Contact languages: a wider perspective (Creole Language Library)

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Theory and Practice of Folklore in Cajun & Creole Louisiana

Source : Plag, : , based on Pienemann, Table 4 Developmental stages in English interlanguage syntax. Source : Pienemann, Plag argues against substrate transfer on the basis that creoles like Berbice Dutch whose superstrate Dutch and substrate Ijo display verb second and SOV, respectively, did not transfer their word order to Berbice Dutch, which selected SVO instead. One could alternatively assume that the verb position of Dutch could have compelled the original speakers of Berbice Dutch to drift toward SVO, as this is a legitimate word order in Dutch.

In addition, one can reasonably postulate that substrate transfer is unlikely to occur in the domain of word order, as it may impede communication with speakers of the lexifier. For all these reasons, it would be difficult to use the dominant SVO or SOV word orders found in creoles, as sole evidence for their status as interlanguages. The other two domains Plag investigates are those of wh -questions and negation. With regard to wh -questions, the empirical generalization Plag puts forward is that creoles typically make use of sentence-initial wh -words, as Cape Verdean Creole for instance:.

Yes-no questions are typically formed through raising intonation, as shown in 6 :.

Mixed language

The strategies for wh -question and yes-no questions formation exemplified in 5 and 6 , respectively, are fairly typical of most creoles. Plag notes that it is also possible to find creoles that mark the yes-no question with a sentence-initial or sentence-final particle, like Saramaccan in 7. While the wh -initial words and raising intonation are easily accounted for through second language acquisition development, it is more difficult to account for the initial or final question particles that creoles like Saramaccan use as in 7.

Plag attempts to reconcile such strategies with the interlanguage hypothesis by assuming that as such particles do not require any information exchange at the sentence level, and can therefore be processed at the phrasal level, they are prime candidates for early transfer under the Developmentally Moderated Transfer Hypothesis. This hypothesis states that when learning a second language, learners make use of the processing procedures listed in Table 3 instead of their L1 Pienemann et al.

Note, however that Plag himself acknowledges that such interrogative particles can be found in the substrates, so why not simply postulate substrate transfer? One could reasonably extend a multicausal explanation to this state of affairs: initial or final question particles present in the substrates could have been logically transferred to the creole and the survival of the particles could have been facilitated by the ease of processing.

I now turn to Negation, the last syntactic feature Plag examines in his paper.

Pienemann and Larsen-Freeman and Long propose a strict sequence in the acquisition of negation in the English language. Table 5 displays this strict sequence which is of the same type that Pienemann offered for the acquisition of English in Table 4.


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Table 5 Developmental sequence for L2 English. Clause-internal, pre-verbal.

Does it Reflect a Third Language, a Language Variety, or True Codeswitching?

Source : Larsen-Freeman and Long, : 94; Pienemann, : As shown in Table 5 , this sequence comprises four stages in the acquisition of English negation. Plag observes that most creoles use preverbal negation, as shown in the Cape Verdean example in 8. This corresponds to stage three of the processability hierarchy in Table 4 , which Plag views as a relatively early stage, a point I revisit. Although many of the creole substrates also display preverbal negation, Plag argues that one cannot really prove substrate transfer given that preverbal negation is so widely attested in the development of interlanguages.

Plag takes this to be further evidence for the interlanguage hypothesis, based on the assumption that the original creole speakers had limited access to the target language which resulted in limited processing capacities. For creoles like Palenquero and Berbice Dutch which go against the grain and display sentence-final negation, as shown in 9 , Plag admits that the status of sentence-final negation in the processability hierarchy is unclear. Dieck, However, he still argues that sentence-final negation could be treated on a par with sentence-final question particles.

His reasoning is that as they do not involve information exchange, such sentence-final units can be interpreted as occurring at stage 3 cf.

Marlyse Baptista

Table 4 , believed to represent an early stage of second language acquisition. Although Plag presents one of the best articulated arguments of why creoles should be considered as interlanguages, there are still several outstanding issues with his proposal. The examination of multiple domains would reveal whether the assumed parallels between creoles and interlanguages would hold across the board. Second, methodologically speaking, Plag claims for several of the features that stage 3 of the acquisition developmental path constitutes an early stage of interlanguage.

Third, the paper all too often sets substrate transfer aside, even in cases when creoles exhibit rarer features such as yes-no question particles and sentence-initial or sentence-final negation. Instead, Plag capitalizes on interlanguage features without always acknowledging that substrate transfer and interlanguage traits are at times virtually indistinguishable from each other and without considering that multiple causation may be at work.

For instance, one could reasonably assume that the preservation of a substrate feature which happens to overlap with an interlanguage feature is facilitated due to ease of processing. Alternatively, one can also foresee a situation where the presence of the same feature in multiple substrates substratal reinforcement is a sufficient condition for the preservation of such a feature in the emerging creole. Finally, the paper does not address whether non-creole languages i. It would be difficult to make a case that creoles are interlanguages, whereas those other languages are not, if one maintains the same linguistic criteria.

One other study which has given serious thought to whether second language acquisition is involved in creole genesis is Lefebvre, White, and Jourdan This study is a co-edited volume that examines the connections between contact and second language acquisition in addition to a range of processes, including transfer, relexification, restructuring, reanalysis, and fossilization.

What properties of L2 can lead to reanalysis, prompting the learner to forsake the original L1 analysis? What kind of data results in language change?

