Language contact and language change in the Faetar speech community

Naomi Gail Nagy, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation proposes a standardized approach to the analysis of contact-induced language change and applies the model to an examination of Faetar, a language which has developed in a situation of contact between Italian and Francoprovencal. The model incorporates factors which have been shown to be significant in determining contact-induced change and variation and indicates how these factors can be analyzed at the individual speaker level. Once a uniform approach to the analysis is taken, progress toward a model of contact-induced language change will be more rapid. This approach permits testing of claims regarding the relationship between social context and types of language change. The language examined is Faetar, an unwritten and virtually unstudied Francoprovencal dialect which has been spoken in a village in southern Italy for the past 600 years. Because the language has been in contact with Italian as well as the colloquial dialects of the area, it has undergone many changes and is no longer mutually intelligible with Francoprovencal. Unlike many dialects spoken in isolated communities, Faetar does not appear to be dying as the language is held in high regard by its speakers. They recognize the prestige of this marker of their distinctness from other southern Italians. The question arises, however, of just how distinct the language is. In its centuries of contact with Italian, Faetar has changed in many ways. These contact-induced changes, and methods of analyzing them, are the focus of this dissertation. Four phenomena that show the effects of Italian and Apulian dialects on Faetar are examined. Quantitative analysis of each pattern within a variationist framework, using both elicited and naturally occurring speech data, is presented. The variables examined are the appearance of word-medial and word-initial geminates, post-tonic deletion, and lexical choice. Degree of change at the lexical, phonological, and morphological levels is compared. A detailed description of these phenomena augments the scarce data available for this uncodified language variety, contributing to the reconstruction of Francoprovencal as it was spoken some 600 years ago, as well as aiding the preservation of Faetar.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Nagy, Naomi Gail, "Language contact and language change in the Faetar speech community" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9627971.