Language contact: New perspectives

Language contact: New perspectives. Ed. by Muriel Norde, Bob de Jonge, and Cornelius Hasselblatt. (IMPACT: Studies in language and society 28.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. vii, 225. ISBN 9789027218674. $149 (Hb).

Reviewed by Marc Pierce, University of Texas at Austin

This book contains ten papers addressing various aspects of language contact, as well as a brief introduction by the editors. The individual papers fall into three categories: language contact and migration, language contact in border areas, and language contact ‘without physical contact with speakers of another language’ (4). For reasons of space, I only discuss one paper from each category.

There are six papers in the first category. Pieter Muysken reviews two approaches to ethnolects in ‘Ethnolects as a multidimensional phenomenon’ (7–25). They are (i) the ‘shift perspective’, which focuses on ‘the approximation in the speech of ethnic groups to the dominant national target language’ (7); and (ii) the ‘multidimensional perspective’, which also looks at ‘the original languages of the ethnic group and processes of mutual convergence and simplification’ (7). Muysken argues that these two perspectives are ‘complementary rather than exclusive’ (23), illustrating his discussion with data drawn largely from the ‘language use of Moroccan and Turkish young people who actually speak Dutch fluently’ (17).

Two papers address language contact in border areas. ‘Detecting contact effects in pronunciation’ (131–53), by Wilbert Heeringa, John Nerbonne, and Petya Osenova, explores ‘language contact effects between Bulgarian dialects…and the languages of the countries bordering Bulgaria’ (131), specifically Macedonian, Serbian, Romanian, Greek, and Turkish. They hypothesize that ‘pronunciation influences should be strongest as one approaches the border of a country which speaks the putatively influential language’ (131). Interestingly, especially in light of ‘the large consensus among Balkanists that pronunciation plays a subordinate role in the Sprachbund’ (149), they found ‘clines of increasing similarity’ (148) with regard to Macedonian, Serbian, and Romanian. The results for Greek and Turkish, on the other hand, were negative, which may result from historical and/or sociolinguistic factors

The last two papers address language contact without contact between speakers. Jason Shaw and Rahul Balusu discuss ‘Language contact and phonological contrast: The case of coronal affricates in Japanese loans’ (155–80). The focus here is on the pronunciation of [tʃi] and [ti] by two generations of speakers with very low conversational proficiency in English. Shaw and Balusu note that there are some generational differences in this regard, and argue that ‘the first generation of borrowers mapped the foreign phonological contrast to an allophonic distinction in … Japanese and that the second generation of speakers promoted this weak phonetic distinction to phonemic status’ (155). Their results show that ‘phonological contrasts can be borrowed…by mature adult speakers even without substantial direct contact with the source language’ (177).

Other papers in the volume include ‘Personal pronoun variation in language contact: Estonian in the United States’ (63–86) by Piibi-Kai Kivik; ‘The reflection of historical language contact in present-day Dutch and Swedish’ (103–17) by Charlotte Gooskens, Renée van Bezooijen, and Sebastian Kürschner; and ‘The impact of German on Schleife Sorbian: The use of gor in the Eastern Sorbian border dialect’ (119–30) by Hélène B. Brijnen.

Most of the papers in the volume are quite good, some are first-rate, and the breadth and depth of coverage are both very welcome. A few of the papers do not quite rise to this level, but such papers are definitely in the minority.

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