Piecing together the history of change
A diachronic study of moribund heritage Norwegian tense morphology
Keywords:heritage language, tense morphology, language change, diachronic study, corpus
This historical study of the tense morphology of moribund North American heritage Norwegian (AmNo) provides new diachronic insight into the language change of this variety. Change has been found in present-day (post-2010) AmNo tense morphology. Previous work argues that the observed changes have arisen with the present generation of speakers. However, this has not been proven with a systematic study of early AmNo data. AmNo presents a unique opportunity to explore the diachrony of old (moribund) heritage varieties since historical data have recently become available in the Corpus of American Nordic Speech (CANS). The present work uses such data from CANS, specifically a subcorpus of selected speakers from Coon Valley and Westby (WI) from 1942, which is supplemented by targeted searches in both a subcorpus of all speakers of CANS recorded in 1942 and a subcorpus of all speakers recorded from 1987 to 1992. The study found no evidence of change in the older stages of AmNo. This lack of evidence for change supports the claim that the change in the present-day tense morphology of AmNo has arisen with the present generation of speakers. A probable cause for the lack of change in early AmNo is that the AmNo language communities, to a large degree, functioned in Norwegian up until the 1940s. Thus, Norwegian was available to speakers to a much higher degree than it has been for the present generation. This study provides novel insight into language change in moribund heritage varieties, but it also argues that the study of further grammatical variables and heritage varieties is needed to increase our understanding of the language and grammar of the last multilingual speakers of moribund varieties.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Alexander K. Lykke
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