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June 5, 2001
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v2.1 Reference

Language Contact

An Introduction

On the Flathead Reservation in northwestern Montana, the sixty remaining fluent speakers of Montana Salish, most of them elderly, speak their language only to each other, changing to English when outsiders or younger tribal members are present. The Aleuts who used to live on Bering Island off the east coast of Russia speak Russian in addition to their native Aleut. The Republic of Singapore, an island nation of just 238 square miles, boasts four official languages. Language contact is everywhere: no nation has a completely monolingual citizenry and many have more than one official language.

Sarah G. Thomason documents the linguistic consequences of language contacts worldwide. Surveying situations in which language contact arises, she focuses on what happens to the languages themselves: sometimes nothing, sometimes the incorporation of new words, sometimes the spread of new sounds and sentence structures across many languages and wide swathes of territory. She outlines the origins and results of contact-induced language change, extreme language mixture—which can produce pidgins, creoles, and bilingual mixed languages—and language death. The book concludes with a brief survey of language endangerment.

Complete with lists of additional readings and references as well as a glossary for students new to the subject, this textbook is a richly documented introduction to a lively, fast-developing field.

About the Author

Sarah G. Thomason is professor of linguistics at the University of Michigan.


"The author has an in-depth knowledge of the field and is clearly one of [its] top experts. The text is richly documented with examples from an extraordinary variety of language contact situations. An excellent and quite extensive overview. . . . I cannot envision a better introductory text on language contact."—Carol A. Klee, University of Minnesota

"[Provides] intriguing glimpses into a field in which there is very clearly a lot still to be established and even to be discovered. . . . An outstanding and highly useful textbook."—Nancy C. Dorian, Bryn Mawr College

Georgetown University Press

9780878408542 : language-contact-thomason
Paperback / softback
240 Pages
$29.95 USD

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