HALS Workshop 4. Language ecologies: The Balkans and beyond

[General description of the workshop here]

[Description of the background and objectives of the workshop]

Thursday 12 March – auditorium XII, Main Building

9:15–9:30

  • Opening of HALS Workshop 4

9:30–10:30

  • The Balkan Sprachbund and the other Eurasian enclaves
    Johanna Nichols (University of California, Berkeley)

Coffee

11:00–11:45

  • On language typology and language ecology
    Kaius Sinnemäki (University of Helsinki)

11:45–12:30

  • Simplification, complexification, and grammatical Balkanization
    Jouko Lindstedt (University of Helsinki)

Lunch

14:00–14:45

  • Language policy and linguistic landscape in Macedonia
    Christina E. Kramer (University of Toronto)

14:45–15:30

  • Language contacts and case loss in Balkan Slavic
    Max Wahlström (University of Helsinki)

Coffee

16:00–16:45

  • Language and identity – historical perspectives on a case study of two Macedonian language speakers from Boboshchitsa (Boboshticë) and Kostur (Kastoria)
    Ljudmil Spasov (The Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje)

Friday 13 March – auditorium XIII, Main Building

9:15–10:00

  • On Language Proxemics: How Much Contact is Enough for a Healthy Language?
    Nikolay Vakhtin (European University at St. Petersburg)

10:00–10:15

  • Introduction to group sessions

10:15–12:45

  • Group sessions (coffee at 11)

Lunch

14:15–15:15

  • Feedback and discussion

15:15–16:00

  • Convergence of prosody under contact: two African case studies
    Laura Downing (University of Gothenburg)

Coffee

16:30–17:15

  • Urban varieties and stylised registers in South Africa’s peri-urban townships
    Ellen Hurst (University of Cape Town)

17:15–18:00

  • Closing discussion

The Balkan Sprachbund and the other Eurasian enclaves
Johanna Nichols (University of California, Berkeley)

What is interesting and distinctive in the Balkan linguistic type deserves more cross-linguistic and geographical attention than it has had. I survey several variables developed for their geographical and diachronic interest, across Eurasian areas at three scales: enclaves (local or sub-subcontinental: Balkan, circum-Baltic, Caucasus, Avar sphere, the frontier of the eastern steppe, the northwest Pacific Rim); subcontinent (Europe, western Eurasia, the central steppe, eastern Eurasia — these partly overlap); continent (or most of a continent: northern Eurasia, north of about 40°). All the variables show broad continent-wide clines with polar values in western to central Europe and the northwest Pacific Rim. In standard areal theory, enclaves should form clear typological clusters and should be discrete from their neighbors. No enclave surveyed here is discrete. The Balkan Sprachbund is one of few clear clusters but, far from discrete, it might be described as a typological apex of western Europe.

The sociolinguistics of contact in an area proves to be a good predictor of the behavior of some of the variables. Even better, it can predict the degree of structural complexity in the area, the extent to which canonical values and structures are maximized, and the extent of cross-categorial and cross-domain structural consistency (e.g. head-final in all constituents and suffixing in morphology). But the sociolinguistics that produces these notable grammatical effects is not that of the Balkan Sprachbund; the findings of this survey imply that the Balkan linguistic type is not just the result of sheer contact; and uniquely among the enclaves surveyed here its type is not a hypertrophy of inherited types. Tracing it to a pre-IE substratum is a poor strategy because non-falsifiable, yet the Sprachbund does appear to reflect strong accommodation to the western end of a pre-existent Eurasian typological cline. But what does accommodation to a pre-existent type mean, substantively and concretely? I propose to answer the question by sketching out a model of language spreading in western Eurasia that can at least taxonomize the Balkan situation.

On language typology and language ecology
Kaius Sinnemäki (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies)

In my talk I discuss ways in which linguistic structures may co-vary with social, cultural, areal and other environmental factors across languages. The reviewed factors include geographical areas, subsistence type, climate, and macro-sociological properties such as speech community size. I further briefly introduce recent quantitative methods that have been used in recent studies to determine cross-linguistic patterns.

