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Asymmetrical complexity in languages due to L2 effects: Unserdeutsch and beyond

  • This study examines asymmetries between so-called inherent and contextual categories in relation to the morphological complexity of the nominal and verbal inflectional domain of languages. The observations are traced back to the influence of adult L2 learning in scenarios of intense language contact. A method for a simple comparison of the amount of inherent versus contextual categories is proposed and applied to the German-based creole language Unserdeutsch (Rabaul Creole German) in comparison to its lexifier language. The same procedure will be applied to two further language pairs. The grammatical systems of Unserdeutsch and other contact languages display a noticeable asymmetry regarding their structural complexity. Analysing different kinds of evidence, the explanatory key factor seems to be the role of (adult) L2 acquisition in the history of a language, whereby languages with periods of widespread L2 acquisition tend to lose contextual features. This impression is reinforced by general tendencies in pidgin and creole languages. Beyond that, there seems to be a tendency for inherent categories to be more strongly associated with the verb, while contextual categories seem to be more strongly associated with the noun. This leads to an asymmetry in categorical complexity between the noun phrase and the verb phrase in languages that experienced periods of intense L2 learning.

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Author:Siegwalt LindenfelserORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Languages
Place of publication:Basel
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2020
Date of Publication (online):2023/08/30
Publishing Institution:Leibniz-Institut f√ľr Deutsche Sprache (IDS)
Tag:L2 effects; Unserdeutsch; inflection; morphological complexity; second language acquisition; simplification
GND Keyword:Flexion; Fremdsprachenlernen; Morphologie; Unserdeutsch; Vereinfachung; Zweitsprache
Page Number:18
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 400 Sprache, Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Linguistics-Classification:Zweitspracherwerb / Fremdspracherwerb
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International