Towards a pragmatic approach to the study of languages in contact: Evidence from language contact cases in Spain

Joan A. Argente and Lluís Payrató

Abstract

The study of language contact has been traditionally carried out from a structural perspective (synchronic or diachronic), from a sociolinguistic perspective and/or from a rather psychological perspective, centered on the linguistic and communicative competence of the multilingual individual. However, a great number of linguistic and sociolinguistic topics that appear in language contact situations may be productively tackled from a pragmatic viewpoint. This pragmatic perspective takes into account linguistic use in communication contexts and raises, at a different level, questions that deal with the structures and the evolution of the codes in contact. The main aim of this presentation is the analysis of some of the specific problems that arise in given language contact situations from a pragmatic perspective, considering the adaptation processes of the speakers, their particular interactive strategies and the social meaning generated. Understanding pragmatics in its original sense, i.e. as the study of the relationship between linguistic signs and speakers (users of certain resources), these phenomena should be understood as the result of speakers’ adaptation to changing sociocultural circumstances. This adaptation creates a new distribution of the verbal resources (or linguistic economy) of the community and, consequently, modifies its varieties as far as form and function are concerned.

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