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Borrowing of Inflectional Morphemes in Language Contact


Francesco Gardani

This book is about the borrowing of inflectional morphemes in language contact settings. This phenomenon has at all times seemed to be the most poorly documented aspect of linguistic borrowing. Contact-induced morphological change is not rare in word formation, but exceptional in inflection. This study presents a deductive catalogue of factors conditioning the probability of transfer of inflectional morphology from one language to another and adduces empirical data drawn from Australian languages, Anatolian Greek, the Balkans, Maltese, Welsh, and Arabic. By reference to the most advanced theories of morphology, a thorough analysis of the case studies is provided as well as a definition of inflectional borrowing according to which inflectional borrowing must be distinguished from mere quotation of foreign forms and is acknowledged only when inflectional morphemes are attached to native words of the receiving language.


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II Contact-induced morphological change


This chapter is concerned with the concept of contact-motivated morphological change. It will provide a definition of the phenomenon and examine which kind of changes are expected to occur. Furthermore, it will put forward constraints to the area of investigation of the present study. 2.1 Scenario of morphological instability As far as linguistic innovations are concerned, one distinguishes between their origin and their spread. However, the individual origin of a diachronic change is less important since most innovations are not persistent, nor is its spread ascer- tainable on a single step. In order to overcome this oversimplificatory view Dressier (1997:111-112) suggests that at least five chronologically ordered stages may be assumed to encompass a scenario of diachronic change: 1) origin with one or several individuals (independently); 2) adoption of the innovation on the part of some other individuals as a result of interaction; 3) diffusion to one social group, thus establishing a new lect defined by this isogloss accepted and imitated by its speakers; 4) coexistence and competition with one or more older variants, their judgement by the speakers, and the chances that the innovation asserts itself over its competitor(s); 5) possible further sociolectal and dialectal spread, whereby Dressler stresses that this fifth phase lasts longest and may be subdivided into and modelled by other scenarios of their own. Thus, in cases of long-term collective multilingualism the transfer phe- nomena "cease to be spontaneous, individual, ad hoc and begin to be transmitted from one generation to the next"...

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