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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

This study analyzes variation and change in Transylvanian Saxon (TrSax), an endangered language spoken in Romania. In an intense contact situation featuring TrSax, German, and Romanian, syntactic transfer is observable in TrSax verb clusters, resulting in word order variation between TrSax and German-influenced structures, and a new particle verb structure in TrSax. I compare current data collected through sociolinguistic interviews to data from other TrSax dialects, and to ancestors of TrSax (e.g. Middle High German, Luxembourgish) and show that subordinate clause verb clusters pattern differently in TrSax than in related varieties, displaying flexible distribution between available structures. The transfer of new structures from German into TrSax is facilitated by the typological similarity between the two languages (c.f. Thomason, 2003), however a complete change towards German is prevented by Romanian, which shares similar structures with TrSax. Speakers who use Romanian regularly display different patterns than speakers who do not use Romanian.

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