Thursday 28 September – Gertjan Postma

Speaker: Gertjan Postma (Meertens Instituut)
Title: Loss of the infinitival marker tau ‘to’ in Brazilian Pomeranian: language converence or accommodation to Portuguese?
Date: Thursday 28 September
Venue: Eyckhof 3/002
Time: 16.00-17.15 hrs (Different time than usual)

When various dialects enter in intense and prolonged mutual contact in a new sociological setting, they may converge (Weinreich 1954, Trudgill 1986) in a process of koineisation (Chambers & Trudgill 1980). This situation occurs with enhanced intensity in newly-colonized areas, in so-called language islands (Rosenberg 1994): convergence of a conglomerate of mutually intelligible dialects towards this new koinè. In this talk we study a well-known, but often ignored mechanism and outcome: retreat to default settings, the rise of the unmarked. The case study pursued here is the complete loss of the infinitival prefix tau ‘to’ in Pomeranian, a West Germanic language, extinct in Europe, but still spoken in isolated communities in Brazil. While the original Pomeranian dialects in Europe had a considerable amount of variation in this particular domain, Pomeranian in Brazil has converged to a remarkably uniform new construction, which was not present in Europe in the days of emigration. We will evaluate the koineisation hypothesis vis-a vis the alternative that language contact with Portuguese be at stake.

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