Linguistics Colloquium: Gili Diamant
Gili Diamant, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Title: Conceptual categories in contact - the case of possession in Irish English
In recent years, research on contact-induced change and variation in language has been enriched by new insights from the field of cognitive linguistics, where dialectal variation and language contact phenomena are described from the perspective of the cognitive motivations and constraints that underlie and affect them. The framework of cognitive linguistics is particularly useful in the study of Irish English – a contact-induced variety of English spoken in Ireland, whose many unique and/or non-standard grammatical features are considered as cases of transfer or replication from the substrate Irish language, or otherwise as results of the context and manner in which English was originally acquired by Irish speakers. While many of these grammatical features stand out formally and structurally when compared to other varieties of English, in some cases variation is more subtle and difficult to detect using traditional methods of dialect study. Such is the case of predicative possession, whose formal expression in Irish English – e.g., I have a cow – appears similar to that of Standard English. But by treating possessives as a prototype category, this study finds variation in a corpus of traditional Irish English that is not structural, but semantic in nature. I discuss this variation in light of the cognitive processes that may have taken place during the acquisition of English by Irish speakers, and consider how the formal expression in English of the conceptual category of possession may have been interpreted by speakers of what is essentially a typologically different language.
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