Dialects Converging: Rural Speech in Urban Norway

Dialects Converging: Rural Speech in Urban Norway

Dialects Converging: Rural Speech in Urban Norway

Dialects Converging: Rural Speech in Urban Norway

Synopsis

How and why do adults modify their language when they move to a new area? In this detailed study of rural dialect users who have moved to the Norwegian city of Bergen, Kerswill throws light on this widespread phenomenon. The book is concerned with the theory of language change through language and dialect contact, and with the theory and practice of sociolinguistics. While the approach is broadly quantitative, the author shows the importance of ethnographic and social-psychological explanations.

Excerpt

For some years, there has been a fruitful interaction between structural and social approaches to language change, starting with Labov 1963 paper 'The Social Motivation of a Sound Change'. This book follows in that sociolinguistic tradition, based as it is on a case study of language use by a particular social group. It will address an issue that, in the last few years, has come to the fore in both sociolinguistics and historical linguistics. This concerns the role of language contact in linguistic change. Language contact is a venerable field of study, though it was only with Weinreich Languages in Contact (1953) that an attempt was made to put it on an empirical footing. Surprisingly, language or dialect contact has rarely been explicitly built into either the theory or the methodology of variationism--that branch of sociolinguistics, typified by much of Labov's work, which deals with broad patterns of social differentiation and seeks to describe linguistic change in a community.

Although within the variationist paradigm there had been some attempt to deal with contact, notably by Payne (1976, 1980), the first to collate a wide range of evidence from contact situations relevant to the variationist approach was Trudgill in his Dialects in Contact (1986). Here we find a number of studies which show that a good deal of change is the result of contact between speakers of closely related language varieties--mainly as a result of mass migration. Of particular interest are the cases Trudgill describes of the results of koinéization--the formation of new varieties as a result of the contact between speakers of different dialects of a single language. Siegel (1987: 186-8) provides a succinct discussion of the different processes that have been included under this term. Some definitions describe koinés as spoken dialects that become standard languages. Most, however, emphasize the presence of contact between 'subsystems' rather than 'systems', that is, contact between varieties that share a large portion of their structure. This may lead to regional lingua francas which do not necessarily displace the contributing dialects, and which in particular respects are 'simpler' than these. More recently, according to Siegel, 'the term "koine" has been extended to the result of contact between dialects transported to a new location and spoken by immigrant communities' (1987: 186-7). Siegel refers to the resulting new varieties as 'immigrant koinés'. Koinéization is in all likelihood a major factor in the early development of the dialects of cities which . . .

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