IRCS Technical Reports Series

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Thesis or dissertation

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University of Pennsylvania Institute for Research in Cognitive Science Technical Report No. IRCS-05-01


Many principles of structural borrowing have been proposed, all under qualitative theories. Some argue that linguistic conditions must be met for borrowing to occur (‘universals’); others argue that aspects of the socio-demographic situation are more relevant than linguistic considerations (e.g. Thomason and Kaufman 1988). This dissertation evaluates the roles of both linguistic and social factors in structural borrowing from a quantitative, variationist perspective via a diachronic and ethnographic examination of the language contact situation on Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, where the berian creole, Papiamentu, is in contact with Spanish, Dutch, and English. Data are fro m texts (n=171) and sociolinguistic interviews (n=129). The progressive, the passive construction, and focus fronting are examined. In addition, variationist methods were applied in a novel way to the system of verbal morphology. The degree to which borrowed morphemes are integrated into Papiamentu was noted at several samplings over a 100-year time span. Census reports provide social and demographic information for each sampling point. In this way, the relationship of social and demographic changes to contact-induced changes in a linguistic subsystem was evaluated. Some ‘universals’ of structural borrowing are shown to have merit, such as ‘structural compatibility’. Only one non-linguistic factor was significant, and implicates indirectly that the longer speakers are bilingual, the more likely they are to borrow verbal morphology. However, observed changes in, for example, ‘amount and degree of bilingualism’ were not correlated with increased integration of foreign forms. Well-integrated foreign forms may become sensitive to social factors, and behave like any other sociolinguistic variable, except that factors specific to the language contact situation operate as well. This study is one of the first to use quantitative methods to evaluate principles of structural borrowing. The findings contribute to our understanding of the long-term consequences of language contact.

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Date Posted: 12 July 2006