Perspective  

Rajend Mesthrie

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.


French Outside Europe  

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.



Christoph Winter

Frisian is a West Germanic language that is indigenous to the southern coastal region of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany. In the early 21st century, it was spoken by around 400,000 inhabitants of the Dutch province of Friesland, by up to 1,000 speakers in the German municipality of the Saterland, and by an estimated 4,000 people in the German district of Nordfriesland. Corresponding to the geographical separation of these areas, which is the result of a complex historical process involving several migration events and language shifts, the Frisian language is traditionally divided into three dialect groups: West Frisian, East Frisian (Saterlandic), and North Frisian. They share common Frisian features, like the presence of two classes of weak verbs. Nevertheless, they are also characterized by individual innovations and various degrees of influence from different contact languages, which explains why they are no longer mutually intelligible. All three dialects are fully recognized as minority languages but differ in terms of their sociopolitical status. While West Frisian appears to occupy a moderately strong position in society—as it is not only recognized as the second official language of the Netherlands but also has access to higher domains and enjoys a considerable amount of constitutional support—the same does not apply to the other dialects. North Frisian and Saterlandic are mostly, if not entirely, confined to lower domains and attempts to extend their use have been only moderately successful. Considering the number of speakers, West Frisian is a relatively vital language as opposed to North Frisian and Saterlandic, which are both severely endangered.


Germanic Languages in Contact in Central and South America  

Karoline Kühl

West and North Germanic language varieties have been part of the Latin American language ecology since the middle of the 19th century, when European mass migration created Germanic-speaking immigrant communities in North, Central, and South America. The subsequent fate of the Germanic immigrant varieties in Latin America varied greatly in terms of how long intergenerational transfer has been maintained, if and to what degree language maintenance has been supported by linguistic codification and language teaching, and the degree of contact with the surrounding majority population. Some languages like the Mennonite Low German varieties have been quite repellent with regard to language change induced by contact with the majority languages Portuguese and/or Spanish, other (Germanic) immigrant varieties, and indigenous languages. However, contact with the majority population and other (immigrant) ethnic groups, bilingualism, and, accordingly, the influence of Spanish and/or Portuguese has been growing for most Germanic immigrant varieties at least since the 1950s. The long-standing German dialectological research tradition into extra-territorial Germanic language islands has led to detailed accounts of many German varieties in Latin America. Accounts of other Germanic varieties are much more restricted, both in numbers and in extent: Some like Argentine Danish or Patagonian Afrikaans have been described only recently; others, like Swedish in Brazil and Argentine Dutch, hardly at all. In all cases, the accounts differ greatly regarding if, and to what extent, language contact is included as a cause of language change. Based on the scholarly coverage, the extent of contact-induced change in the Germanic varieties in Latin America appears to vary greatly, but whether this impression is due to the varying degrees of attention that the accounts devote to the effects of language contact or to particular sociolinguistic circumstances preventing or promoting language contact cannot be established. Still, contact linguistic profiles of many Germanic immigrant varieties in Latin America present themselves as a promising terra incognita for future research. From a bird’s-eye perspective, we may in general terms conclude that the Germanic varieties in Latin America are characterized by lexical borrowing, at least for cultural loans and discourse-structuring elements, as well as ad hoc code-switching. Interestingly, a number of varieties show a similar pattern of integrating Spanish or Portuguese verb stems of verbs ending in -ir and -ar into a very similar inflectional Germanic paradigm (Misiones Swedish -era, Argentine Danish -is(ere), Riograndenser Hunsrückisch -ieren, Volga German -i(:)ere). In general, syntactical restructurings seem to be restricted, with the notable exception of standard deviant omission of mainly pronominal subjects and, partly, pronominal objects. Other developments are specific, applying only to individual varieties.


(High) German  

Simon Pickl

(High) German is both a group of closely related West Germanic varieties and a standardized language derived from this group that comprises a wide range of dialects and colloquial varieties in addition to its standardized form. The two terms have related, and to an extent overlapping, but distinct meanings: German refers to a Standard Average European language spoken predominantly in Central Europe by some 96 million speakers and by minority speech communities around the globe. High German has a double meaning: On the one hand, it is another term for Standard German. On the other hand, it refers to the High German linguistic group within West Germanic, the linguistic basis for the German language. As such, it is defined by the High German consonant shift, a sound change that affected Germanic obstruents and set it apart from its immediate neighbors within (West) Germanic, that is, Low German and Low Franconian. The High German consonant shift around the 7th century, together with the onset of written transmission in the 8th century, marks the beginning of the history of (High) German. Traditional dialects perpetuate patterns of areal variation that arose in the wake of this sound change. Standard German developed out of High German written varieties, especially based on East Central German, through processes of leveling, koineization, metalinguistic reasoning, and codification. During that process, the emergent supra-regional norm superseded Low German in northern Germany and Upper German regional norms in the south, as well as influencing spoken registers, but (Standard) German remains a pluricentric and pluriareal language. Today, colloquial, regional varieties that combine features of Standard German and traditional dialects dominate oral language use, and in social media the written language, too, is developing new colloquial forms that build on standard orthography as well as on regional, informal forms of spoken language usage.


Judeo-Romance in Italy and France (Judeo-Italian, Judeo-French, Judeo-Occitan)  

Laura Minervini

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.


Judeo-Spanish (Judezmo, Ladino)  

David M. Bunis

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.



