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Language, Identity and Urban Space

The Language Use of Latin American Migrants


Tabea Salzmann

Migration as a process has achieved increasing attention in the context of nation-states and globalisation. In linguistics the field of language contact is particularly associated with this phenomenon. This book investigates the connection between language usage, migration, space, in particular urban space, and the constitution of cultural identity. Two corpora of Andean migrants’ Spanish conversations in Lima and in Madrid are analysed. The resulting comparative analysis provides the material for considerations on language contact, code copying, discourse strategies etc. Throughout the book a new theoretical approach based on linguistic ecology is used. It includes the concept of a general expanded feature pool, which is the basis for language use and identity constitution for migrants.
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6. Interplay of the three Levels in Comparison


Having established a general expanded feature pool for the corpora analysed we have to pose the following questions: What does it mean to postulate such an expanded feature pool for migrants? Independent of whether we are talking of a new variety or not, what is the outcome of contact of varieties in this case? An overview of the literature that interprets the outcome of language contact will show that none of the existing theories/models is able to explain the results yielded in this analysis, as such literature is concerned with mixture, levelling, simplification, reduction, accommodation, convergence and divergence, and koineization, a combination of mixture, levelling and simplification.

6.1 Complexity, Mixture and Conventionalisation

Hinskens/Auer/Kerswill (2005, 9) characterise the contact of different varieties very generally: “Initially, because of extensive borrowing, dialect contact often leads to abundant variation as a result of dialect mixing, the partial merging of the lexicons and grammars of different but related dialects.” This account does not provide any evidence to help characterise the result of this “dialect mixing” or describe the development process beyond a rather vague “partial merging”. Whether merging implicates simplification, levelling, less complexity or more complexity or even maintenance of complexity is not evident. One might deduce that dialect mixing and therefore partial merging are characterised by “abundant variation”, in which case a possibly higher complexity could be implicit.

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