Language change in contact languages: Grammatical and prosodic considerations

Language change in contact languages: Grammatical and prosodic considerations. Ed. by J. Clancy Clements and Shelome Gooden. (Benjamins current topics 36.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. v, 241. ISBN 9789027202550. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by David D. Robertson, University of Victoria

Originally published as an issue of Studies in language (33:2 [2009]), which resulted from several recent conference sessions, this volume brings contact linguistics—with its customary focus on the formation of (primarily) creoles—into dialogue with other subdisciplines and how they look at change in linguistic structures. The outcome is a stimulating collection of revised, expanded essays that suggest novel viewpoints on language contact, acquisition, and historical linguistics. The contributions are grouped into two general subjects: grammaticalization, reanalysis, and relexification (four articles), and prosody (three articles), the latter an exciting recent area of creolist inquiry.

Claire Lefebvre’s ‘The contribution of relexification, grammaticalization, and reanalysis to creole genesis and development’ argues that relexification—her ‘relabelling’—is the primary force in creole creation. She proposes a separate, second stage where grammaticalization and reanalysis can apply within the resultant lexicon and are identifiable from, for example, differences of word order and form. Adrienne Bruyn, in ‘Grammaticalization in creoles’, usefully distinguishes in Sranan actual and ‘apparent’ (i.e. pseudo-) grammaticalization; ordinary (gradual) and less ordinary (abrupt) grammaticalization, demonstrating the diachronic pace of each; calquing (‘polysemy copying’) at genesis (replicating source-language polysemy patterns without diachronic grammaticalization); and reanalysis of an already grammatical item into another grammatical function (which also is not grammaticalization).

 Bao Zhiming’s ‘One in Singapore English’ convincingly argues that entire substrate structures, not mere words, are what gets transferred into nascent contact languages; Singapore English one remarkably blends Chinese morphosyntax and English usage frequencies. Steven Matthews and Virginia Yip’s ‘Contact-induced grammaticalization: Evidence from bilingual acquisition’ demonstrates the possibility that bilingual first-language acquisition explains substrate influence in contact and other situations.

Shelome Gooden, Kathy-Ann Drayton, and Mary Beckman contribute the centerpiece of this volume, ‘Tone inventories and tune-text alignments: Prosodic variation in “hybrid” prosodic systems’. This article, using a unified autosegmental-metrical framework, rigorously examines the myriad analytical issues in the relatively new subfield of contact-language prosody. Major challenges that they identify include the likelihood of parsing ambiguities in contact situations (provocatively including fieldwork); the multiple possible typological outcomes of language change; and the potential failure of citation-/elicitation-based methodologies to identify ‘an intricate interplay of prominence markers at several levels of the prosodic hierarchy’ (171). Both creolistics and mainstream research stand to benefit from their insights.

Yolanda Rivera-Castillo’s ‘Subsystem interface and tone typology in Papiamentu’ is a good case study of such issues, applying a fine-grained prosodic analysis and concluding that this creole is both a ‘tone-restricted language’ and intonational in nature. Jeff Good’s ‘A twice-mixed creole? Tracing the history of a prosodic split in the Saramaccan lexicon’ suggests a novel kind of ‘mixed’ language, wherein part of the lexicon is marked for European-like pitch accent and part for African-like tone. He provides a compelling argument that this split represents post-genesis language mixing by Maroons wishing to establish a separate group identity.

The minor shortcomings of this volume are simply typical of collections of articles: less than optimal cross-referencing, sparse indexing, separate bibliographies rather than a master reference list, and idiosyncratic unexplained abbreviations.