Investigating Diachronic Variation and Change in New Varieties of English

Investigating Diachronic Variation and Change in New Varieties of English

Rita Calabrese (University of Salerno, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7601-3.ch003
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This contribution focuses on processes of language feature convergence which gradually lead to linguistic stabilization over time, whereby specific attention will be given to the process of Englishization in the South-Asian area. The chapter outlines some basic concepts pertaining language universals, contact, and change, as well as descriptive approaches to world varieties of English by referring to the feature classification proposed by Meshtrie and Bhatt. Then, as an explanatory case, it presents the results of a study of verb-particle constructions in a well-established variety of English (i.e., Indian English) obtained by sampling data from sources varying in time, genre, and register with a special focus on the methodological procedures and the analysis tools adopted to extract specific information from the data. Finally, the implications of those findings for future research on the process of language standardization in new varieties of English will be further explored.
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The Study of Indian English From a Language-Contact Perspective

The issue of contact instantiating processes of pidginization and creolization can be differentiated according to varieties that arise through contact with languages coming outside the area, especially through colonialism and varieties that arise through internal contact among languages already indigenous to the area (Schiffman 2010, p.741). From this perspective, the South-Asian region can be considered a paradigm example of the phenomenon known as “convergence area” (Weinreich 1958) referred to phenomena specifically occurring in language contact situations that lead to changes in all areas of grammar.

Some decades after Weinreich’s descriptive study, Charles Ferguson (1992) published a comprehensive essay on some features of “language use” that make South Asia an interesting subject of study as “sociolinguistic area”. His attention to “shared patterns of use” and not only of shared grammatical structures was an important step towards the understanding of general processes of language change in contact situations. Ferguson’s particular perspective, in fact, “looks for the relationship between diachronic language change and language development, phonology and syntax, social conventionalization and cognitive processing, and language universals and individual differences” (Huebner 1996, p.12). Consequently, in studies concerning the development of new varieties, a crucial issue is the extent to which universals of language (Pinker 2003, p.23) and language contact exert their influence on shaping those language systems. Recent research has tested current hypotheses on the interrelationship between language universals and language variation and given rise to new challenging theories on contact varieties. Namely, the notion of “vernacular universals” (Chambers 2004) limits the supposed tendency towards the absolute creativity of these varieties relying on the identification of universally shared features across varieties of English around the world.

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