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PLM2007 Abstract

On the irrelevance of national identity to new-dialect formation:
Colonial dialect contact in the history of European languages

Peter Trudgill


It is often supposed that dialect contact and dialect mixture were involved in the development of new colonial varieties of European languages such as Brazilian Portuguese, Canadian French and Australian English. However, while no one has denied that dialect contact took place, the role of dialect mixture has been disputed. And amongst those who do accept a role for dialect mixture, some have also considered the role of identity, especially new national identities, to be self-evident. This paper argues for the role of dialect mixture and against the role of identity. It presents case studies from pre-16th century colonial expansions of European languages - an era when any role for national identities would be very hard to argue for. Instead, it suggests that dialect mixture is the inevitable result of dialect contact; and that the mechanism which accounts for this is quasi-automatic accommodation in face-to-face interaction.