In this paper we take a closer look at the oft-touted divide between heritage language speakers and adult second language (L2) learners. Here, we explore whether some properties of language may display general effects across different populations of bilinguals, explaining, at least partially, why these two groups show some common differences when compared with monolinguals. To test this hypothesis, we adduce data from two unique populations of bilinguals: a moribund variety of heritage German spoken in southwestern Kansas (Moundridge Schweitzer German) and L2 adult learners of Spanish. Empirically, we investigate whether the confound of switch reference adds an additional cognitive burden to these bilinguals in licensing object control predicates in the former and referential subject pronouns in the latter. Our preliminary findings support the view that overarching concepts such as incomplete acquisition cannot capture the variability observed in these populations, thus further supporting approaches that interpret findings such as these to be the result of specific variables.
Tiffany Judy, Michael T. Putnam and Jason Rothman
Karoline Kühl and Jan Heegård Petersen
The paper investigates the placement of subject and finite verb in topicalized, i.e. non-subject initial declarative main clauses in North American Danish. European Danish adheres to the V2-rule and thus requires inversion, while North American Danish allows for non-inversion, i.e. [X]SV word order. Based on a sample of approx. 1700 tokens of topicalized declarative clauses produced by 64 speakers, we observe a general stability of V2 in North American Danish. In order to explain the instances of non-V2, we employ both linguistic and sociolinguistic factors.
This article presents on interviews with 10 bilingual speakers of American English and Wisconsin Heritage German (WHG), with respect to their licensing of high (NP1) versus low (NP2) agreement. In terms of linguistic typology, English copular constructions license only NP1 agreement, in which the verb agrees in person and number with the first—or syntactically high—nominal element in the clause; Standard German copular constructions license NP2 agreement with the lower nominal element in the clause (though subsequent topicalization of this element is also licit). As a second variable, a subset (7) of these speakers license complementizer agreement (C-agr) in WHG, which obtains from a second, syntactically high agreement structure in the complementizer field, in addition to the canonical German NP2 structure. These data were compared to a control group of the remaining three WHG speakers who did not license C-agr.
Data presented here suggest a bi-directional transfer of both NP1 and NP2 agreement structures for both groups of heritage language (HL) speakers. The control group produced a majority of forms consistent with both English and German language-specific grammars. Evidence of NP2 structures in the control group’s English, however, suggests that these speakers are HL-dominant—since NP2 is categorically prohibited in English. WHG speakers with C-agr, in contrast to the control group, produced a majority of NP1 forms in both languages, with the presence of C-agr being a predicting factor in the presence of NP1 agreement in the English of WHG speakers. It is here argued that the presence of C-agr in the HL is similar to the canonical NP1 structures of Standard English, allowing for overlapping licit NP1 structures in both varieties. Data from Assumed Identify Constructions (AICs) suggests that canonical NP2 agreement in C-agr WHG may have been weakened as a result. This research suggests that even superficially English-like grammar may obtain not from a direct transfer from the L2 into the HL, but rather from the interaction of English grammar with the autochthonous grammatical structures of non-standard HLs.
Johannes Dellert and Armin Buch
Based on a recently published large-scale lexicostatistical database, we rank 1,016 concepts by their suitability for inclusion in Swadesh-style lists of basic stable concepts. For this, we define separate measures of basicness and stability. Basicness in the sense of morphological simplicity is measured based on information content, a generalization of word length which corrects for distorting effects of phoneme inventory sizes, phonotactics and non-stem morphemes in dictionary forms. Stability against replacement by semantic shift or borrowing is measured by sampling independent language pairs, and correlating the distances between the forms for the concept with the overall language distances. In order to determine the relative importance of basicness and stability, we optimize our combination of the two partial measures towards similarity with existing lists. A comparison with and among existing rankings suggests that concept rankings are highly data-dependent and therefore less well-grounded than previously assumed. To explore this issue, we evaluate the robustness of our ranking against language pair resampling, allowing us to assess how much volatility can be expected, and showing that only about half of the concepts on a list based on our ranking can safely be assumed to belong on the list independently of the data.
