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When various dialects enter in intense and prolongued mutual contact in a new sociological setting, they may converge (Weinreich 1954, Trudgill 1986) in a process of koineisation (Chambers & Trudgill 1980). This situation occurs with enhanced intensity in newly-colonized areas, in so-called language islands (Rosenberg 1994): convergence of a conglomerate of mutually intelligible dialects towards this new koinè. Various pathways with their respective outcomes of this multi-dialect interaction have been described: leveling in the sense of loss of the more marked variants (Trudgill's (1974), interdialect formation with compromise forms or fudging (Chambers & Trudgill 1980:115, Hinskens, Auer, & Kerswill 2005:10), and reallocation of doubles to distinct functions (Taeldeman 1989, Britain & Trudgill 2005). In this study we provide a new case of a well-known, but often ignored mechanism and outcome: retreat to default settings, the rise of the unmarked. This typically occurs whenever the result of the change is not a sum or subset of the input forms, but an innovative pattern. The mechanism is related to Bickerton's description of creolisation as resort to default settings, albeit that it occurs on the much smaller scale of dialect variation of mutually intelligible dialects. The case study pursued is the complete loss of the infinitival prefix tau 'to' in Pomeranian, a West Germanic language, extinct in Europe, but still spoken in isolated communities in Brazil. While the original Pomeranian dialects in Europe had a considerable amount of variation in this particular domain, Pomeranian in Brazil has converged to a remarkably uniform new construction, which was not present in Europe in the days of emigration. We show that underlying structures remain constant in all Pomeranian dialects, European as well as Brazilian Pomeranian, but the spellout pattern in Brazil is the cross-linguistic default.
Original languageGerman
Title of book/volumeGerman Abroad
Subtitle of book/volumePerspektiven der Variationslinguistik, Sprachkontakt- und Mehrsprachigkeitsforschung
EditorsAlexandra Lenz
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2015

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