Duelling Languages: Grammatical Structure in Codeswitching

By Carol Myers-Scotton | Go to book overview
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Codeswitching and Deep Grammatical


This chapter deals especially with borrowing which goes beyond lexical items. I will suggest that CS is an important mechanism in at least some cases of structural borrowing, as well as in some cases of language shift and related contact phenomena. First, I will discuss in some detail one such case: spoken in East Africa, Cushitic-origin Ma'a is sometimes called a 'mixed language' because it shows deep Bantu incursions. Next, I will present a set of seven scenarios showing the possible role of CS in such cases, including that of Ma'a. It is not my claim that, if CS is present, any of these scenarios necessarily will unfold. My major hypothesis, however, is that a 'turnover' of the ML in CS can set into motion processes leading to one language's borrowing of structural features from another. In a 'turnover' of the ML, the former EL becomes the ML, and the former ML becomes the EL.

Much of this chapter is speculative; it largely presents hypotheses for further testing. However, speculative though they are, the arguments in this chapter are important because they show the implications of a synchronic model (the MLF model) for solving some diachronic mysteries.

Preliminaries and the Problem

In some situations of heavy contact between two languages, one language takes on not only cultural and even core lexical B forms from the other language, but also the syntactic patterns and/or inflectional affixes and function words of the second language. Or, heavy contact, in the right sociolinguistic climate, may lead speakers to shift from their first language (their L1) to a second language (an L2) as their main means of communication. When language shift occurs, a possible outcome for the L1 is language death.1

This chapter is an extended version of the argument in Myers-Scotton ( 1992c). I would like to thank Janice L. Jake, Trevor James, Michael Montgomery, S. M. Simango, and John Singler for discussion of this version.


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