Emergent bilingual grammar: The case of contrast

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This study explores the process by which a new, bilingual grammar emerges in interaction in a corpus of over 20 hours of audiotaped Hebrew-English bilingual conversation. In this bilingual grammar, new grammaticizations (Hopper, 1987, 1988) are formed based on the principle of contrast between the two languages, so that juxtapositions of forms from Hebrew and English come to signal structural contrasts in the new system. I investigate the interaction of motivations, both internal and external to the bilingual grammar, for the strategy of highlighting contrast via language alternation. Internal motivations concern two contrasts in the structure of the bilingual grammar: (1) the contrast between the discourse and the discourse markers framing it and (2) the contrast between discourse markers and conjunctions. External motivations concern contrasts pertaining to the immediate speech situation: (1) pragmatic contrast between contrasting conversational actions carried out in the interaction and (2) referential contrast between contrasting propositions. In the situation of competing motivations (Du Bois, 1985) for iconic contrast, it is shown that external motivations override internal motivations, so that grammaticizations leading to structural contrasts in the new, bilingual grammar are 'deferred', and the new, bilingual grammar is indeed provisional and negotiable (Hopper, 1987).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-313
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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