Language Contact
presented by
Michael L. Friesner
August 6, 2007
Thank you to Gillian Sankoff for sending me her PPT slides (among other things).
Two Main Types of
Language Contact
Agent: Nonnative speakers affecting a language
they come to speak
Agent: Native speakers adopting nonnative features
“language shift”
interference (or sometimes “imposition”)
L2 effects
“language contact through maintenance”
influence on L1
(Third type: Extreme Contact = Formation of Contact
Languages—pidgins and creoles)
The Data I’m Using to
2004-2005: A Sociolinguistic Study of
Northeast Philadelphia (Friesner, Dinkin, and
Speakers = native Russian and English
speakers in Northeast Philadelphia
The Outcomes of Borrowing in
Montréal (Friesner)
= native French and Spanish
speakers in Montréal (mostly in French)
The L2 Corpus of Anglo-Montrealers
(Sankoff et al.)
= bilingual native English and
French speakers in Montréal (in both
Reasons for Languages to Be in
forced migration
but also...
voluntary migration
often (always?) results in social inequality between
language groups...
Influence of Contact on
Stable bilingualism (usually a lot of
borrowing, esp. into less dominant
India, Québec, Belgium, large parts of Africa
Language shift
immigrant communities, communities that end
up in a different country because of
conquest/border changes
Influence on Language
Interference (L2 effects)
most frequently affects structure: syntax, phonology
(“accent”), word choices (“interlingual identifications”)
may only be features of nonnative speakers, but in high
contact situations may be incorporated into the
language as a whole (e.g., Irish pronunciation and
structures in Irish English)
bilingual communities also often code-switch
Borrowing (influence on L1)
most frequently affects lexicon
some words may only be used by those who master
both languages, while others may be used by the
community as a whole
especially used to express concepts that were
introduced through cultural contact (tons of these in
English: taco, lo mein, matzah ball, spaghetti)
Interference: Vincent, Age 24
What is Vincent saying?
I work(ed) uh three summer(s) in uh Bitumar -asphált prodúcts
Interference: Marina, Age 25 (2004)
(Did you fight with anyone here?)
a Of course, my neighbor from upstairs.
b He hates my guts.
c He called cops* on me three times.
(Is that the same one with the-- uh-- trash, or a different-- ?)
d Uh-huh! He hates me. Oh he hates me!
(So, when else di- when else did he call the cops on you?)
f Um-- he called once
g and he said that I was throwing the-- uh-- the cooking,
um-- what is it called, the cooking, um-(oil, or the-- ? no--)
* Examples of lexical or structural infelicities are in red
Interference: Marina, Age 25 (2004)
h The plita, uh-(the- the oven???)
Yeah. Like that oven, look at it.
i The whole oven. The whole thing!
j --that I was throwin’ it out of the window,
k actually, I threw it out-- threw it out of the window!
l You know what was my question?
m Not that I didn’t do it.
n You know what was the first thing I said?
o “How did I picked it up?” {laugh}
p I mean, it’s the size of me, the damn thing!
q I mean, it takes some moron to come up with something like
Interference: Marina, Age 25 (2004)
r Like, how much can you hate me to come up with
something stupid like that?
(But, it was-- there was no basis for-- where did he get that idea?)
s He was just-- he’s a very lonely man.
t He’s uh-- he’s a-- he likes-[note: CODE SWITCH to Russian, a language spoken by interviewer
M.F., to describe the neighbor in very unflattering terms]
u He’s about fifty-five or sixty.
v He’s very lonely.
w He lives in a very, very small space.
x And, you know, he uses drugs,
y he doesn’t work,
z he says all the time that his back hurts,
aa and he lives on the welfare and stuff--
What constitutes a borrowing
e.g., are expressions like “Hasta la vista” and “déjà vu”
part of the English language, or not?
How do words change pronunciation when they are
borrowed into another language? “Clara”
Phonological adaptation (Spanish r -> English r) “Clara”
Phonetic adaptation (Spanish r -> English d/t)
Importation of nonnative segments (Spanish r ->
Spanish r (in English)) (pronounced as in Spanish)
What factors affect pronunciation & use of loanwords?
language internal factors (difficulty of the sound,
distance between the two languages, type of word)
external factors (degree of bilingualism of individual and
community, style, age, social class, attitudes)
Loanwords in French
Variables in adaptation:
/r/ (posterior [R], retroflex [r], (or apical))
/h/ (present or absent in loanword)
“hip-hop” / “rap”
Michèle, 22, grad student, int. Eng.
Nathalie, 32, adv. deg., int. Eng., teacher
Murielle, 24, grad student, int. Eng.
Nathan, 34, univ., low Eng., job placer
Mélanie, 24, comm. coll., low Eng., baker
Variable: Gender Assignment (ex. =
Un club-sandwich, puis un sandwich au smoked meat, ça, c’est
vraiment différent...
(Michèle, 22, univ. +, grad student, int.
‘A club sandwich and a smoked meat sandwich, those are really different...’
