Manchester Working Group on Language Contact

The Manchester Working Group on Language Contact studies the effects of contact and linguistic hybridity on language planning in multilingual societies, on the language use of individuals, on the structuring of conversational interaction among bilinguals, and on the structural development of the languages involved. This integrated approach to language contact rests on the following assumptions:

  • Speakers communicate in a creative way. They try to make optimal and most effective use of their entire communicative repertoire, while at the same time observing the rules that society imposes on the choice of structures and sets of structures (='languages') in certain situations.
  • New strategies that speakers introduce into discourse provide the potential seeds for language change. Individual bilingual speakers are therefore potential agents of language change.
  • There is a direct link between the innovations that speakers introduce in contact situations, and the usefulness of such innovations in facilitating language processing, especially the handling of a 'hybrid' communicative repertoire.
  • This means that the fate of certain forms and structures of language - word classes, semantic domains, prosody, and so on - in contact situations is inherently connected to their functions in structuring and processing the conversation. Utterances and constructions must therefore be studied in their communicative context.
  • The strategies that bilingual speakers adopt in conversation may be diverse, but they stem from the same basic motivation, namely to sustain socially acceptable conversation while making optimal use of the full communicative repertoire. This calls for an integrative approach to language contact phenomena - whether codeswitching, second language acquisition, convergence, or borrowing.