Language shift and language maintenance

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Language contact and its consequences have been examined by many authors, and from many aspects, including grammatical, sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic. Some researchers describe particular contact situations while others take a more general approach and try to establish a theoretical basis for predicting language contact outcomes.
This chapter offers a review of some of the literature on language contact. As this thesis researches contact phenomena in an immigrant community, studies which examine contact-induced changes within immigrant communities are of particular interest, especially those which look at how bilinguals handle their two languages, and factors influencing language maintenance and language shift. Attention is also given to research on Serbian in contact with English, both in standard and immigrant situations.
Considering the sheer number of studies, this review is necessarily selective. It focuses on seminal works and highlights the diversity of the approaches to this topic.

Research of direct relevance

In language contact situations, speakers of different languages interact and their languages influence each other (Matras, 2009). Language contact studies focus on the implications of contact on the language systems, but researchers take various approaches and do not always agree on what contact linguistics should concern itself with.
A number of researchers emphasise the need for an interdisciplinary approach when analysing the outcomes of language contact. Clyne (2003), for example, argues that language contact is a multidimensional, multidisciplinary field in which interrelationships hold the key to understanding how and why people use their different languages.
Employing a multi-model approach is also recommended by Chamoreau and Léglise:
The development of morphosyntactic structures in a situation of language contact should not be analyzed through a single lens. Contact-induced changes are generally defined as dynamic and multiple, involving internal change as well as historical and sociolinguistic factors. The identification and consideration of a variety of explanations constitutes a first step; analyzing their relationships forms a second. Only a multifaceted methodology enables this fine-grained approach to contact-induced change (Chamoreau & Léglise, 2012, p. 1).
The present study will rely on Matras’ (2009) functional model, but it will also take some account of complementary and competing theories. Apart from Matras (2009), of particular interest will be Mayers-Scoton’s (1993a) Matrix Language Frame (MLF) model, and Thomason and Kaufman’s (1988) borrowing scale.
Matras’ (2009) approach is based on the view that language is a social activity and that communication is goal-driven.
[S]peakers’ communicative goals and intentions, their discourse strategies, and their language processing capacities are at the core of any speech production and so also of the structural innovations that constitute the seeds of potential language change (Matras, 2009, pp. 2-3).
According to Matras, language contact, from the perspective of an individual bilingual speaker, is not two systems influencing each other, but the challenge of selecting and employing communicative resources from different language repertoires, in a way that complies with audience expectations in particular interaction settings.
Myers-Scotton’s (1993a) Matrix Language Frame (MLF) model has been used in examining contact phenomena in a variety of languages. The MLF model distinguishes between the Matrix Language (ML) and the Embedded Language (EL). Her definition of ML and EL is as follows:
The ‘base’ language is called the matrix language (ML) and the ‘contributing’ language (or languages) is called the embedded language (EL). (Myers-Scotton, 1993a, p. 20)
The distribution of the two languages is asymmetrical in the sense that the ML is the dominant language, and the language that also supplies the morpho-syntactic frame, while the EL, in contrast, provides singly occurring content elements, or full constituents called EL Islands (Myers-Scotton & Jake, 2001, p. 89).
Following Myers-Scotton, I understand Serbian as the Matrix Language, and English as the Embedded Language in the context of this research.
Thomason and Kaufman’s (1988) study is one of the most influential and most cited works in the field. They looked at a variety of contact situations and phenomena, and laid the foundations for a typology of contact outcomes. Their framework for analysing the consequences of language contact is often referred to in language contact research.
Thomason and Kaufman (1988) argue that the length of contact and level of bilingualism define the intensity of contact, and that the more intense the contact situation is, the more likely it is that extensive borrowing will occur. This thesis analyses ten years of data from a Serbian-English contact situation, and collected data will be compared with Thomason and Kaufman’s (1988) borrowings scale (Table 2.1).
In the following sections, I will focus more closely on these and other studies of language contact. Particular attention will be given to Matras’ (2009) functional model as the present study takes Matras’ (2009) functional model as its framework.


