Language Variation and Change Workshop: Oksana Laleko

Hello linguists and anthropologists,


Please join us for this quarter's second meeting of Language Variation and Change Workshop, this Friday, November 19 at 3:30 pm, on Zoom (link to be sent on Friday morning). Assoc. Prof. Oksana Laleko from SUNY at New Paltz will give us a talk about heritage Russian. Below you can find a short abstract to her talk. 


"All in order: The dynamics of word order change in heritage Russian 

The story of heritage languages (HLs) is often told as a story of grammatical simplification. A substantial body of work has pointed to numerous areas of reduced structural elaboration across HL systems, often manifested as a decrease in paradigmatic complexity through the elimination of sub-distinctions in various grammatical categories (case, gender, aspect, etc.). Evidence for simplification in the domain of syntagmatic relations, such as in the encoding of information structure relations through word order, is somewhat weaker for HLs. This talk examines the dynamics of HL word order change through the lens of Russian. I draw on data from a series of contextualized acceptability judgment tests with HL and monolingually-raised Russian speakers, targeting the distribution of canonical (SVO) and non-canonical word order structures, including subject-verb inversion and object fronting (SOV, OSV). While underrating other non-canonical orders, HL speakers converge with the controls in their judgments of SOV sentences, with a trend toward overgeneralization of these structures in high-proficiency speakers. These results offer two important implications. Broadly, they indicate that HL speakers do not show an across-the-board preference toward SVO syntax, suggesting that HL word order change should not be viewed narrowly through the lens of simplification and linearization. Second, they demonstrate that the facilitation of a non-canonical pattern in a HL word order system may occur independently of dominant language transfer effects, bringing into focus other driving forces of language change, including input frequency and universal constituent placement preferences rooted in basic cognitive and communicative principles. "


Please also feel free to join us for our last meeting on December 3 by Sam Gray (UChicago)- Topic TBA