A wider perspective

One of the shortcomings of the volume, as the editors explicitly acknowledge, is that the role of linguistic universals is neglected Lefebvre et al. I now turn to studies that consider the syntax of creoles as hybrid grammars that have been inherited from both substrates and superstrates, and resulting in novel feature combinations. Creoles as Hybrid Systems. In this section, I examine the works by syntacticians who argue that some of the syntactic properties found in creoles are traceable to specific sources.

This represents a novel line of research in syntactic theory among creolists, as their theoretical analyses are based on the knowledge of what the source languages to a given creole are and how such languages may have impacted its syntactic make-up. I first briefly introduce the works that argue for mixed systems in the nominal domain 5 and then turn to those that investigate mixed modules in the verbal domain.

In this subsection, I review three studies 6 Aboh, ; Bobyleva, , ; Guillemin, that present creole syntax as hybrid systems in the nominal domain. I will not elaborate on the formal sides of such accounts, as they are already covered in Baptista forthcoming.

Contact Languages: A wider perspective | Edited by Sarah G. Thomason

Here, I am mostly preoccupied with the methodology these scholars use to determine which source language contributed to which area of a given creole syntax. Aboh adopts a promising framework, that of selection and competition Mufwene, ; Such a framework assumes that in a multilingual setting, features from the languages in contact superstrate and substrates compete with each other and some of them are selected while others die out, based on a number of variables. Aboh uses this framework to compare the determiner systems of Haitian Creole, French the Haitian superstrate , and Gungbe one of its substrates ; Gungbe is a member of the Gbe dialect cluster Niger—Congo language family and is spoken in Benin.

Instead of attributing a given feature of Haitian to a specific language source, such as the European lexifier, African substrates or Universal Grammar, Aboh proposes a modular view of feature transmission. According to this view, both the semantics and syntax of a feature may originate from the same source but in other cases, it is possible for the semantics of a feature to come from one source language and the syntax from another. Gungbe makes use of the same strategy, following the exact same word order, as shown in 10b also see Aboh, Such parallels lead Aboh to propose that Gungbe is the source of both the specificity feature referring to an aforementioned entity and of the syntax of the marker in Haitian Creole.

Haitian Aboh, : Gungbe Aboh, : In contrast, French does not use bare nouns in relative clauses, as shown by the ungrammaticality of 11a and the French definite determiner must precede the relative head noun which itself precedes the relative clause, as in 11b. French Aboh, : Haitian and Gungbe also align within DP in the way determiners and pronominal possessors cluster in post-nominal position as shown in 12 , in contrast to French in which determiners and modifiers occur before the noun 13 Aboh, : — :.

Haitian Lefebvre, : While 10 and 12 illustrate how Haitian and Gungbe can exhibit close structural similarities, Aboh shows elsewhere in his study that Gungbe can also map onto French in other areas. For instance, both Haitian and French are endowed with prenominal and postnominal adjectives, whereas Gungbe displays postnominal adjectives only. However, one should note that the fact that Haitian can have prenominal and postnominal adjectives like French is not sufficient evidence that the dual position may have been transferred from the superstrate.

This might simply reflect some universal language preference for a wider range of adjectival positions. Her study provides a synchronic and diachronic account of Mauritian Creole hereinafter MC determiner system. Diachronically, she documents changes that the MC determiner system has undergone since the eighteenth century.

Guillemin proposes that the incorporation was triggered by the absence of free-standing definite determiners in Gungbe, the language believed to have been dominant among the slaves. Such parallels lead her to postulate a correlation between the loss of the French isolated quantificational determiners, their suffixation to noun stems and the emergence of bare nouns in argument positions in MC. She proposes that with the shift in noun denotation, from predicative in French to argumental in MC, new functional categories such as Definiteness Phrase and Specificity Phrase developed in MC with the purpose of expressing the referential properties of the noun phrases and turn them into DPs.

Guillemin also shows in this particular study of MC that the interpretations of bare nouns differ based on whether they appear in subject or object position: bare mass nouns may occur in both subject and object positions but bare singular count nouns can only appear in object position. This particular behavior of bare nouns in MC is exclusive to the language and is not traceable to its source languages.

In sum, Guillemin uses diachronic data to show how substratal influences may have led the original speakers to reanalyze some of the French materials they inherited from the lexifier while introducing innovations in the emerging grammatical system. More recently, Bobyleva complements this line of research by investigating the source of creole features while simultaneously considering which properties are more likely to instantiate language universals.

For instance, in the case of how specificity is expressed within DP in creoles like Haitian, she acknowledges the striking similarities between Haitian and Gungbe. Bobyleva also weighs in the balance two universal tendencies: First, she notes that crosslinguistically, specificity often appears as a universally dominant constraint on the distribution of indefinites; this property is found in a number of typologically diverse languages such as Russian, Hebrew, and Turkish.

Second, within the group of creole languages, Bobyleva observes that creoles with distinct substrates from Haitian exhibit a similar sensitivity of the indefinite determiner towards specificity Bobyleva, : This gives her grounds to doubt the attribution of the behavior of specificity in Haitian to substrate influence, considering it instead as a universal tendency among the world languages. She posits that rather than attributing the association between plural marking and definiteness to substrate transfer, it may simply reflect a universal principle of reference marking, present in countless languages Bobyleva, : These studies by Aboh, Guillemin, and Bobyleva have this in common that they document the nominal domain of creole languages as resulting from a combination of features traceable to both superstrates, substrates Aboh and Guillemin , and language universals Bobyleva.