Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Jürgen M. Meisel
Prof. Dr. Esther Rinke
Dr. Martin Elsig
Former Research Assistants:
Dr. Gisella Ferraresi
Dr. Marc-Olivier Hinzelin
Prof. Dr. Georg A. Kaiser
Dr. Ioanna Sitaridou
The analyses carried out in the project focus on diverse phenomena of syntactic change within the Romance language family. Taking as a theoretical basis the framework of Universal Grammar, we investigate in particular those changes which affect core areas of syntax and which might indicate changes of parametric properties. Our analyses are conducted against the backdrop of the latest insights gained from research in language acquisition. The primary research question relates to the role of language contact and of information structure as possible causes of such changes. By incorporating into our analyses the most recent empirical procedures which are applied in variationist sociolinguistics, we aim at making a significant contribution to a more general theory of language change.
Research in language acquisition has provided ample evidence that children acquiring more than one first language have no difficulties in assigning from early on the target values to the respective parameters of each of the languages involved (cf. Meisel 1989, 2000, 2001, 2007a, 2007b). Multilingualism in the child can therefore not be regarded as a sufficient condition causing parametrical change. Multilingualism in the linguistic input with which the child is confronted might, however, indeed play a crucial role in this regard. This could be the case, for instance, when speakers providing the linguistic input to the child, e.g. her parents, are second language learners of the language undergoing the change. For lack of L1 (first language) knowledge, they have not acquired the language-specific parametrical settings and will in all likelihood fail to produce target-like utterances as consistently as first language speakers do. It is reasonable to assume that such a situation may cause the child to diverge from the target in her patterns of first language acquisition. Rather than in situations which are characterized by a more or less stable coexistence of the multiple languages involved, this scenario is most likely to be found in cases of language contact exhibiting a considerable degree of social instability, e.g. when large-scale migratory movements take place.
Aside from language contact, an important influence on syntactic change is also exerted by different readings associated with different word order patterns in terms of information structure. In our analyses, information structure has not only turned out to account for the coexistence of syntactic variants within one language, whatever synchronic snapshot on the diachronic axis one considers, but it has also qualified as an active participant in influencing and even causing syntactic change, hence dispensing with the need to invoke parametric change or variation in each and every of the relevant cases (e.g. Gabriel & Rinke to appear, Kupisch & Rinke 2007, Rinke & Meisel 2007).
Adams, M. (1987). From Old French to the theory of pro-drop, in: Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 5, 1-32.
Elsig, M. (2008a). Verb Second Effects in Old French: Evidence for a Verb Second Grammar? Ms. Universität Hamburg.
Elsig, M. (2008b). Variability within the French interrogative system: A diachronic perspective. In: P. Siemund & N. Kintana (eds.) Language Contact and Contact Languages. (Hamburg Studies on Multilingualism 7), Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Elsig, M. (to appear). Diachronic Aspects of Syntactic Variation in the Interrogative System of Québec French. (Studies in Language Variation, ed. by P. Auer, F. Hinskens & P. Kerswill), Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Ferraresi, G. & M. Goldbach (2002). V2 Syntax and Topicalisation in Old French, in: Linguistische Berichte 189, 3-25.
Gabriel, C. & E. Rinke (to appear). Information packaging and the rise of clitic doubling in the history of Spanish, in: G. Ferraresi & R. Lühr (eds.) The Role of Information Structure in Language Change. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Kaiser, G. (2002). Verbstellung und Verbstellungswandel in den romanischen Sprachen. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Kupisch, T. & E. Rinke (2007). Italienische und portugiesische Possessivpronomina im diachronischen Vergleich: Determinanten oder Adjektive? Universität Hamburg: Arbeiten zur Mehrsprachigkeit N° 78.
Labelle, M. (2007). Clausal architecture in early Old French, in: Lingua 117 (1), 289-316.
Mathieu, E. (2006). Stylistic fronting in Old French, in: Probus 18, 219-266.
Mathieu, E. (2007). À propos des propriétés germaniques de l’ancien français, in: Cahiers linguistiques d'Ottawa / Ottawa Papers in Linguistics (CLO/OPL) 35, 107-136.
Meisel, J. M. (1989). Early differentiation of languages in bilingual children, in: K. Hyltenstam & L. K. Obler (eds.) Bilingualism Across the Life Span. Aspects of Acquisition, Maturity and Loss. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 13-40.
Meisel, J. M. (2000). The Simultaneous Acquisition of two First Languages. Early Differentiation and Subsequent Development of Grammars. Universität Hamburg: Arbeiten zur Mehrsprachigkeit No 7.
Meisel, J. M. (2001). The Simultaneous Acquisition of two First Languages: Early Differentiation and Subsequent Development of Grammars, in: J. Cenoez & F. Genesee (eds.) Trends in Bilingual Acquisition. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 11-41.
Meisel, J. M. (2007a). On autonomous syntactic development in multiple first language acquisition, in: H. Caunt-Nulton, S. Kulatilake & I.–H. Woo (eds.) Proceedings of the 31st Boston University Conference on Language Development. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press, 26-45.
Meisel, J. M. (2007b). The weaker language in early child bilingualism: acquiring a first language as a second language?, in: Applied Psycholinguistics 28 (3), 495-514.
Rinke, E. (2005). Subjekt-Verb-Inversion im Frühromanischen: Altportugiesisch und Altfranzösisch im Vergleich, Ms. Universität Hamburg.
Rinke, E. (2006). Der Verlust der vP-internen Subjektposition im Französischen, Ms. Universität Hamburg.
Rinke, E. & J. M. Meisel (2007). On the Syntax of Subject-Verb Inversion and the Role of Information Structure in the History of French, Ms. Universität Hamburg.