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Auteur: Markku FILPPULA

Language contacts and universals in Englishes in post-colonial settings

Abstract/Résumé: In this paper an attempt is made to put post-colonial Englishes into the wider context of language contacts and their linguistic outcomes in different kinds of sociohistorical setting. Of particular interest is the question of how general contact-linguistic theories can be used to pry apart the different inputs to post-colonial Englishes: those from superstrata, substrata, and various kinds of universals. I will focus on one syntactic feature: embedded inversion (EI), i.e. the use of direct question word order in indirect interrogative clauses. Empirical data is drawn from several both older and newer post-colonial varieties, such as Irish English, Indian English and Singapore English, to shed light on this feature which, though well-known, has so far not been satisfactorily explained. It is argued that in post-colonial Englishes EI can, on the one hand, be considered an example of what are known as 'vernacular universals' or 'angloversals', or, on the other hand, a result of contact influence from some other, substratal or adstratal, language(s) (see Filppula et al. 2009 for general discussion and case-studies). The comparison between the varieties examined here reveals that, apart from sociolinguistic factors such as the general type of contact situation, one has to reckon with purely linguistic factors such as the syntactic division of EI phenomena into Yes/No and WH-questions. Of these, the former type is at its strongest in those varieties that can be described as being 'high-contact' ones, while the latter spreads more evenly across all kinds of varieties. These findings lend support to such general models of contact-induced change as that proposed in Thomason and Kaufman (1998). They are also in line with some more recent studies, such as Trudgill (2010) and Kortman and Szmrecsanyi (2011), which lay emphasis on the degree or type of contact as a key factor determining the linguistic outcomes in language contact settings.