26. Usage-based approaches to bilingual contact phenomena

usage-based approach, bilingualism, language contact phenomena, entrenchment, constructions

Antje Endesfelder Quick, University of Leipzig
Nikolas Koch, LM University Munich
Stefan Hartmann, University of Düsseldorf

Usage-based theories (UB) have gained ground in many linguistic fields, such as L1/ L2 acquisition research, historical linguistics, contact linguistics and bilingualism. The overarching assumption across all these different subdisciplines is that knowledge of language(s) is inherently tied to knowledge of actual language use and generalizations over usage events. UB theory is thoroughly functionalist and seeks to explain language structure and function by drawing on a small set of basic cognitive mechanisms, e.g. entrenchment. Language is shaped by usage events, both historically and ontogenetically; as such, UB theories move away from an exclusive dichotomous focus on language structure.
Growing up and living as a bilingual is different from monolinguals for one main reason: two languages coexist in one mind, are constantly interacting and influencing each other. This influence can be observed both on a structural but also on a lexical level. Traditional approaches have focused on structure alone, proposing constraints for different contact phenomena that operate universally. However, it has gradually become apparent that structural constraints are tendencies at best and not universal at all. For example, contact-induced language change, borrowability of items and structures, is one central topic in research on bilingualism, and hierarchies as to which elements are borrowed more easily from one language into the other were proposed neglecting non-structural reasons such as entrenchment in individual speakers and their conventionalization across speech communities. Often, contact-induced language change is just a matter of increasing or decreasing frequencies of use.
Entrenchment of linguistic knowledge is closely tied to frequency of occurrence, both in the input and the output. The higher the frequency of a linguistic item is, the more it becomes entrenched, which ultimately leads to faster retrieval and processing. For example, if structures in both languages are similar in form and function, speakers may transfer these structures from one language to the other or establish a cross-linguistic construction and each occurrence leads to a higher entrenchment and reactivation in both languages.
In this session, we want to explore bilingual phenomena under the tenet of a UB approach discharging a dichotomous notion of linguistic knowledge. For one thing, a bilingual speaker is not two monolinguals in one person and languages are not clear-cut, binary entities. Secondly, there is no division of lexicon and syntax. Rather, constructions (single- and multi-word constructions) move along a continuum from completely lexically fixed, via frame-and-slot patterns to fully abstract schemas. And finally, language competence is inherently based on language use and performance is itself part of a speaker’s competence. Exactly this non-dichotomous feature may be useful where structural accounts experience difficulties. The papers in the proposed section explore in more detail how such a non-dichotomous approach can help answer research questions in the domains of language contact phenomena and bilingualism.

  1. Schematicity in Language Transfer, Marie Barking, Ad Backus and Maria Mos
  2. Low-level-generalizations in bilingual language acquisition, Katharina Günther
  3. Conceptualizing order of contact-induced language change, Anna Verschik
  4. The use of imperatives in the input delivered by one or two caregivers: implications for heritage language acquisition in bilingual children, Dorota Gaskins and Maria Frick
  5. Pragmatic gap in Estonian-English-Japanese Facebook Communication: a Usage-Based Approach, Geidi Kilp
  6. A case-study in individual Latvian-Estonian bilingualism, Elina Bone
  7. Less direct, more analytical: investigating L2 idiom processing with eye movement data, Marco Silvio Giuseppe Senaldi, Kristina Kasparian, Kyle Lovseth and Debra Titone
  8. Comparison of Heritage Speakers vs. Foreign Language Learners: Insights from Usage Based Approaches, A. Seza Doğruöz