Euh- club-sandwich, c’est- um- c’est un sandwich, trois étages, au
poulet- euh- tomates, laitue- euh- puis c’est à peu près ça...
(Daniel, 24, univ. +, grad. student, fluent Eng.)
‘A club sandwich is a sandwich with three levels, with chicken, tomatoes, lettuce,
and that’s about it...’
La sandwich au smoked meat, c’est typiquement montréalais, ça, le
smoked meat, euh- c’est un- disons, c’est une sandwich juste avec
deux tranches de pain...
(François, 29, adv. deg., engineer, fluent
‘A smoked meat sandwich is typical of Montreal, smoked meat, and it’s- um- a
sandwich with just two slices of bread.’
Et une sandwich au smoked meat, c’est une sandwich avec de la
viande fumée, donc c’est totalement différent, c’est- euh- c’est une
sandwich ordinaire mais avec de la viande fumée à l’intérieur.
(Nicolas, 24, Grade 11, bartender, int. Eng.)
Borrowing by social class and Level of
English (examples with proper names,
comparing English and French
“Harper will choose this man” ~ “Harper revoit son cabinet”
(‘Harper reexamines his cabinet’)
“Minister Rona Ambrose” ~ “La ministre Rona Ambrose” (=)
Mireille, 47, Grade 8, bar employee, very little English
Nicolas, 24, Grade 11, bartender, intermediate English
Chantal, 24, univ. +, medical student, low int. English
Daniel, 24, univ. +, graduate student, fluent English
Borrowing = community norms
<ll> (also orthography)
Ben, il fait des ceviches, des- euh- des
(Laura, 24, child of Uruguayan immigrants)
‘Well, he makes ceviches, and- uh- paellas.’
...entre unos tres puen- tres punto doce- dos
millones de Montreale(n)ses...
(Laura in Spanish reading passage)
‘...among the approximately 3.2 million Montrealers...’
Ben, les paellas sont- sont bonnes.
(Domingo, 25, Mexican, immigrated at age 21)
‘Well, the paellas are- are good.’
The pronunciation of borrowings is subject to
style shifting (examples from Domingo)
LIST STYLE (most formal):
Uh- burrito, enchilada et fajitas.
On aime s’y réchauffer en dégustant des fajitas, un molé typiquement
mexicain, des enchiladas tierra blanca, des burritos ou même des
crevettes sautées à la tequila.
‘People like warming up there while tasting fajitas, a typically Mexican mole,
enchiladas tierra blanca, burritos, or even tequila-sauteed shrimp.’
Mais, c’est quoi, la différence? Uh- les burritos et la fa- les fajitas, c’est
pas de la bouffe mexicaine, c’est de la bouffe du sud des É- des
‘But, what’s the difference? Uh- burritos and fajitas are not Mexican food, they’re
food from the southern United States...’
Je pense que la différence entre le burrito puis la enchilada, c’est qu’il y
a pas de sauce sur les burritos.
‘I think that the difference between a burrito and an enchilada is that there’s no
There may be variation according to age
in both loanword pronunciation and which
loanwords are used (e.g., “hovercraft”)
Murielle, age 24 - “J’avais jamais vu le mot hovercraft.”
I’ve never seen the word hovercraft before.
Nathalie, age 32 - “Hovercraft, je connais pas.”
Hovercraft, I don’t know it.
Sébastien, age 37 - “Hovercraft- c’est la première fois que je vois ce
Hovercraft- this is the first time I’ve seen this word.
Alice, age 53 - “Hovercraft - aéroglisseur, c’est la même chosemême, même, même, même chose.”
Hovercraft - aéroglisseur, it’s the same thing- the same exact thing.
Maryse, age 58 - “Hovercraft - aéroglisseur, pour moi c’est la même
chose. Au début quand j’en ai entendu parler de l’aéroglisseur, on
l’appelait l’hovercraft, mais voilà.”
Hovercraft - aéroglisseur, for me it’s the same thing. Early on when I heard
Language attitudes may affect
pronunciation and can be gleaned from
Comments on which language is necessary for a job by two bilingual
Daniel, age 24
C’est assez facile d’avoir une job si tu parles juste français; c’est assez
tough d’avoir une job si tu parles juste anglais. Uh- c’est ça, c’est
toujours un atout de parler en anglais, euh- mais c’est pas- c’est pasc’est pas si nécessaire que ça quand même.
‘It’s pretty easy to get a job if you speak only French; it’s pretty tough to
get a job if you speak only English. Uh- that’s right, it’s always an
asset to speak in English, but it’s not all that necessary anyway.’
Philippe, age 26
Je trouve que ça devient de plus en plus dur de parler français à
‘I find that it’s becoming harder and harder to speak French in
Quelqu’un qui parle pas un mot d’anglais trouvera jamais une job.
‘Someone who doesn’t speak a word of English will never find a job.’
So, in English...
Some cases of variation in adaptation
 /x/: Chanukah / Bach / Loch Ness
 bruschetta (/sk/ vs. /∫/)
 stress differences (U.S. garáge vs. Brit.

Language Contact - University of Pennsylvania