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Transmission, acquisition, parameter-setting, reanalysis, and language change


Jürgen Meisel's (JM) article is literally thought-provoking, especially for the issues that one can raise out of the central position that he develops, viz., “although bilingual acquisition in situations of language contact can be argued to be of significant importance for explanations of grammatical change, reanalysis affecting parameter settings is much less likely to happen than is commonly assumed in historical linguistics” (p. 142). This is a position that calls for grounding language change, hence historical linguistics, in the pragmatics/ethnography of language practice, a question that linguists can continue to ignore no more than the actuation question (Weinreich, Labov & Herzog, 1968; McMahon, 1994; Labov, 2001; Mufwene, 2008). The latter regards what particular ethnographic factors trigger particular changes at particular places and at particular times but not at others. In other words, do structural changes happen simply because they must happen or because particular agents are involved at specific times under specific ecological conditions of language practice?

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
  • URL: /core/journals/bilingualism-language-and-cognition
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