Simplification, complexification, and grammatical Balkanization
Jouko Lindstedt (University of Helsinki)

A growing number of linguistic studies argue that contact among languages is reflected in their structure in particular ways and that certain types of contact situations simplify grammar, whereas other types of contact situations, and especially the relative isolation of a language, may complexify it. In this paper I will argue that the changes that made the languages of the Balkan linguistic area converge structurally were neither clearly simplifying nor clearly complexifying. These changes represent a tendency towards a certain syntactic type, that is, explicit analytic marking, whose rise can be explained by diachronic regularities that are partly structural, partly sociolinguistic in nature. Intense borrowing among languages always increases their analyticity in the long run. In the Balkans, the effect was strongest in the centre of the linguistic area, but also in the middle of the prestige scale of languages, which shows that it was brought about both by L1 speakers regularly using other languages and by L2 speakers. I will argue that the Balkans represent a third type of contact situation besides the two types distinguished by Trudgill (2011).

Language policy and linguistic landscape in Macedonia
Christina E. Kramer (University of Toronto)

In this paper I explore the shifting language policies of the Republic of Macedonia involving both status planning (the role of Macedonian and minority languages) as well as corpus planning (with a focus on script) and the ways in which these policies as well as Macedonia’s multilingualism is reflected in the linguistic landscape of Skopje as well as several smaller cities. Utilizing official and vernacular signs, I examine code-mixing — including translations and transcriptions — as well as the semiotics of power relations in the relative positioning and prominence of languages and alphabets in the capital and in peripheral towns. While bilingual signs in Albanian and Macedonian reflect laws reminiscent of Quebec sign laws (Landy and Bourhis 1997, Backhaus 2009) these languages compete in a more complex linguistic space with less powerful linguistic and religious communities reflective of what Shohamy (2006) terms symbolic messages regarding: “legitimacy, centrality, and relevance of particular languages and the people they represent.”

Language contacts and case loss in Balkan Slavic
Max Wahlström (University of Helsinki)

In my paper I asses the role of language contacts in the loss of case inflection in Bulgarian and Macedonian. While case loss itself is not thought to be one of the features of the Balkan Sprachbund, a general preference for analytic structures over inflection is often mentioned in the accounts of the Sprachbund. In addition, some individual Balkanisms pertain to the loss of case distinctions, most notably the merger of the genitive and the dative. I argue that structural convergence, the hallmark of the Balkan Sprachbund, did play a role in the development of the Balkan Slavic case inflection. Yet a major impetus for case loss in Bulgarian and Macedonian can be attributed to another type of language contact. There is increasing evidence that points to the role of L2 speakers in reducing inflectional morphological complexity, including case inflection. I will demonstrate that this observation adds up with what is known about the historical sociolinguistic status of Balkan Slavic vis-à-vis the other Balkan languages.

Language and identity – historical perspectives on a case study of two Macedonian language speakers from Boboshchitsa (Boboshticë) and Kostur (Kastoria)
Ljudmil Spasov (The Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje)

The main subject of this study is the language and cultural identity of the speakers of the Macedonian language living in the regions of Boboshchica (Boboshticë, Albania) and Kastoria (Kostur, village of Shestevo, Greece) today. In June of 2014, a team of researchers conducted interviews with two educated persons from these villages. The interviews were not structured and the topic of the talks was not imposed by the interviewers.

During the interviews, it was more than obvious that the dialects spoken by the informants are rather different from the scholarly descriptions of these dialects that were published in 20th century. These differences can be ascribed to different factors affecting language change.

The goal of the study is to identify and to describe the differences between the scholarly descriptions and the dialects as spoken today, and to explore the cultural and linguistic identity of the interviewees.

On Language Proxemics: How Much Contact is Enough for a Healthy Language?
Nikolay Vakhtin (European University at St. Petersburg)

Like all metaphors derived by linguists from biology (language family, language death, language endangerment), the metaphor language proxemics that comes from social psychology is a powerful instrument of thinking but should not be taken too seriously or carried too far. I am using this metaphor to highlight the fact that two contacting languages can come too close to each other, or, on the contrary, stay too far apart from each other for the contact to remain ‘healthy’. If one accepts Peter Trudgill’s (2011) idea that language isolation leads to increase of linguistic complexity and to development of mature language features (Dahl 2004), the next logical step is that prolonged isolation can lead to over-complexity and, in the long run, possibly to a collapse of communicative abilities of the language. On the other hand, we know that excessive language contact often leads to language shift and, eventually, also to a collapse of communicative abilities of the language (Vakhtin 2006). There can, in other words, be too much or too little contact for the languages to function normally. If we accept that language contact can have different degrees, or levels, the next question is: how can we measure these degrees? It looks like the units we can use for this lie in three different areas: area of language structure (e.g., extension of interference, number of borrowings, etc.); area of language functioning (e.g., people can write in one language and speak in another); and area of sociolinguistic domains (e.g., home language vs. office language). The level of contact in all three areas can be calculated which will lead to determining the zone of normal, or healthy contact of two languages.

