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Games with names

Naming practices and deliberate language change

Anne Storch


This paper discusses deliberate changes surrounding the practice of naming (people and objects). I first present a discussion of naming and healing, and then turn to the act of naming as an active agent for language change in the context of praise names and names that are used as comments on social change. There are particularly rich areas where the deliberate, creative change of language is strikingly visible, namely in tourism. The analysis of both the deliberate linguistic manipulations and the rationalization of these is informed by African philosophy and local metalinguistic discourse, as part of a project often referred to as the ‘Southern Theory’. I consider the philosophical and theoretical concepts of language and language change that stem from Kenyan and Tanzanian intellectuals and experts who are interested in emic approaches and local epistemologies, emphasizing cultural and social contexts of doing things with words. Intentional language change is seen in this contribution as complex and performative, and is analyzed as the result of individual agency as well as a community’s agreement over what might be done with words.

Matthias Urban


Studies of language contact in the Central Andes of Peru and Bolivia have focused strongly on the present-day contact situation between Quechua and Spanish, and the intricate and multilayered contact relationship between the Quechua and Aymara lineages. There are fewer studies of the influence of Quechua on minor non-Quechua languages of the Andes, and still fewer studies which, conversely, explore the influence of non-Quechua languages on Quechua. Focusing on the lexicon, this article explores the impact of the complex linguistic ecology of Northern Peru on the five Quechua varieties of that region—Lambayeque, Cajamarca, Chachapoyas, San Martín and Ancash Quechua. The study identifies lexical items that lack clear Quechua etymologies in the relevant varieties and carries out external comparisons of these items with the vocabulary of the non-Quechua languages of Northern Peru to identify possible sources. Results show that borrowing is mostly localized: that is, whereas influence from Amazonian lowland languages is almost exclusively found in the eastern varieties of Chachapoyas and San Martín, highland Quechua varieties have typically borrowed from neighboring highland languages.

Peter Bakker


This paper links genderlects and mixed languages. Both may have their roots in a gender dichotomy, where two distinct populations come together and blend into a new one, with different linguistic consequences. Mixed languages are generally assumed to be the result of deliberate or conscious language change and often come about as the result of an act of identity, connected to the birth of a new social or ethnic group. Societies or ethnic groups that are the result of mixed marriages may develop a mixed language or a genderlect. I show that there is a connection between the two, as proven in one specific case: a mixed language developed into a genderlect over several centuries. Typically, mixed languages combine elements from two languages with results that are so unusual that they are clearly not the result of normal language change, i.e. they are not outcomes of regular transmission between generations. Certain combinations found in genderlects show parallel patterns, for example in having personal pronouns or deictic elements that derive from other languages. Comparative evidence based on structural parallels suggests that some such genderlects (though not necessarily all) derive from deliberate changes by earlier generations. In this paper, I also investigate whether there is a link between societies with socially quite different roles for men and women, and societies with a genderlect, and find that such a link does not seem to exist.

Margreet Dorleijn


This article demonstrates that analyzing evaluative metalinguistic comments on linguistic features can be a valuable diagnostic tool in understanding how emergent varieties develop and conventionalize. The paper provides a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of metalinguistic activity as part of the diverse sociolinguistic research disciplines. It then discusses what constitutes an evaluative metalinguistic comment, and classifies metalinguistic comments. Subsequently, the paper discusses data of a developing variety (Turkish-Dutch mixed speech). These data suggest that insiders monitor implicit norms, and reprimand transgressors, and/or deliberately transgress these norms (mostly in a humorous way), which amounts to the same thing: a keen awareness of these norms. Outsiders notice linguistic elements which contrast with their own variety.

Mikael Parkvall


Almost all creolists see creole formation as a case of (failed) second language acquisition. I argue that there are good reasons to distinguish between second language acquisition and pidginisation/creolisation, and that little is gained by equating the two. While learners have an extant language as their target, pidginisers typically aim to communicate (in any which way) rather than to acquire a specific language. In this sense, pidginisation represents, if not “conscious language change”, at least “conscious language creation”.

The tune drives the text

Competing information channels of speech shape phonological systems

Timo B. Roettger and Martine Grice


In recent years there has been increasing recognition of the vital role of intonation in speech communication. While contemporary models represent intonation—the tune—and the text that bears it on separate autonomous tiers, this paper distils previously unconnected findings across diverse languages that point to important interactions between these two tiers. These interactions often involve vowels, which, given their rich harmonic structure, lend themselves particularly well to the transmission of pitch. Existing vowels can be lengthened, new vowels can be inserted and loss of their voicing can be blocked. The negotiation between tune and text ensures that pragmatic information is accurately transmitted and possibly plays a role in the typology of phonological systems.

John McWhorter


Recent theories of creole genesis propose that creole languages did not emerge via the expansion of pidgin varieties (DeGraff, 2001; Mufwene, 2001, 2008). This paper argues that the multiethnolects that have formed in many European cities constitute a demonstration case of the genesis scenario these new creolist theories reconstruct. Crucially, however, the multiethnolects, while displaying a modest degree of grammatical simplification and restructuring, exhibit this to nothing approaching the degree that creoles do. This supports the idea that creoles form from a break in transmission rather than simply hybridization.

Dov Cohen and Ora (Rodrigue) Schwarzwald


It is commonly accepted that Hilkhot Sheḥiṭa u-Vdika (literally, ‘The Laws of Ritual Slaughter and Examination’—Constantinople ca. 1510) was the first publication ever printed in Judeo-Spanish. Yet scholars possessed no evidence that the work actually existed, and no information was available regarding its contents or language. Recently, however, the first four pages of the publication were discovered among the remnants of the Cairo Genizah. The current study is a preliminary description of this publication’s historical bibliography, halakhic sources, structure and contents, orthography and spelling (which reflect untrained writing and inconsistent pronunciation), and its special vocabulary, including the Hebrew component, which specifically relates to religion.