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Open Access Some Issues in the Study of Language Contact

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Some Issues in the Study of Language Contact

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This paper provides an overview of various approaches to contact-induced change, and assesses their contribution to a unified theory of the processes involved in such change, and the outcomes they produce. I argue that clarification of the terminology and classifications we apply to contact languages can lead to better understanding of the types of contact languages, and the kinds of process that produce them. I further suggest that van Coetsem's framework offers a more uniform terminology and classification, and that it clarifies the distinction between the two major transfer types involved in contact induced change – borrowing via recipient language agentivity, and imposition via source language agentivity. Failure to distinguish these two mechanisms accurately has negative implications for our understanding of the processes by which various contact languages are created. I apply this model to two broad categories of contact languages, bilingual mixed languages, and creoles, and I argue that the differences in transfer type identified by Van Coetsem correspond to differences in the language production processes underlying the two broad types of contact-induced change. Finally, I suggest that psycholinguistic models of language or speech production can contribute significantly to our understanding of the different processes involved in the creation of different types of contact languages.


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