LSA 204: Dialect contact and dialect formation

Paul Kerswill | session 2 | MW 3:30 – 5:15, 105 Stanley Hall

This course is concerned with the genesis of new varieties arising out of contact between related, mutually intelligible "dialects". Central to the discussion are the notions of convergence, divergence and levelling, all complex phenomena with social psychological motivations (accommodation, speaker age) and linguistic restrictions (components/levels). We look at a number of case studies, and from them attempt to arrive at generalizations about dialect formation. Well-described instances are those of early New Zealand English, early twentieth-century industrial towns in Western Norway, new varieties of Hindi/Bhojpuri in the Indian diaspora of the same period, and the mid-twentieth century British "New Towns" such as Milton Keynes. These form the "canon" of studies of what Siegel calls migration koineization. However, we expand the field by examining contact between creoles in French Guiana and, more particularly, new contact-driven varieties of metropolitan languages in Western Europe, where massive immigration in the second half of the twentieth century has led to the emergence of new varieties currently characteristic of young speakers, to an extent cross-cutting ethnicity. Contact with these new varieties is leading to change in "mainstream" speech in cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen and Stockholm. Our research in London shows that such contact has led to the wholesale restructuring of the vowel system of the vernacular of that city. Finally, we attempt a social and linguistic typology of dialect formation.

Reading: Selected materials available online.

Areas of linguistics: Sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology

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