logo labex efl


Multifactorial analysis of language changes

coordinator: I. Léglise (CNRS, SeDyL) -  leglise(a)vjf.cnrs.fr




Language contact phenomena have received growing attention in the last 20 or 30 years.  Just as Historical linguistics investigates language change through a methodology implying comparison (of languages and settings), different brands of Contact linguistics (Thomason & Kaufman, 1988, THomason, 2001, Winford, 2003) proposed typologies of language contact settings based on parameters such as the type of setting (language maintenance or loss), social factors (length and intensity of contact, degree of bilingualism), language contact mechanisms and results (borrowing, shift, calque, grammaticalization, reorganization etc. such as described by Croft (2000), Field (2002), Heine and Kuteva (2003 & 2005), or Matras and Sakel (2007) among others). Most of the studies with a typological perspective focus on the description of the outcomes of contact and its impact on the languages involved – they were realized with a diachronic perspective and to date little attention has been paid to contemporary contact-induced linguistic variation.  Whereas, most of the studies with a synchronic perspective focus on code-switching and code-alternation (cf. Poplack, 1980, Myers-Scotton, 1993, Auer, 1998, Muysken, 2000); multilingualism and synchronic contact settings being mostly studied by researchers interested in the sociology of language or second language acquisition. Despite overlapping interests there is relatively little interaction and cross-fertilisation between these two lines of research. This is quite surprising since from the start, researchers have pointed out that language contact phenomena cannot be comprehensively understood without careful attention to both the micro and macro social aspects of the contact situation and careful analysis of the linguistic processes, inputs and outcomes. Both research traditions have significantly advanced our knowledge about language contact. It now seems only timely to draw on these advances in an effort to better understand language contact and change.

Historical linguists have long claim that language change is unpredictable and that social factors are fundamental to understand language change (Thomason 2001: 85) but, to date very few ‘social factors’ were taken into account in the different explanations (Léglise & Migge, 2005). Contact-induced changes are dynamic and multiple, involving internal change as well as historical and sociolinguistic factors. The identification and consideration of a variety of explanations constitutes a first step; analyzing their relationships forms a second (Chamoreau & Léglise, 2012). Multiple causation identifies both internally motivated changes and contact-induced processes, but the role played by each process and their precise relationship to each other is not always clear.  We do believe that only a multifaceted methodology and a multi-model approach enables a fine-grained approach to explaining contact-induced language change.


The aim of our program is to better explain synchronic and diachronic language change (on a morpho-syntactic level) in language contact settings by:

- adopting a fine-grained approach concerning “social factors”

- adopting a fine-grained approach concerning “linguistic factors”

- integrating fruitfully these different factors

It involves devising a new analytical approach to analyzing the consequences of language contact - a multifactorial analysis with four levels: morphosyntactic, pragmatic, sociolinguistic and typological and to test this approach on multilingual corpora and new designed data-based involving a typologically diverse set of languages (African languages, Amerindian languages, English, French and Portuguese-lexified Creole languages, romance languages, Slavic or Indo-Iranian languages, Altaic language, Sino-Tibetan and Austronesian languages) and a range of different contact settings (contact between dialects of the same language, contact between lingua franca and ethnic languages, contact between different kinds of dominant languages) and contact outcomes (borrowing, calquing/transfer, code alternation, grammaticalization and variation in constituent ordering).

It also involves developing several computer-based tools for analysing multilingual and linguistically heterogeneous language corpora (manifold learning). It will facilitate identifying zones of grammatical instability that are particularly susceptible or resistant to contact-induced change.

Access to the LC1 platform, tools and database: http://lc1-labexefl.vjf.cnrs.fr/


Members of the project :

SEDYL : Sophie Alby, Fida Bizri, Claudine Chamoreau, Isabelle Léglise, Stefano Manfredi, Bettina Migge, Valelia Muni Toke, Duna Troiani, Pascal Vaillant (BioMed/Paris 13, associated to SeDyL)

LACITO : Evangelia Adamou, Claire Moyse-Faurie, Alice Vittrant, Françoise Guérin

LLACAN : Bernard Caron, Nicolas Quint, Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle, Guillaume Ségérer, Martine Vanhove

LLF : Claire Saillard

PHD Students : Suat Istanbullu, Joseph Jean-François Nunez, Santiago Sanchez.

Postdocs & development of IT tools : Anne Garcia-Fernandez (2012), Catalina Chircu (2013)