General programme, activity sheet

Friday 8 September, 2017


Bilingualism: Empirical analysis of the Majorcan pronominal clitics

Speaker: Amelia Jiménez, Universitat de les Illes Balears
Speaker: Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes, Universitat de les Illes Balears

Authors: Amelia Jiménez-Gaspar, Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes y Acrisio Pires

The role of language contact in language change has been well recognized (see e.g. Thomason 2001 and refs. therein). More specifically, contact-induced changes have been argued to be prevalent in instances of full bilingualism and code-switching (e,g, Fischer 2003). In this respect, results from studies on bilingual language acquisition can provide relevant insights on change: grammatical changes have been argued to be favored by instances of successive bilingual acquisition (Meisel 2011 and refs. therein). The purpose of our study is: (i) to examine the morpho-syntactic properties of the clitic systems of Catalan and Spanish as they are spoken by bilinguals in Majorca, (ii) to analyze the grammatical judgements of the same participants regarding the use of Majorcan (vernacular) and peninsular clitic forms, and (iii) to determine whether language change appears to be accelerated or inhibited by this contact in the island. In the case of Catalan spoken in Majorca, the contact situation developed and was heavily affected by the dominant position of Spanish as a means of literary and legal communication, as attested e.g. in the Corpus Informatitzat del Català Antic/CICA. We present data from a cross-sectional study with forty-five Catalan-Spanish bilinguals: 26 women and 19 men, aged between 16 and 65 years’ old (SD = 7,124). Bilinguals were residents of three major geographic areas of Majorca: the capital, Palma, and the areas corresponding to the villages of Llucmajor and Capdepera. Each participant was recorded twice, once in Spanish and once in the Majorcan Catalan variety. Each recording lasted approximately 15-20 minutes and involved a variety of topics. Likewise, each participant answered a questionnaire based on their grammatical judgements on Majorcan/vernacular or peninsular/standard uses of clitics. The questionnaire was divided in two parts: in the first part subjects provided their acceptability judgment on different uses of clitics, using a Likert-scale from 0 to 5 to indicate to which extent each form corresponded to their use or not. The second part included linguistic contexts in which the speakers had to decide which clitic (Majorcan or peninsular) they would use. Finally, we considered the synchronic bilingual production data in comparison to the CICA data for Catalan. Our results indicate that: (i) there are no substantial differences between Majorcan Spanish and Peninsular Spanish regarding the naturalistic production of clitics, and this is also reflected in the speakers' grammatical judgements; (ii) in Majorcan Catalan there are specific patterns which are clearly distinct from Peninsular Catalan, as supported by the results both of the naturalistic production data and grammaticality judgments. We also consider whether several extra-linguistic factors affect the subjects’ knowledge and production of clitics. Our results indicate that the bilinguals behave differently depending on their linguistic preference (Spanish, Catalan or no particular preference) and on the geographical zone where they lived, in the capital, Palma, or in the villages. That is, if speakers affirm that they have a linguistic preference for Spanish or have no particular linguistic preference, their production and grammaticality judgements matched the peninsular forms more closely (75% of tokens); however, if they have a linguistic preference for Catalan, almost 100% of the tokens in their production matched vernacular (Majorcan Catalan) clitic forms. The difference between the subjects with and without a linguistic preference for Catalan was significant (p<0.05), regarding the production of clitics and grammaticality judgements. Finally, a comparison between the synchronic bilingual data and historical data from CICA indicates the vernacular forms match more closely the archaic forms than the Peninsular forms of Catalan clitics. We take these results indicate that language change in Majorcan Catalan is not accelerated by the contact with Spanish (Enrique-Arias 2010), given that Majorcan Catalan bilinguals more often use the most conservative Catalan clitic forms, matching archaic forms (Batllori et al. 2004), instead of using the Peninsular/Standard variety of Catalan, and this difference in the frequency of use of clitics from the two varieties is significant (p<0.05).

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