Part 1: Basic concepts in contact linguistics: a critical reflection
This seminar offers a critical examination of the concepts of ‘borrowing’ and ‘convergence’, assessing methodological criteria for the demarcation between borrowing and code-mixing or code-switching, and between replication through gradual propagation of change and the formation of Mixed Languages (which some authors have considered as extraordinary examples of ‘borrowing’), and the role of grammaticalisation, pivot-matching and pattern replication in processes of morpho-syntactic convergence.
Part 2: The borrowing of morphology and the special position of predications
This part deals with controversies surrounding the borrowability of inflectional morphology, and with the related question of inflectional strategies that are employed to integrate verbs. I present a typology of morphological borrowing that s grounded in a functional understanding of inflection, and dwell in particular on the role of the finite verb as an anchor of the predication.
Part 3: Borrowing hierarchies: A problem of epistemology?
In this part I review proposals for implicational hierarchies of contact induced change in grammar, and discuss sampling methods and the role of quantitative and qualitative generalisations. After a review of similarities and differences between the arguments put forward by different authors, I discuss the functional rationale behind the postulation of borrowing hierarchies as a window to the layered structure of the grammar faculty, and contrast that approach with the one that advocates that ‘anything can be borrowed’ and is dismissive of both our
ability to make generalisations about borrowability, and of the usefulness of such generalisations. I argue that, rather than revolve around the details of individual structures or of the sampling methods employed, the debates surrounding borrowing hierarchies in fact address the core of the very purpose of theorising on contact linguistics.
Part 4: Language documentation in contact situations
The fourth part addresses methodological and theoretical challenges of identifying the boundaries of a ‘language system’ and ‘authenticity’ when documenting languages that are inherently combined in actual conversation with other systems since they are spoken exclusively in bilingual settings, or in other words, how to tell apart ‘language’ from ‘repertoire’. I draw on examples of my field work on languages like Domari, Lekoudesch, and Romani.