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Article

The History of African-American Vernacular English  

Guy Bailey

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

Frisian  

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.

Article

Toward a Sociolinguistics of Modern Sub-Saharan African South–South Migrations  

Cécile B. Vigouroux

Despite their large demographic size, intra-continental African migrations have hardly been taken into account in the theorizing on migration in transnational studies and related fields. Research questions have been framed predominantly from a South-to-North perspective on population movements. This may be a consequence of the fact that the extent and complexity of modern population movements and contacts within Africa are hard to assess, owing mainly to lack of reliable data. For sociolinguists the challenge is even greater, partly because of the spotty knowledge of linguistic diversity in the continent and the scarcity of adequate sociolinguistic descriptions of the ways in which Africans manage their language repertoires. Despite these limitations, a sociolinguistics of intra-continental African migrations will contribute significantly to a better understanding of the conditions, nature, and periodicity of population contacts and interactional dynamics. It will help explain why geographic mobility entails reshaping sociocultural practices, including the language repertoires of both the migrants and the people they come in contact with. Moreover, the peculiarity of African economies, which rely heavily on informal non-institutionalized practices, prompts a rethinking of assumptions regarding the acquisition of the host country’s language(s) as the primary facilitator of the migrants’ socioeconomic inclusion. A sociolinguistic understanding of migrations within Africa can help to formulate new questions and enrich the complex pictures that the study of other parts of the world has already shaped.

Article

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.