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Seminar: Bilingualism in the community: Code-switching and grammars in contact, Catherine Travis, 27 Apr

Australian National University, Catherine Travis, Evolution

Date: 17 April 2018

Seminar: Bilingualism in the community: Code-switching and grammars in contact

Speaker: Catherine Travis

When: 27 April, 3.30pm-5pm

Where: Engma Room (5019), H Coombs Building, ANU


Does the use of two languages by bilinguals inevitably bring about grammatical change? Does switching between languages serve as a catalyst in such change? It is widely held that linguistic code-switching inherently promotes grammatical convergence – languages becoming more similar to each other through contact; evidence for this, however, remains elusive. In this talk, drawing from a new book by Torres Cacoullos and Travis (2018, CUP), grammatical similarity and difference is established through quantitative diagnostics defined by variation patterns in speech.

The community of study is a long-term Spanish-English bilingual community in northern New Mexico, USA, and the linguistic feature of interest is subject pronoun expression (variable in Spanish, but near obligatory in English). Using a bilingual corpus of in which both languages are spontaneously produced by the same speakers, we show how bilinguals’ two languages differ from each other, and align with their respective monolingual benchmarks. We conclude, then, that grammatical change through contact is not a foregone conclusion in bilingual communities, where speakers are adept at keeping their languages together, yet separate.

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