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This article reports the preliminary findings of a study examining the semantics of modal verbs in heritage Ambon Malay, a language variety spoken by Dutch-Ambon Malay bilinguals in the Netherlands whose dominant language is Dutch. In this study, I examined the use of the necessity modal musti [must] in the speech of heritage language (HL) speakers and compared it to that of monolingual homeland Ambon Malay speakers and monolingual Dutch speakers. The findings show convergence between the modal system of the heritage language (Ambon Malay) and that of the dominant language (Dutch). More precisely, the heritage necessity modal musti [must] has extended its semantic range to resemble its Dutch equivalent moeten [must.] I discuss three main factors that account for this innovation, namely (i) psychological factors – semantic convergence is one of the strategies adopted by bilinguals to reduce their cognitive load, (ii) universal principles of language development in contact settings ̶ conceptual naturalness facilitates semantic influence from Dutch, and (iii) social factors ̶ the language history of HL speakers shows that the innovation correlates with type of bilingualism and amount of exposure to Ambon Malay. Finally, the findings of this study support the Functional Discourse Grammar hierarchy of language change and, to a lesser extent, the typological hierarchy of Matras (2007).

Free access
In: Heritage Language Journal
Volume Editors: and
What can the languages spoken today tell us about the history of their speakers? This question is crucial in insular Southeast Asia and New Guinea, where thousands of languages are spoken, but written historical records and archaeological evidence is yet lacking in most regions. While the region has a long history of contact through trade, marriage exchanges, and cultural-political dominance, detailed linguistic studies of the effects of such contacts remain limited.
This volume investigates how loanwords can prove past contact events, taking into consideration ten different regions located in the Philippines, Eastern Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and New Guinea. Each chapter studies borrowing across the borders of language families, and discusses implications for the social history of the speech communities.

This paper discusses historical and ongoing morphological simplification in Alorese, an Austronesian language spoken in eastern Indonesia. From comparative evidence, it is clear that Alorese lost almost all of its morphology over several hundred years as a consequence of language contact (, 2012, to appear). By providing both linguistic and cultural-historical evidence, this paper shows that Alorese has historically undergone morphological simplification as a result of second language (L2) learning. The first part of the paper presents a case study comparing the use of subject agreement prefixes in Alorese L1 speakers (n=6) and Alorese L2 speakers (n=12). The results show that L2 speakers deviate from the native norm, and tend to use one prefix as default agreement. The variation found among L2 speakers reveals an ongoing change possibly leading to the restructuring of the Alorese agreement system. The second part of the paper applies models of linguistic change (; ) to the Alorese community and shows that Alorese has been, and still is, spoken in a community with a large number of L2 speakers, where morphological simplification is expected to occur.

Open Access
In: Journal of Language Contact

This paper examines the influence of language contact and multilingualism on the encoding of transfer events in the heritage variety of Javanese spoken in Suriname. Alongside Javanese, this community also speaks Sranantongo and Dutch, of which Sranantongo had the longest contact history with Javanese. It is shown that this long period of contact had a structural influence on the expression of transfer events in Surinamese Javanese: Surinamese speakers use double object constructions and two-predicate constructions more frequently than homeland Javanese speakers, a change which we argue to be due to contact with Sranantongo. In addition, Surinamese Javanese speakers overgeneralize one of the two applicative suffixes found in transfer constructions, a phenomenon that results from simplification processes.

Open Access
In: Journal of Language Contact

The domains where languages show variable syntax are often vulnerable in language contact situations. This paper investigates one such domain in Ambon Malay: the variable encoding of give-events. We study give-expressions in the Ambon Malay variety spoken by heritage speakers in the Netherlands, and compare the responses of heritage speakers with those of homeland speakers in Ambon, Indonesia. We report that heritage Ambon Malay shows an innovative higher incidence of do constructions compared to the homeland variety, and a significant decrease in the frequency of ‘two predicate’ constructions. The change that heritage Ambon Malay is undergoing is thus not categorical, but rather involves a change in frequency of certain constructions. We argue that this ‘restructuring by changing frequency’ is due to a combination of factors: influence from Dutch, universal tendencies in language acquisition, and the language history of individual speakers. Apart from a quantitative difference, we also observe a qualitative difference between the give-constructions of heritage and homeland speakers of Ambon Malay: both groups use different prepositions in the prepositional object construction, a reflection of their different social histories.

In: Journal of Language Contact