restricted access Contact languages: Ecology and evolution in Asia (review)
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Reviewed by
Umberto Ansaldo. 2009. Contact languages: Ecology and evolution in Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. xvii + 257. US$99.00 (hardcover).

One of the most fascinating questions in linguistics and its related disciplines is how a new language is created under multilingual linguistic settings. Contact languages by Umberto Ansaldo addresses this question through detailed investigations of the grammar of Malay contact varieties, of China Coast Pidgin and of the internal/external ecologies of the regions where these varieties have arisen and developed.

The book consists of nine chapters, followed by references and an index. Chapter 1 ("Introduction") sets the stage for the whole book. Ansaldo introduces an evolutionary theory of grammar whereby the interaction between external/social and internal/grammatical features is explored for a complete understanding of the formation of a new language. Investigation of the role of ecology in Monsoon Asia is informative for contact linguists because the internal and external ecologies characterizing this region are dramatically different from those of the relatively better-known Atlantic and Pacific regions in terms of slavery/manpower, economy/politics, social relations between interacting groups, and the typology of languages involved in the relevant contact ecology. Ansaldo also emphasizes that creole exceptionalism (DeGraff 1999) reflects the result of a field that has relied on contact dynamics dominated by Western colonial powers as well as on the Eurocentric notion of language purism.

Chapter 2 ("The ecology of Monsoon Asia") overviews the history of Monsoon Asia. The monsoon wind characteristic of this region has led to the establishment of stable overseas city-ports such asMelaka, Batavia andMacau with pluralistic ethnic, linguistic, and cultural compositions of coastal settlements. Naturally, individual and societal multilingualism were frequent and languages for interethnic communication (e.g., Bazaar Malay) abounded in these areas. Ansaldo discusses the roles of marriage and manpower in contact language formation (CLF). The community-based endogamy pattern could lead to the establishment of a new language variety (e.g., Baba Malay) whereas bonded servants, slaves, and concubines facilitated a pluralistic ground for interethnic contact. [End Page 429]

Chapter 3 ("Linguistic ecologies of Southeast Asia") discusses Malay, Sinitic, and Asian Portuguese as critical players in the emergence of the contact varieties in Monsoon Asia. The range of Malay contact languages known to exist in this region (e.g., Baba Malay, Coco Malay, and Bazaar Malay) suggests that spoken Malay had a tremendous influence in the linguistic evolution in this region. Ansaldo discusses the socio-historical contexts for these Malay varieties. Baba Malay was developed as a unique blend of Hokkien and Malay features among the Peranakan communities. Coco Malay originated in the 19th century when labourers from Eastern Java, followed by contract labourers from Batavia, used a form of Malay to communicate with their masters in relative isolation from the other languages until the 1960s. Singapore Bazaar Malay was used from the 19th century until around the 1970s as the primary interethnic lingua franca. Portuguese also had a significant role in the linguistic ecology because it was the lingua franca amongWestern traders in Monsoon Asia. Portugal was the first Western power to develop important trading networks in the region. The Portuguese presence in Melaka gave rise to various Portuguese-based contact varieties known asMalayo-PortugueseCreoles, a mixture of colloquial Portuguese and Malay. It is also noted that the most extensive instance of contact in this region is that involving Hokkien traders at least from the 14th century.

Chapter 4 ("Methodological issues in the study of contact languages") sketches the ideology of linguistics with regards to language contact and creole studies. Ansaldo argues that (historical) linguistics suffers from a Eurocentric bias according to which monolingualism and normative transmission are the starting point of theorizing. This bias has led to creole exceptionalism, which regards languages developed in multilingual contact ecologies as needing exceptional structural, cognitive, or historical explanations. Ansaldo argues instead that language contact and contact-induced changes are ubiquitous and that mixed grammars are natural outcomes of the ecology that defines them.

Chapter 5 ("Contact language formation in evolutionary theory") proposes that CLF consists of (a) a selection of variants from a highly diverse pool of features, (b) an innovative or identical replication, and...