University Researcher Khachaturyan Maria and working group

430000 €

How indigenous languages change: a view from the heritage language perspective

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Nelivuotinen

Languages have evolved in multilingual contexts, and a lot of research has been accumulated on language contact as a major driver shaping individual languages. Yet we still know very little about the way contact-induced language change comes about. A close look at variation and intergenerational transmission in multilingual ecologies is a window to understand the dynamics of language change. In the era of increased urbanization and population growth in the Global South, many speakers of indigenous languages end up settling in urban centers with dominant societal language(s) different from their family and community languages. The children of these immigrants become bilingual speakers of a Heritage Language (HL)—a language acquired naturalistically from early childhood, but distinct from the dominant language of the larger society. Previous research on HLs has demonstrated that they often display innovation and variation, which is often attributed to cross-linguistic influence from the dominant language. Building on insights from contact linguistics, sociolinguistics, documentary linguistics, and HL studies, this project offers a unique design addressing the dynamics of (contact-induced) language change through a study of diasporic indigenous communities as a natural laboratory. Using Mano, Kpelle and Susu (all three Mande languages, traditionally spoken in Guinea) as a case study, this project will be the first psycholinguistic study of two indigenous languages, Mano and Kpelle, spoken in Guinea's capital, Conakry, in the context of linguistic dominance from another indigenous language, Susu, combining data from L1 parent generation, HSs and speakers in the homeland, as well as data on grammar and on prosody. In addition to targeted psycholinguistic production experiments, narrative retellings will be collected and analyzed to ensure a broader utilization of the data. The project will rely on Citizen Science and native speaker collaboration.