Does language loss follow a principled structural path? Evidence from Jersey Norman French

26 Apr 2018

ABSTRACTThis study examines contact-induced change in Jèrriais, the severely endangered Norman variety currently spoken by some 1% of the population of Jersey, one of the British Channel Islands. Today, English dominates all linguistic domains of island life, and all speakers of Jèrriais are bilingual. The analysis uses original data to test empirically whether Myers-Scotton's (2002) five theoretical assumptions about the structural path of language attrition (broadly defined as language loss at the level of the individual) also have relevance for the process of language obsolescence (broadly defined as language loss at the level of the community). It explores i) whether Jèrriais is undergoing contact influenced language change owing to its abstract grammatical structure being split and recombined with English, a hypothesis related to Myers-Scotton's Abstract Level model; and ii) whether different morpheme types of Jèrriais are related to the production process in different ways and are, accordingly, more or less susceptible to change during the process of language obsolescence, a hypothesis related to Myers-Scotton's 4-M model. In addition to its contribution to linguistic theory, this study increases existing knowledge about Jèrriais and makes data from this language available for systematic comparison with other languages.