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Who changes language? Bilingualism and structural change in Burma and the Reef Islands

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image of Journal of Language Contact

In this paper we discuss two cases of contact-induced language change where lexical and grammatical borrowing appear to have gone in opposite directions: one language has borrowed large amounts of vocabulary from another while at the same time being the source of structural borrowings into the other language. Furthermore, it appears in both cases that the structural borrowing has come about through bilingualism in L1 speakers of the source language, while L1 speakers of the language undergoing the structural change are largely monolingual. We propose that these two unusual factors are not unrelated, but that the latter is the cause of the former: Under circumstances where the numerically much smaller language in a contact situation is the contact language, the L2 speakers' variety, influenced by their L1, may spread into the monolingual community. e lexical borrowing naturally happens from the bilingual speakers' L2 into their L1, resulting in opposite directions of lexical and structural borrowing. Similar processes have been described in cases of language shift, but we show that it may take place even in situations where shift does not occur.


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