Dynamics of Language Contact: English and Immigrant Languages

By Michael Clyne | Go to book overview
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1 Introduction

1.1 Interrelationships

The past decade or so has seen an unprecedented growth in the study of language contact from a number of theoretical perspectives. Much of this has been the result of the European Science Foundation's Network on Code-Switching in the late 1980s and early 1990s, coordinated by Georges Lüdi. Some of the fruits of this work can be seen in Milroy and Muysken (1995) which brings together in one edited volume many approaches to language contact research. The arena of language contact research is now much wider, including what were previously emigrant rather than immigrant nations in Europe (e.g. Sweden, Germany, Italy) as well as former colonies in Africa, resulting in less usually studied pairs or groups of languages in contact. The linguistic effects of globalization and increased migration have also boosted the research activity in languages in contact. Preoccupation with universals and theoretical models has mainstreamed the field within so-called 'core linguistics' as well as in sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics. (It should be remembered that the development of sociolinguistics owes much to early language contact research, e.g. Haugen 1953; Weinreich, Labov and Herzog 1968). As I hope to show throughout this volume, language contact is a multidimensional, multidisciplinary field in which interrelationships hold the key to the understanding of how and why people use language/s the way they do. This includes interrelations between the structural linguistic, sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic; between typology and language use; between macro- and microdimensions; between variation and change; between synchrony and diachrony; between the linguistic, sociological, demographic and political. Languages in contact are, after all, the result of people in contact and of communities of people of different language backgrounds in contact. The analysis of language contact data can also throw light on how language is processed as well as on how language changes. It is not surprising that both the new specialist journals on language contact founded recently, the International Journal of Bilingualism and Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, are dedicated to (different) interdisciplinary approaches as have

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