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Re: Language contact question

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Monday, February 5, 2007, 22:49
Thomas Leigh wrote at 2007-02-05 12:01:39 (-0500)
 > Greetings,
 > I have a general question relating to a long-hypothetical conlang
 > project I'm working on, and I don't know much about language
 > contact.  Basically, the scenario is this: I have a new language
 > emerging from the prolonged contact of two parent languages. Both
 > parent languages are highly inflected, with noun cases, verbal
 > inflection for person, number and tense, etc.; however, the two
 > parent languages are not related, but belong to completely
 > different language families (Indo-European and Uralic). Given this,
 > which is the more plausible scenario: (1) the fact that both
 > languages are highly inflected leads to the descendant, "mixed"
 > language retaining all this morphological complexity, despite the
 > fact that the parent languages are from different families, or (2)
 > the fact that the parent languages are from different families
 > leads to the descendant language being more of a creole, with loss
 > of cases, complicated verbal inflection, and the like?
 > Related question: the Indo-European parent language has grammatical
 > gender, while the Uralic parent language does not. Would the
 > descendant language be likely to have or not have grammatical
 > gender?

The issue of how creoles develop, and how simple they're bound to
become, is still, I think, contentious among creolists.  I don't know
the area well enough to comment.  But there is a rare type of contact
language, exemplified by Michif and Copper Island Aleut, which may
retain the most complex grammatical features of both languages
(e.g. Michif more-or-less combines the French noun phrase with the
Cree verb phrase, and has two cross-cutting gender systems).  The
terms "mixed language" or "intertwined language" are sometimes used.
They're not generally considered creoles, and seem to arise in
pervasively bilingual communities (in the two examples above, the
children of European trappers/traders & native women) who naturally
code-switch a lot, and then build a unique identity around the
language.  So if you particularly wanted a contact language that
retained a lot of complexity from both parents, you might investigate
these examples.