References
Dahl, Ö. The Growth and Maintenance of Linguistics Complexity. Amsterdam: Benjanims, 2004.
Trudgil, P. Sociolinguistic Typology: Social Determinants of Linguistic Complexity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011 (reprinted 2012).
Vakhtin, N. The Language of Markovo Old Settlers: From a Communication System to a Demo Version // Marginal Linguistic Identities: Studies in Slavic Contact and Borderline Varieties / Ed. by Dieter Stern and Christian Voss. [Eurolinguistische Arbeiten. Herausgegeben von Uwe Hinrichs unter Mitarbeit von Uwe Buettner. Bd. 3] Harrassowitz Verlag: Wiesbaden. 2006. Pp. 135–147.

Convergence of prosody under contact: two African case studies
Laura Downing (University of Gothenburg)

The literature on the effect of contact on prosody gives a contradictory picture of the expected outcomes. On the one hand, standard works like Matras (2009) claim that prosody is at the top of the list of features that are likely to be borrowed under contact. Indeed, work like Mattisoff (2001) and Gussenhoven (2004) observes that lexical tone is an areal feature: tone languages are found in geographically contiguous zones in Asia and Africa. In contrast, work like Salmons (1992) and Trudgill (2011) suggest that tone is a complex feature, and will be eliminated under contact, as contact should lead to systemic simplification. Swahili is an oft-cited example of this. Unlike most other Bantu languages, this widely spoken contact language has lost the tone contrasts reconstructed for Proto-Bantu. As Downing & Mous (2013) observe, the source of these contradictions is surely a lack of information. Studies of language contact typically contain little discussion of intonation, tone and stress. The goal of this talk is to contribute to our knowledge of possible outcomes by presenting two case studies of tone system convergence under contact. The first case study is of South Mande (Ivory Coast). Vydrine (2004, 2009) has convincing argued that an array of striking differences between West and South Mande comes from long contact between South Mande and Kru languages. Like other languages in what Vydrine (2009) calls the “Upper-Guinean Coast Sprachbund” South Mande has more than two level tones, whereas West Mande only has two. The other case study is of Chimiini, considered a dialect of Swahili, spoken in Barawa, Somalia, where it had centuries-long contact with Southern Somali. (See Kisseberth & Abasheikh 2004; Kisseberth 2010, 2011, Nurse 1991, Philippson 1993.) I will argue in this talk that the pitch-accent system of Chimiini shows convergence with the pitch-accent system of Somali, and diverges from what one would expect for a Bantu language. In short, these two cases show that contact does not necessarily lead to tonal simplification. And it does not necessarily lead to wholesale borrowing of a neighbour’s tone system. Instead, we find another option: convergence of neighbouring systems.

Urban varieties and stylised registers in South Africa’s peri-urban townships
Ellen Hurst (University of Cape Town)

The multilingual nature of South Africa’s peri-urban townships has led to a complex situation wherein the ‘standard’ varieties of African languages are not reflected in the actual language practices that are taking place. In the African context, the problematic nature of ‘standard’ languages has been highlighted by authors such as Makoni and Pennycook, who have argued for the destandardisation and disinvention of bounded homogenous languages resulting from processes of missionary and colonial categorisation. Accompanying this argument is a growing need to find ways to recognize emerging vernaculars. Recent developments in sociolinguistic theory have led to more flexible approaches to ‘language’ that are pertinent in these African urban centres. Conceptualising language as practice, involving resources and repertoires, allows us to think about vernaculars, registers and styles in different ways.

With this in mind, this paper introduces the linguistic situation in several peri-urban townships in South Africa, with a focus on urban varieties of African languages, and in particular, the stylized register ‘tsotsitaal’. The paper will unpack the differences between the urban varieties and the stylized registers used by youth, and trace the possible patterns of language variation and change taking place within these multilingual townships. It will describe the linguistic features of the different varieties, and situate this within the context of use and the identities at work in youth language practices. The paper will finally consider some of the implications this situation has for language policy in South Africa.

[A description of the sessions and the resulting discussion here]