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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: November 2015

5 - Contact and ecology



At the outset of this book we underlined the significant role that ecology plays in the study of languages in contact. The ecology paradigm, a metaphor from population genetics and biology, has been developed most recently in linguistic study by Salikoko Mufwene (2001, 2008). The earliest instances of its invocation – Voegelin, Voegelin and Schutz (1967) and Haugen (1971), and later Mühlhäusler (1996) – use it in the sense of the social environment in which a language is spoken. Mufwene (2001: 153) is also influenced by its usage in macroecology as a cover term for diverse factors which are both external and internal to a species and bear on its evolution. These include population size, habitat requirements and genetic variation, as well as differences in initial conditions, stochastic (i.e. random) events, time lags, processes operating on different time scales and spatial subdivisions.

In this chapter we engage in a detailed examination of the role of ecology behind two linguistic features: particles and tone. These features are germane to this book because they are extremely susceptible to contact. But, even more pertinently for this chapter, we highlight how a full appreciation of what happens with particles and tone requires us to look at the external factors which construe the ecology that creates the conditions for the dynamics of contact, and the close interplay between them. More specifically, we demonstrate how the identification of the substrates for certain features needs to call on an examination of demographic factors such as immigration patterns and population make-up at different points in time, as well as language policy. We also see how the founder principle in the ecology paradigm helps to shed light on otherwise puzzling patterns in the restructured variety.

These linguistic features are extremely interesting to examine because they are features which can be seen to be quite distinctive for Asia. They are not exclusive to Asia, of course: particles are found in numerous languages of the world, and virtually all languages in Africa are tonal, with several clusters of languages with tones occurring in South, Central and North America.

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