The Fifth Language Variation and Change - Australia Workshop (LVC-A5)

The fifth Language Variation and Change – Australia workshop (LVC-A 5) will be held concurrently on Monday 6th December and Tuesday 7th December, and the Centre of Exellence on the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL) will be offering two-days of Master Classes on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th of December.

Keynote Speakers

Professor Rena Torres Cacoullos

Professor Rena Torres Cacoullos, Pennsylvania State University

Simplification in Bilinguals’ Parallel Structures?

What is simpliication, when may it occur in language contact and does it especially affect discourse-pragmatic aspects (e.g., Silva-Corvalán 1994, Thomason & Kaufman 1988:32, Trudgill 2004:317)? We can tackle these questions by assessing parallel but differently variable structures across the languages in contact. Spanish and English main-and-complement clauses are analogous, but the locus of the variation differs across the languages. There is no corresponding variability in the other language, either when subjunctive is chosen over indicative in Spanish (variable subjunctive selection) or when presence over absence of the complementizer is chosen in English (variable complementizer presence).

Overall rate may be an equivocal measure of contact-induced change, here masking productivity of the subjunctive, as shown by the range of subjunctive-licensing main verbs (LaCasse 2018, Poplack et al. 2018). Instead, comparisons to assess simplification can rely on the linguistic conditioning of variation (Szmrecsanyi 2015:354-356), including contextual constraints operationalizing discourse-pragmatic factors, such as grammatical polarity of the main clause verb for the Spanish subjunctive and grammatical person of the main clause subject for the English complementizer.

Data come from a bilingual speech corpus from northern New Mexico, USA, allowing comparisons of both bilinguals' languages (Torres Cacoullos & Travis 2018). We find that bilinguals' Spanish and English main-and-complement clauses each independently align with their respective monolingual speech benchmarks.

While it may characterize situations of transitory language contact, simplification need not arise in ongoing contact situations with active bilinguals, who regularly use both languages. For candidate changes in progress, examined synchronically, it is the bilingual community practices of the speakers that determine the linguistic outcomes of contact.


variation, simplification, bilingual speech, Spanish subjunctive, English complementizer.


LaCasse, D. 2018. The subjunctive in new Mexican Spanish: Maintenance in the face of language contact. PhD diss., Pennsylvania State University.

Poplack, S., R. Torres Cacoullos, N. Dion, R. de Andrade Berlinck, S. Digesto, D. LaCasse, and J. Steuck. 2018. Variation and grammaticalization in Romance: A cross-linguistic study of the subjunctive. In Manual in Linguistics: Romance Sociolinguistics, ed. W. Ayres-Bennett and J. Carruthers. 217-252. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. doi:10.1515/9783110365955-009.

Silva-Corvalán, C. 1994. The gradual loss of mood distinctions in Los Angeles Spanish. Language variation and change 6(03):255-272. doi:10.1017/s095439450000168x.

Szmrecsanyi, B. 2015. Recontextualizing language complexity. In Change of Paradigms -- New Paradoxes: Recontextualizing Language and Linguistics, ed. J. Daems, E. Zenner, K. Heylen, D. Speelman and H. Cuyckens, 347-360. Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter Mouton. doi:10.1515/9783110435597-020.

Thomason, S.G. and T. Kaufman. 1988. Language contact, creolization, and genetic linguistics. Berkeley: Univ of California Press.

Torres Cacoullos, R. and C.E. Travis. 2018. Bilingualism in the community: Code-switching and grammars in contact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Trudgill, P. 2004. Linguistic and social typology: The Austronesian migrations and phoneme inventories. Linguistic Typology 8(3): 305-320. doi: 10.1515/lity.2004.8.3.305

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