The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 12/11 - Ermenegildo Bidese

Speaker: Ermenegildo Bidese (MIT)
Title: CP-Erosion in semi-speakers’ Cimbrian: A tentative study about syntax contraction
Date/Time: Tuesday, Dec. 11, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

‘Semi-speakerness’ is a phenomenon quite wide-spread in language islands, especially when (i) in small communities a stronger standard comes to exert a huge pressure on the minority language (ML), and (ii) the process of language death takes place very slowly (Dorian 1981). It manifests itself through a partly (or even severely) eroded competence in the production of the ML displaying deviant morphological forms (deficient paradigms and the tendency to eliminate irregularities and marked forms by the process of analogical leveling) and a skewed syntax. In my talk I will present data from semi-speakers’ Cimbrian that seem to support the idea that intheir language competence some subparts of the CP layer are ‘inactivated’ or inaccessible (focalization and d-linking or familiarity topics) whereas other parts of the CP layer (wh-movement) show a higher capacity to survive. An analogy would be to an urban landscape after an earthquake, where some infrastructures are put down, whereas others remain intact. The challenge will be to find out whether we can predict which structures are more likely to ‘break down’.