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The Fate of Morphological Complexity in Language Death: Evidence from East Sutherland Gaelic

Nancy C. Dorian
Language
Vol. 54, No. 3 (Sep., 1978), pp. 590-609
DOI: 10.2307/412788
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/412788
Page Count: 20
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The Fate of Morphological Complexity in Language Death: Evidence from East Sutherland Gaelic
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Abstract

Simplification in structure, and also confluence between the local-language structure and the prestige-language structure, are usually predicted in language death as in pidginization. For a dying Scottish Gaelic dialect, speakers representing a broad proficiency continuum were tested in the two most excessively complex morphological structures the dialect offers, the noun plural and the gerund. The forms supplied by the semi-speakers at the bottom of the proficiency continuum show considerable simplification, as expected, but very much less than in 'classical' pidginization; confluence with English is also quite limited. Marked functional differences between this dying dialect and the typical pidgin are invoked to account for the difference in outcome.

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