Language in Society


When cultural maintenance means linguistic convergence: Pennsylvania German evidence for the Matrix Language Turnover hypothesis

Janet M. Fullera1

a1 Linguistics Program, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208


Research on languages in contact has shown evidence of structural convergence, as well as internally motivated language change; one language which has been frequently studied in this light is Pennsylvania German (PG). Myers-Scotton 1993 posits that convergence involves a change in the selection of the language which sets the morpho-syntactic frame involved in language production. This is called a turnover in the Matrix Language (ML). Data from PG collected in the 1940s, as compared with data collected in the late 1970s and 1980s, indicate that an ML turnover is underway in the sectarian communities; the language can be characterized as having a composite ML. The primary features of convergence in these data are English lexical-conceptual structures in the tense system, English morphological realization patterns in verb phrases, and the increased syntactization of word order in PG. There is only weak evidence for the introduction of English system morphemes at this stage. The loss of case-marking does not conform to English patterns; this indicates that much of the influence of language contact occurs at the lexical-conceptual level. (Pennsylvania German, convergence, Matrix Language Frame Model, code-switching, borrowing, language contact)