About this Research Topic
This research question asks: What are the roles of different age groups in contact-induced language change? It will provide multiple perspectives on the under-studied area of child language development in complex multilingual or multidialectal (multi-codal) contexts, bridging boundaries between sociolinguistics, language acquisition, psycholinguistics and linguistic anthropology.
The mechanisms of how language use transitions across generations are not well understood. Specifically, the role of different age cohorts in creating linguistic innovation vs conserving prior conventions in complex environments has received little attention. Research from diverse perspectives – creoles, mixed languages, sign languages, koines, English-only contexts - suggests that change takes place in social interaction, but with differing roles for age.
Some multiple-code contexts are relatively linguistically stable, some of the codes are endangered, and in some communities new codes are being created. Most often the sociolinguistic motivations for contact-induced language change are hypothesized long after the change has taken place, but we are now able to observe contexts in which change is underway or in which the potential for change is immediate.
Discourse analytic methods provide descriptive details of how multilingual communicative events in social settings are structured, how code choices are motivated, and will question the usefulness of categorizing speaker resources as independent codes. Researchers in family policy examine the tension between child and adult code choices and their consequences for intergenerational language maintenance. Typological perspectives explore how the structures of different codes are juxtaposed. Developmental perspectives question how a child’s knowledge and use of multiple codes develops and the nature of crosslinguistic influence. Sociolinguistic and linguistic anthropological methods examine how speakers employ elements of their repertoire for social purposes. Documentation of naturalistic settings will provide a descriptive foundation, and experimental data may be used to explore psycholinguistic questions.
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