Contact Linguistics

  • BU Course Number: CAS LX345/ GRS LX645
  • Prerequisites: CAS LX250 Introduction to Linguistics.
  • BU HUB: N/A
  • Offered at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Course Description. [Sample Syllabus] Where does one language end and another begin? Can we neatly box in one linguistic system and seal it off from another? While we often associate particular languages with specific countries or regions of the world, the truth is that linguistic and national frontiers very rarely overlap in either time or space. Indeed, languages do not require passports, and they routinely travel, mix, and interact with each other across permeable borders on both micro- and macroscopic scales. The goal of this course is to examine the mechanisms and outcomes of linguistic contact by surveying cases around the globe from the past and present. We will focus our attention on common, relatively superficial processes of language contact such as lexical-borrowing and code-switching as well as remarkable contact events such as wholesale death language and the emergence of entirely new linguistic systems. We investigate whether certain levels of linguistic structure, such as sounds, words, or sentences, are more susceptible to contact-induced language change than others. We examine the relationship between individuals and groups in situations of language contact and explore the idea that a single person might be able to accelerate or stall rates of linguistic change. We consider language contact within bi- and multilingual minds. Finally, we investigate the extent to which the outcomes of language contact are universal and inevitable, and, conversely, the ways in which each contact situation must be understood uniquely as the complex result of interacting social, political, linguistic, and historical factors.