Gerhard Jäger and Johann-Mattis List
Current efforts in computational historical linguistics are predominantly concerned with phylogenetic inference. Methods for ancestral state reconstruction have only been applied sporadically. In contrast to phylogenetic algorithms, automatic reconstruction methods presuppose phylogenetic information in order to explain what has evolved when and where. Here we report a pilot study exploring how well automatic methods for ancestral state reconstruction perform in the task of onomasiological reconstruction in multilingual word lists, where algorithms are used to infer how the words evolved along a given phylogeny, and reconstruct which cognate classes were used to express a given meaning in the ancestral languages. Comparing three different methods, Maximum Parsimony, Minimal Lateral Networks, and Maximum Likelihood on three different test sets (Indo-European, Austronesian, Chinese) using binary and multi-state coding of the data as well as single and sampled phylogenies, we find that Maximum Likelihood largely outperforms the other methods. At the same time, however, the general performance was disappointingly low, ranging between 0.66 (Chinese) and 0.79 (Austronesian) for the F-Scores. A closer linguistic evaluation of the reconstructions proposed by the best method and the reconstructions given in the gold standards revealed that the majority of the cases where the algorithms failed can be attributed to problems of independent semantic shift (homoplasy), to morphological processes in lexical change, and to wrong reconstructions in the independently created test sets that we employed.
The diachrony of atár from Homeric Greek to Classical Attic
The Ancient Greek particle atár has been described as a connective device that encodes either an adversative or a progressive relation between sentences. The purpose of this paper is to revise the description of this particle by framing its analysis within a consistent and theoretically up-to-date model of clause linkage and discourse structure. Starting from previous findings on the function of atár in Homer, I undertake a corpus analysis of atár in Euripides and Aristophanes. This analysis reveals differences in usage at different stages of the language that have been previously neglected. Whereas in Homer, atár largely behaves as a connective and encodes a semantic relation of oppositive contrast between sentences, in later texts it rather behaves as a discourse marker and contributes to the management of both thematic continuity and interactional practices. These differences point to a specific diachronic path of grammaticalization that accounts for the changes undergone by atár.
A case study of Australian Greek
The present study is an in-depth investigation of the Greek language spoken by immigrants in Far North Queensland, Australia. The study focuses on contact-induced changes in the language, such as borrowing of lexemes and discourse patterns, and on code switching. The data analyzed derive from participant observation and some 23 hours of audio and video-recorded conversations with first- and second-generation Greek immigrants that were collected during fieldwork in 2013 in Far North Queensland. The study contributes to the investigation of the structure and use of Greek in the diaspora by integrating perspectives from contact linguistics and interactional approaches to code switching.
Evidence from elementary school pupils’ responses to mass culture texts
Dimitris Papazachariou, Anna Fterniati, Argiris Archakis and Vasia Tsami
Over the past decades, contemporary sociolinguistics has challenged the existence of fixed and rigid linguistic boundaries, thus focusing on how the speakers themselves define language varieties and how specific linguistic choices end up being perceived as language varieties. In this light, the present paper explores the influence of metapragmatic stereotypes on elementary school pupils’ attitudes towards geographical varieties. Specifically, we investigate children’s beliefs as to the acceptability of geographical varieties and their perception of the overt and covert prestige of geographical varieties and dialectal speakers. Furthermore, we explore the relationship between the children’s specific beliefs and factors such as gender, the social stratification of the school location and the pupils’ performance in language subjects. The data of the study was collected via questionnaires with closed questions. The research findings indicate that the children of our sample associate geographical varieties with rural settings and informal communicative contexts. Moreover, children recognize a lack of overt prestige in geographical variation; at the same time, they evaluate positively the social attractiveness and the personal reliability of the geographical varieties and their speakers. Our research showed that pupils’ beliefs are in line with the dominant metapragmatic stereotypes which promote language homogeneity.
Transfer of Egyptian phonological features onto Greek in Graeco-Roman Egypt
This summary presents the main findings of my Ph.D. dissertation (University of Helsinki) on the phonological transfer of Egyptian on second language Greek usage in Egypt.