Agnete Nesse

Norwegian is mainly spoken in Norway and is represented in writing by two written languages, Bokmål (90%) and Nynorsk (10%). Both would work well as a written standard for the whole country but are to some extent regionally distributed. The distribution is partly based on the dialects and their likeness to one of the two written standards, and partly on tradition and ideology. There is no codified standard spoken Norwegian, so in formal settings the choice is either to approximate to one of the written standards, or to simply use dialect, which is most often the case. Norwegian is part of the Scandinavian dialect continuum. Due to geography and historical developments in the region, most Norwegians easily understand spoken Swedish but sometimes struggle with written Swedish. Conversely, they easily understand written Danish but sometimes struggle with spoken Danish. Einar Haugen pinned the term Semi Communication to the almost mutual understanding between speakers of Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish. Between Norwegian and the insular Nordic varieties Icelandic and Faroese, there is no mutual intelligibility. Norwegian has both synthetic and analytic language characteristics. Grammatical meaning is partly conveyed morphologically by endings and partly syntactically through word order. The vocabulary is, apart from a group of loanwords from Greek and Latin, almost solely Germanic. Due to the influence from German (Low and High), Danish, and English, parts of Norwegian vocabulary will be recognizable to speakers of other Germanic varieties. The influence caused by the century-long language contact between Sami, Finnish, and Norwegian has not led to great changes in the vocabulary, but, regionally, dialects have changed due to this contact. The part of Norwegian vocabulary that has been retained from Old Norse is to some degree recognizable to modern speakers, but Old Norse as such is not comprehensible to a modern Norwegian reader. Typical grammatical features of Norwegian are 1. A relatively homogenous vowel inventory of nine vowels, and a heterogenous consonant system in which the dialects differ between 17 and more than 25 different phonemes. 2. Two distinctive tonemes in most dialects. 3. Suffixed definite article. 4. V2 word order


Pidgin Languages  

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.



Erik M. Petzell

Swedish is a V2 language, like all Germanic except English, with a basic VO word order and a suffixed definite article, like all North Germanic. Swedish is the largest of the North Germanic languages, and the official language of both Sweden and Finland, in the latter case alongside the majority language Finnish. Worldwide, there are about 10.5 million first-language (L1) speakers. The extent of L2 Swedish speakers is unclear: In Sweden and Finland alone, there are at least 3 million L2 speakers. Genealogically, Swedish is closest to Danish. Together, they formed the eastern branch of North Germanic during the Viking age. Today, this unity of old is often obscured by later developments. Typologically, in the early 21st century, Swedish is closer to Norwegian than to Danish. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was great dialectal variation across the Swedish-speaking area. Very few of the traditional dialects have survived into the present, however. In the early 21st century, there are only some isolated areas, where spoken standard Swedish has not completely taken over, for example, northwestern Dalecarlia. Spoken standard Swedish is quite close to the written language. This written-like speech was promoted by primary school teachers from the late 19th century onward. In the 21st century, it comes in various regional guises, which differ from each other prosodically and display some allophonic variation, for example, in the realization of /r/. During the late Middle Ages, Swedish was in close contact with Middle Low German. This had a massive impact on the lexicon, leading to loans in both the open and closed classes and even import of derivational morphology. Structurally, Swedish lost case and verbal agreement morphology, developed mandatory expletive subjects, and changed its word order in subordinate clauses. Swedish shares much of this development with Danish and Norwegian. In the course of the early modern era, Swedish and Norwegian converged further, developing very similar phonological systems. The more conspicuous of the shared traits include two different rounded high front vowels, front /y/ and front-central /ʉ/, palatalization of initial /k/ and /g/ before front vowels, and a preserved phonemic tonal distinction. As for morphosyntax, however, Swedish has sometimes gone its own way, distancing itself from both Norwegian and Danish. For instance, Swedish has a distinct non-agreeing active participle (supine), and it makes use of the morphological s-passive in a wider variety of contexts than Danish and Norwegian. Moreover, verbal particles always precede even light objects in Swedish, for example, ta upp den, literally ‘take up it’, while Danish and Norwegian patterns with, for example, English: tag den op/ta den opp, literally ‘take it up’. Furthermore, finite forms of auxiliary have may be deleted in subordinate clauses in Swedish but never in Danish/Norwegian.



Lea Schäfer

The Yiddish language is directly linked to the culture and destiny of the Jewish population of Central and Eastern Europe. It originated as the everyday language of the Jewish population in the German-speaking lands around the Middle Ages and underwent a series of developments until the Shoah, which took a particularly large toll on the Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jewish population. Today, Yiddish is spoken as a mother tongue almost exclusively in ultra-Orthodox communities, where it is now exposed to entirely new influences and is, thus, far from being a dead language. After an introductory sketch, information on the geographical distribution and number of speakers as well as key historical developments are briefly summarized. Particularly important are the descriptions of the various sociolinguistic situations and the source situation. This is followed by a description of various (failed) attempts at standardization, as well as the geographical distribution and surveys of the dialects. The following section describes the status of Yiddish in the early 21st century, which overlaps with the sociolinguistic situation of Orthodox Yiddish. Finally, the linguistic features of modern Eastern Yiddish (dialects, standard, and Orthodox) are presented. In this context, linguistic levels and structures in which Yiddish differs from other (standard) Germanic languages are also discussed. Since Yiddish, as a language derived from Middle High German, is particularly close to German varieties, the differences and similarities between the two languages are particularly emphasized.