Edited by Michael T. Putnam
[Studies in Language Companion Series 123] 2011
► pp. 233–278
Spoken syntax in Cimbrian of the linguistic islands in Northern Italy- and what they (do not) betray about language universals and change under areal contact with Italo-Romance
This article is on Cimbrian German, an old enclave dialect in Upper Italy surrounded by Italo-Romance dialects. Next to clear traces of German clausal syntax, it shows Romance characteristics, which could be due to borrowing from the surrounding Italo-Romance majority dialects. Pertinent literature to date has assumed that the mix of structural properties of German and Italian are indeed due to the century-long isolation of the German island dialects and their relationship to the majority Italo-Romance dialects. The position presented in this paper focuses on the exclusive orality of Cimbrian and the specific structural changes oral-only variants are subject to as opposed to written, standard vernaculars. More generally, the methodological tenet is pursued that single changes subject to ambiguous interpretation need to be disambiguated by careful alignment with the major set of properties - i.e. a minority structures that are commonly found in Italo-Romance dialects may receive interpretations that are typical of oral-only German. The methodological null-hypothesis, then, is that change occurs under the narrowest accompanying structural conditions accessible within one and the same language rather than by borrowing from the social majority language.
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