Bilingualism, and multilingualism, are well recognised as prevailing over monolingualism (see for example Crystal, 2003; Grosjean, 1982; Meyerhoff & Nagy, 2008). Yet, a range of questions about bilingualism remain unanswered.
One such question is at what point someone who speaks another language can be called a bilingual. Baetens Beardsmore (1986), for example, sees bilingualism as the presence of at least two languages within one and same speaker, while Grosjean (2010) argues that bilingualism is the regular use of two or more languages in everyday life.
Appel and Muysken (1987) suggest that language contact inevitably leads to bilingualism. They recognise two types of bilingualism – individual and societal. Individual bilingualism is when an individual speaks two languages, while societal bilingualism occurs when two or more languages are spoken in a given society, not necessarily by every individual in that society. They divide societal bilingualism into three forms. The first form is when two languages are spoken by two different, monolingual groups, the second form is when everyone in the society is bilingual, and the third form is when one group is monolingual, while the other, usually non-dominant or oppressed, is bilingual. Although they acknowledge that the linguistic situation in any given society is far more complex than any of these three forms suggest, Appel and Muysken (1987) point out that it is useful to keep the ideal typology in mind when describing bilingual societies.
Sebba (2011) argues the need to recognise two broad categories of societal bilingualism. The first category is state bilingualism, where bilingualism is officially recognised at the level of states or sub-states. The second category is community bilingualism, where a group, of whatever size, practices bilingualism among themselves. According to him, studies of community bilingualism (which is the type of bilingualism characteristic of the Serbian community in New Zealand) should research bilingual practices within the community, including trends over time, such as language shift.
Thomason and Kaufman (1988) recognise the extent of bilingualism among speakers as one of the main factors influencing contact outcomes, the other two being the length of contact, and social conditions. According to Myers-Scotton (1993b), code-switching is more related to familiarity with both languages than proficiency in the individual languages, or social factors. Sakel (2007) notes that degree of bilingualism plays a role in the way elements are borrowed from one language into the other, and that without bilingualism we might expect to see incorporation of lexical items, but not grammatical structures.
A number of studies concern themselves with how two languages might co-exist, and the cognitive, psychological and social processes that occur in the bilingual mind.
Weinreich’s (1968) distinction of coordinate, compound and subordinate bilingualism is one of the most cited typologies (see Figure 2.1).
Table 2.1 graphically represents the mental encoding of two languages in an individual’s brain, as proposed by Weinreich. Coordinate bilinguals function as double monolinguals, and so for them equivalent lexemes for the same object in their two languages have slightly different meanings. For compound bilinguals, equivalent lexemes for the same object in the two languages have the same meaning, because compound bilinguals merge both languages at the conceptual level. In subordinate bilinguals, the first language remains dominant over the second language. Ervin and Osgood (1954) combine Weinreich’s second and third type of bilingualism, and differentiate between coordinate and compound bilinguals. Their distinction is largely sociological and demographic and is based on the acquisition of the two languages. According to them, coordinate bilinguals have learned their languages in different environmental contexts and not at the same time, while compound bilinguals have learned both languages from childhood, in the same environmental context.
Fishman (1971) argues that language choice in bilingual settings is highly influenced by domains, such as family, religion, school, and occupation, and that different domains carry different expectations in the choice of language. The number of domains in which each language is employed, as well as the overlap of domains, varies in bilinguals.
Fishman also claims that maintenance and shift proceed unevenly across domains, for example the family domain might be more maintenance prone than the occupational domain.
Sankoff (1971) foregrounds the interactional nature of speech, and identifies factors such as venue, interaction type, style, topic of conversation, and above all, interlocutor, as factors that influence which language is chosen. Her decision tree model has often been used to graphically represent the choice of languages. Sankoff (1972), however, advises that this model should be used in combination with other models as it excludes situations where two languages are used at the same time, such as happens with code-switching in situations of community bilingualism.
Grosjean highlights the function of languages as an important factor. According to his complementary principle [b]ilinguals usually acquire and use their languages for different purposes, in different domains of life, with different people. Different aspects of life often require different languages (Grosjean, 2010, p. 29).
Grosjean claims that this principle influences both language fluency and language dominance. He points out that, although it is difficult to define language dominance, it is generally accepted that bilinguals are usually not balanced, but dominant in one of their languages, and that bilinguals do not have an equal and perfect knowledge of their languages. They do not develop equal and total fluency in their languages because the functions and uses of their languages are often quite different. Rarely are all domains of life covered by all languages. A language used in more domains and with more people is better developed than a language used in a smaller number of domains and with a limited number of people.
Myers-Scotton (1993b, 2006b) argues that language users are rational and choose to speak the language that clearly marks their rights and obligations, relative to other speakers, in any particular conversation and its setting. Myers-Scotton (1993b) proposes a Markedness Model which explains socio-psychological motivations for code-switching. She argues that speakers have a sense of markedness in regard to linguistic codes and are able to identify and choose the code (marked or not), from their linguistic repertoire, which is the most advantageous in specific interactions. Because the unmarked choice is safer, speakers usually (and unconsciously) make that choice. On the other hand, marked code-switching may be used to achieve specific effects such as increasing social distance via authority or anger, or aesthetic effects, and in a strategy to call attention.
According to the Conversation Analysis approach, language choice is programmatically relevant to the talk-in-interaction (Li Wei, 2005). Bilingual speakers are rational individuals, however, they are not oriented to rights and obligations, or attitudes and identities. Instead they primarily aim to achieve coherence in the interactional task at hand.
However, as Gafaranga (1999) argues, the Conversation Analysis framework is limited by relying on the concept of language. Gafaranga (1999) suggests that the concept of language should be abandoned and talk should be seen as an orderly activity. Language choice itself should be understood as a significant aspect of talk organisation.
Matras’ (2009, 2012) principal assumption is that bilingual and multilingual speakers have a complex repertoire of linguistic structures at their disposal, which are not organised in the form of language systems, but are rather elements in repertoires associated with particular social activities. Those repertoires include both word-forms and rules for their formation and combination. Bilinguals do not « block » or « switch off » one of their languages during monolingual conversation but instead have the entire repertoire of structures available to them.
Starting from the premise that language is a practice of communicative interaction, Matras claims that the selection of elements is not random, but defined by the linguistic task-schema that the speaker wishes to carry out. Like Myers-Scotton, Matras notes that, in some contexts, certain types of cross-linguistic mixing may be socially acceptable and even make for more effective goal-oriented communication. One example, recorded by Matras and other researchers is the deliberate mixing of languages by skilful and competent bilinguals to achieve a humorous effect. Another example would be when a word from another language is inserted to « obtain a special conversational key » (Matras, 2012, p. 47) which can add a flavour of emotive mode, and stimulate the cultural bond between speaker and listener. In these cases speakers consciously exploit the contrast between components that belong to different languages.
On the other hand, there are also non-conscious « selection malfunctions » (Matras, 2012), which are the result of a cognitive motivation to reduce communication overload (Matras, 1998, 2000). The speaker not only plans what to say and produces the utterance, but also tries to assert the way this should be processed and accepted by the hearer. To avoid the interactional disharmony which might put his assertive authority at risk, the speaker monitors and intervenes in hearer-side processing operations, i.e. the hearer’s responses and reactions to the speaker’s utterances. Matras claims that « thinking and speaking » (which could be defined as ordinary « talking ») are language processing operations which are mentally separated from operations that involve « monitoring and directing » hearers’ anticipated interpretations. Figure 2.2 represents the arrangement of directing operations in linguistic interaction.

