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Theoretical Approaches to Contact-induced Change


Theoretical Approaches to Contact-induced Change

The goal of this seminar is to explore in some detail current theoretical frameworks for the investigation of the origins and development of various outcomes of language contact. The seminar presupposes a basic linguistic background and (preferably) previous experience in language contact and/or historical linguistics. The course will explore contact phenomena at various levels of linguistic structure, including phonetics/phonology, morpho-syntax and syntax, as well as the frameworks that have been developed to analyze them. The major theoretical framework we will use was first proposed by van Coetsem (1988, 2000), who distinguished between two transfer types, borrowing and imposition, which account for the vast majority of contact-induced changes. On the one hand, mechanisms of borrowing explain the unity of the contact phenomena found in cases of lexical and structural borrowing, insertional codeswitching, and the creation of bilingual mixed languages. On the other hand, mechanisms of imposition explain the similarities in the kinds of change observed in tutored and untutored second language acquisition, convergence, and pidgin and creole formation. One of the central concerns of the seminar will be to discover what all of these outcomes have in common, particularly with respect to the processes of change or restructuring involved, and the principles that guide them. Van Coetsem’s framework differs from others in focusing on the psycholinguistic mechanisms underlying contact-induced change, and is therefore compatible with psycholinguistic models of language production such as proposed by Levelt (1989), and amended by de Bot (2001) for bilingual speech.

Course Status: Open

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Course Number:


Course Session:

Second two-week Session


1:10 pm-3:00 pm
1:10 pm-3:00 pm



The seminar presupposes a basic linguistic background and (preferably)
previous experience in language contact and/or historical linguistics.