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Lecture | LUCL Colloquium - Spring 2015

LUCL Colloquium: Usage-based and Contact Linguistics

  • Ad Blackus (Tilburg University)
Friday 20 March 2015


Usage-based and contact linguistics: Match made in heaven.


In my talk, I aim to explore in what ways the study of contact-induced language change could be reinvigorated by adopting a usage-based approach. From this perspective, language change is characterized as change in the inventory of form-meaning units that a given speaker masters as well as in the degree to which these units are entrenched in that speaker’s mental representation. Cumulatively, we speak of language change if similar such changes occur in the mental representations of many speakers in the same speech community. The first part of the talk will reinterpret some ongoing discussions in contact linguistics from a usage-based perspective. The usage-based perspective allows a fresh look at the debate about how to distinguish between code-switching and borrowing. By extension, it also urges rethinking the basic sociolinguistic division into languages and varieties. The outlines of a unified model will be sketched, along with a research program.

The second part will report on several recent empirical studies on Turkish-Dutch contact in the large Turkish immigrant community in The Netherlands. Contact between the languages is very intense, and results in widespread codeswitching and all kinds of lexical and structural change. Together, these studies represent a range of topics and methods. The results show that the data from corpora, experimental tasks and judgment tasks largely yield converging evidence, allowing fairly robust conclusions about the principles behind change. Particular focus will be on recent codeswitching data in which Turkish and Dutch grammars seem to converge to a surprising degree.

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