A congruence approach to the study of bilingual compound verbs in Northern Belize contact Spanish
Attested in a wide variety of contact situations, bilingual compound verbs (BCVs) have baffled linguists, as they are innovative hybrid constructions that appear superfluous. In the current study, we examine BCVs in Northern Belize, where Spanish/English language alternation occurs alongside the pervasive use of Belizean Kriol, Belize’s lingua franca. We analyze Northern Belize code-switchers’ acceptability judgments and use of BCVs in oral production to determine whether stativity and/or verb frequency constrain the incorporation of BCVs as previously contended. The quantitative analysis of acceptability judgments and 553 canonical BCVs from 25 adolescent and 18 post-adolescent speakers revealed that BCVs are not constrained by stativity or verb frequency. We contend that although there are syntactic constraints, bilinguals’/multilinguals’ use of their linguistic resources is largely dependent on social factors (Sebba 1998). In the case of Northern Belize, where speakers do not perceive code-switching as illegitimate but rather embrace it and associate it with their mixed, multiplex identity, positive attitudes to non-standard varieties may have paved the way for the ubiquitous use of BCVs. The availability of a native Spanish/Mayan BCV model may have also catalyzed the process. BCVs in Northern Belize merit further investigation as they are innovative structures with Creoloid features that reflect code-switchers’ creative ability to capitalize on structural parsimony.
Keywords: adaptive simplification, Northern Belize code-switching, bilingual compound verbs
Published online: 05 September 2014
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