Abstract - Meakins, Gardani

Course: Language contact and morphology

Instructor: Francesco Gardani & Felicity Meakins

The transfer of morphology in situations of language contact occurs less frequently than lexical transfer. In this course, we explore the role of typology in the behaviour of morphological transfer and retention; and the contribution of typological congruence between languages to these processes. We discuss examples from case studies of borrowing, code-switching, creoles and mixed languages, in order to test the predictive and descriptive value of claimed typological processes and universals.


Francesco Gardani Felicity Meakins

Prerequisites and expected knowledge:  We expect attendees to have a background in typology or morphology.

Monday November 27th: Morphology in borrowing, code-switching, creoles and mixed languages

The first session sets up the language contact data for the rest of the sessions. We will show that morphology is borrowed less often than lexicon, and is generally only derived from the dominant of the two interacting languages in insertional code-switching. Many pidgin and creole languages also contain relatively little morphology compared with their lexifier languages, although this claim is controversial. In contrast, morphology from both source languages is maintained in some mixed languages.

Tuesday November 28th: PAT(tern) and MAT(ter) transfer

In this session, we explore differences in the transfer of paradigmatic morphology (e.g. case, pronouns, TAM), in both form and structural pattern. In general, both have been observed only rarely in cross-linguistic studies of language contact, compared with the transfer of other lexical and morphological material. More instances of (PAT)tern transfer exist, for example where a shift in case alignment has occurred as a result of convergence with a case system from a different language. This session explores why PAT transfer is more common than MAT transfer, what patterns are more likely to be borrowed, and what MAT forms PAT transfers are more likely to map onto.

Thursday November 30th: Types of morphology and contact outcomes

This session explores implicational hierarchies of borrowing, and looks for explanations for these hierarchies which apply cross-linguistically. We will show that generalisations about borrowing, code-switching etc apply to varying degrees to different types of morphology, with contextual inflection less likely to undergo transfer or be maintained than inherent inflection. Derivational morphology is also generally more resilient than inflectional morphology. We discuss how this borrowability hierarchy is based on the degree to which a morpheme relates to other parts of the clause outside its maximal projection, i.e. contextual inflection, such as subject-verb agreement markers and case morphology, is exceptionally fragile in situations of language contact due to its syntactically dependent nature.

Friday December 1st: The role of typological congruence in contact outcomes

An old notion in the borrowing literature is that morphological transfer is a function of the relationship between the source and recipient languages, i.e. if the structures of the two languages correspond typologically, then this similarity will facilitate a direct mapping of morphemes from one language to the other. Conversely typological distance inhibits the transfer of inflectional morphology. We discuss this notion of typological congruence and explore instructive exceptions.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University

Subscribe to our newsletter