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1.1 Research objectives
1.2 Contribution to the existing body of knowledge
1.3 Propositions
1.4 Scope of this thesis
1.5 The Serbian language
1.6 Layout of the thesis
2.1 Research of direct relevance
2.2 Bilingualism
2.3 Language shift and language maintenance
2.4 Constraints and motivations for borrowing
2.5 Contact phenomena
2.6 Languages in contact with English
2.7 The New Zealand linguistic landscape
2.8 Serbian-English Language Contact
2.9 Concluding remarks
3.1 New Zealand Population Census data
3.2 New Zealand Serbians and their two languages
3.3 Concluding remarks
4.1 Participants
4.2 Electronically-Mediated Communication
4.3 Written vs. oral discourse
4.4 Quantity and organisation of data
4.5 Data presentation
4.6 Ethical guidelines
4.7 Analysis of data
4.8 Concluding remarks
5.1 Integration of English matter-items
5.2 Frequency of replicated word classes
5.3 Replication of inflectable word classes
5.4 Replication of non-inflectable words
5.5 Multi-lexeme replications
5.6 Concluding remarks
6.1 Nominal phrases
6.2 Verbal phrases
6.3 Innovations at the level of clause
6.4 Lexical semantics
6.5 Influence of English spelling on Serbian spelling
6.6 Concluding remarks
7.1 Length of contact and replication
7.2 Topic of conversation and replication
7.3 EMC mode and replication
7.4 Social factors
7.5 Social identity markers
7.6 Stylistic functions of lexical insertions
7.7 Difference in semantic meanings
7.8 Concluding remarks
8.1 Summary
8.2 Confirming the initial presumptions
8.3 Limitations of the study
8.4 Suggestions for future research

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