Small-scale multilingualism and language contact in egalitarian foragers

Joanne Yager

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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Situations of multilingualism and language contact in which language varieties are small in scale and relatively equal in social status are important phenomena affecting processes of language change throughout human history. Despite this, our knowledge about the outcomes of multilingualism and language contact in this kind of setting remains limited. The current thesis provides insight into the linguistic consequences of interaction between closely-related, recently-described, small-scale language varieties in the community and in the minds of bilinguals, and works to overcome some of the methodological challenges associated with the study of language contact and multilingualism in this type of setting. The studies of the thesis investigate lexical and semantic outcomes of multilingualism and language contact in egalitarian foragers speaking the closely-related Northern Aslian (Austroasiatic) language varieties Jedek and Jahai in northern Peninsular Malaysia. Study I provides grammatical description of the newly discovered Northern Aslian language variety Jedek. Study II finds a high degree of lexical convergence in the language production of Jedek and Jahai speakers in contact, and presents a novel methodology for investigation of the linguistic consequences of language contact. Studies III and IV highlight the role of both social and linguistic factors in influencing bilingual outcomes, and provide evidence of symmetric (Study IV) and asymmetric (Study III) semantic interaction in two groups of Jedek-Jahai bilinguals in two different semantic domains. By combining perspectives from the fields of multilingualism, language contact and primary linguistic documentation and description, the thesis points to the potential of research in lesser-known linguistic settings to advance our theories of multilingualism, language contact and language change.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Languages and Literature
  • Burenhult, Niclas, Supervisor
  • Gullberg, Marianne, Supervisor
  • Kruspe, Nicole, Supervisor
Award date2020 Jan 8
ISBN (Print)978-91-88899-73-6
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-88899-74-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 8

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2020-01-08
Time: 10:15
Place: LUX C121
External reviewer
Name: Pieter Muysken
Title: professor
Affiliation: Radboud Universiteit

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics

Free keywords

  • small-scale multilingualism
  • egalitarian language contact
  • egalitarian bilingualism
  • bilingual semantic interaction
  • crosslinguistic influence
  • lexical convergence
  • bilingual optimization strategies
  • Aslian
  • Austroasiatic
  • Jedek
  • Jahai
  • foragers
  • undiscovered languages
  • topological relations
  • caused motion events
  • reciprocal events
  • phylogenetic networks


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