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Auteur: Nasir Abbas Rizvi SYED

Co-Auteur(s): Rajkumar Malik Delhi India

The role of a dominant language and markedness in the obsolescence of a moribund language

Abstract/Résumé: Thousands of Saraiki speaking families migrated from Pakistan to India in 1947. After migration they gradually shifted from Saraiki to the dominant language Hindi. Consequently Saraiki is attriting in Delhi now a days. This paper is an attempt to study language loss with a focus on palato-alveolar nasals, retroflex nasals and velar nasals of Saraiki. The role of markedness (Seliger 1996) and dominant languages (Ecke 2004) in attrition has already been identified. The current study tries to tease apart the two. Saraiki has palato-alveolar nasal in its phonemic inventory. It also shares with Hindi retroflex nasal and velar nasal (Shackle 1976:18, Shapiro 2007:259). If the language loss is triggered by markedness, the retroflex nasal should be lost first for being the most complex among these sounds and the coronal (palato-alveolar) being more unmarked should be lost after velar. But if only a dominant language is the cause of language loss then the Saraiki speakers should be equally faithful to retroflex and velar nasal because these sounds exist in Hindi. But they may lose palato-alveolar nasal because it does not exist in Hindi. And if both markedness and the dominant language contribute to language loss, the palato-alveolar on account of being non-existent in Hindi should die first followed by retroflex and velar sounds but retroflex nasals being more marked should attrite before velar nasals. To test these hypotheses, an experiment was conducted with two groups of 120 speakers of Saraiki (60 in each group). One group comprised migrants and the other their offspring. The number of male and female participants in groups was equal. The data was collected in an imitation task and evaluated on a Likert scale by native speaker judges. The results show that the participants were the poorest in production of palatal nasal and the best in retroflex nasal. The role of gender and generation was non-significant in language loss. This confirms that the role of a dominant language (Hindi) is stronger than markedness in the attrition of minority languages. References Ecke, P. 2004. Language attrition and theories of forgetting: A cross-disciplinary review. International Journal of Bilingualism 8:321-354. Prince, A. & Smolensky, P. 2004. Optimality Theory: Constraint Interaction in Generative Grammar. Blackwell: NY. Seliger, H. 1996. Primary language attrition in the context of bilingualism. In Ritchie & Bhatia Eds. Handbook of second language acquisition (605 – 626). San Diego: Academic Press. Shackle, C. 1976. The Saraiki language of central Pakistan. London: SOAS. Shapiro, C. 2007. Hindi. In Cardona & Jain eds. The Indo-Aryan Languages. London: Routledge, 250-285.