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  • Borrowing. Loanwords in the Speech Community and in the Grammar by Shana Poplack
  • Robert A. Papen
Poplack, Shana. 2018. Borrowing. Loanwords in the Speech Community and in the Grammar. New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. 272. $US $99 (hardcover).

Shana Poplack is, arguably, Canada's best known sociolinguist, enjoying a well-merited world-wide reputation due to the remarkable number of publications she and her numerous co-authors have produced on language mixing over the past 40 years. As Pieter Muysken points out in the foreword of the book, "I had been thinking that Shana Poplack, if she had the energy, should assemble her various writings on lexical borrowing into a single book. And, like rubbing Aladdin's lamp, there it was!"

The book is organized as follows. Following Muysken's foreword is a preface in which Poplack acknowledges the collaboration of her many colleagues and students as well as the numerous funding agencies which have allowed her to pursue her research. In Chapter 1, Poplack discusses the rationale of the work. The aim is not to provide new data but instead to synthesize, build on and reinterpret more than 40 years of research on language mixing strategies in the discourse of bilingual speakers, to characterize the phenomena of lexical borrowing in the speech community as well as in the grammar, both synchronically and diachronically. Poplack adds that the focus is not on the product of borrowing but on the process. For her, the process of borrowing is essentially one of integration into the structure of the recipient language. This integration must take into account the inherent variability in both donor languages (Ld) and recipient languages (Lr).

"Chapter 2 reviews the variationist perspective on language and outlines its specific applications to the study of language mixing" (p. 8). It discusses such issues as the primacy of the speech community, the optimal subjects for a variationist study of language mixing, namely the adult bilingual whose linguistic repertoire is stable, the type of data that best reflects the systematic form of language –the vernacular, the Principle of Accountability, the Comparative Sociolinguistic Method, and the Principle of Diagnosticity.

Chapter 3 briefly revisits the Canadian Ottawa-Hull region mega-corpus of French (2.5 million words, 120 carefully selected informants from five different communities, providing nearly 20,000 tokens of some 2,000 different English-origin types), the results of which are discussed in Chapter 4. The chapter also briefly describes two diachronic corpora, speech drawn from the Récits du français québécois d'autrefois, which are audio recordings of spontaneous language material produced by 44 elderly Québécois born between 1846 and 1895, and the Corpus du français en contexte : milieux scolaire et social, which consists of the oral recordings of 166 bilingual francophone teenagers from the Quebec community of Mont Bleu (Ottawa-Hull region), collected between 2005 and 2007.

As mentionned, Chapter 4 reviews the results obtained in the Ottawa-Hull region of Canada, originally described in Poplack et al. (1988). This research, whose results are quite well-known, has undoubtedly set the standards for all ensuing large-scale [End Page 270] investigations of language-mixing and, more specifically, borrowing –and the standards are very high indeed!

Chapter 5 discusses the problem of variability in borrowing and how to deal with it. Based on the hypotheses developed in Poplack and Meecham (1998), which state that if the constraints on variability of Ld-origin forms are parallel to those constraining their Lr counterparts, the Ld-origin forms can only be borrowings and not codeswitches.

Chapter 6 investigates the use of syntactic criteria to disambiguate ambiguous elements –specifically bare forms –in the analysis of intra-clausal mixing of French with Wolof and Fongbe, basically revisiting the results discussed earlier in Poplack and Meecham (1995) as well as English-Igbo data from Eze (1997, 1998). Again, the results show that the very great majority of borrowed bare forms "display quantitative parallels to their relevant Lr counterparts, specifically at conflict sites, parallels that are far too detailed to be due to chance" (p. 96).

Chapter 7 reviews a series of studies based on...


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