Language structure is influenced by the proportion of non-native speakers : A reply to Koplenig (2019)
2023-04-20, Kauhanen, Henri, Einhaus, Sarah, Walkden, George
A recent quantitative study claims language structure, whether quantified as morphological or information-theoretic complexity, to be unaffected by the proportion of those speaking the language non-natively [A. Koplenig, Royal Society Open Science, 6, 181274 (2019)]. This result hinges on either the use of a categorical notion of ‘vehicularity’ as a proxy for the proportion of L2 (second-language) speakers, or the imputation of an assumed zero proportion of L2 speakers for languages that are considered non-vehicular but for which no direct estimate of that proportion exists. We provide two alternative analyses of the same data. The first reanalysis treats uncertain non-vehicular languages as missing data points; the second one employs multiple imputation to fill in the missing data. Mixed effects models find a statistically significant negative relationship between proportion of L2 speakers and morphological complexity: in both reanalyses, a higher proportion of L2 speakers predicts lower morphological complexity. We find no statistically significant evidence for a relationship between proportion of L2 speakers and information-theoretic complexity, however.
A history of English
2022, Hejná, Míša, Walkden, George
Where does today’s English language come from? This book takes its readers on a journey back in time, from present-day varieties to the Old English of Beowulf and beyond. Written for students with little or no background in linguistics, and reflecting the latest scholarship, it showcases the variation and change present throughout the history of English, and includes numerous exercises and sample texts for every period.
The reverse-chronological approach taken by this book sets it apart from all existing textbooks of the last fifty years. Innovative features also include its focus on variation, multilingualism and language contact, its use of texts from outside the literary canon, and its inclusion of case studies from syntax, sociophonetics and historical pragmatics.
A particle-like use of hwæþer : Wisdom’s questions in Boethius
2022, Eckardt, Regine, Walkden, George
The paper investigates unembedded hwæþer questions in Old English (OE). We argue that they represent an intermediate stage in the development of hwæþer ‘which of the two’ to modern English whether. Syntactically, we find a range of quasi-subordinating uses of hwæþer in questions that all have in common that the speaker expresses a pedagogical question. Pedagogical questions are questions the speaker knows the answer to, but is urging the addressee to consider while drawing their own conclusions. In the OE Boethius, hwæþer can convey this use-conditional pragmatic flavour for polar questions. It thus comes close in function to other use-conditional particles.