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Poster: Hracs

Second language acquisition and language contact:

The relationship between synchronic and diachronic processes

Lindsay Hracs 

The present study examines the linguistic forces in effect when two laryngeal stop systems come into contact with each other in second language acquisition (SLA) and in language contact (LC). In particular, it analyzes in detail the data from a hypothesized contact situation between a Romance voicing language and a Germanic aspirating language, as well as data from a study of the acquisition of the English laryngeal stop system by native speakers of Dutch (Simon 2009 & 2011). This project sets out to answer the question: Can data from SLA and LC be unified under a single approach? Ultimately, I argue that van Coetsem's (1988) treatment of borrowing and imposition in LC can be extended in an explanatory capacity to SLA.

Investigating the similarities between SLA and LC helps illustrate whether the mechanisms involved in synchronic and diachronic processes are the same from a Uniformitarian Principle point-of-view (Christy 1983). The main assumption of the Uniformitarian Principle is that observing present-day linguistic processes can shed light on linguistic processes of the past.

To accomplish this aim, I apply van Coetsem's framework to data from adult native speakers of Dutch acquiring English stops as second language learners. I argue that for the Uniformitarian Principle to hold true, theories must make the same predictions regarding both SLA and LC, and indeed, van Coetsem's approach does. Consequently, acquisition studies offer a new approach to analyzing linguistic phenomena that have been traditionally examined in phonological theory or historical linguistics alone (Eckman & Iverson 2015).



 Christy, Craig. 1983. Uniformitarianism in linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Coetsem, Frans van. 1988. Loan phonology and the two transfer types in language contact. Dordrecht: Foris.

Eckman, Fred R., & Gregory K. Iverson. 2015. Second language acquisition and phonological change. In Patrick Honeybone and Joseph Salmons (eds.), The Oxford handbook of historical phonology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Simon, Ellen. 2009. Acquiring a new second language contrast: An analysis of the English laryngeal system of native speakers of Dutch. Second Language Research 25(3). 377- 408.

Simon, Ellen. 2011. Laryngeal stop systems in contact: Connecting present-day acquisition findings and historical contact hypotheses. Diachronica 28(2). 225-254.