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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 28, 2014

Bare participle forms in the speech of Lithuanian Yiddish heritage speakers: multiple causation

  • Anna Verschik EMAIL logo


The article is concerned with bare participle forms instead of full-fledged past tense (the auxiliary hobn/zajn + past participle) produced by two young male speakers of Lithuanian Yiddish. In Yiddish, the past tense is more or less isomorphic to the German Perfekt and covers the functions of both perfect and imperfect. The speakers acquired Yiddish and Lithuanian simultaneously in their childhood. Remarkably, in Lithuanian, present perfect auxiliary is optional. The phenomenon of omission can be explained within at least two paradigms: incomplete L1 acquisition (especially in heritage language speakers) and contact linguistics (contact-induced language change). In this article I argue that there are possible multiple explanations because it is unclear how to draw a strict line between incomplete acquisition and contact-induced language change. Comparison with Levine's study on incomplete acquisition of Yiddish demonstrates that the present informants are fluent, strongly identify with Yiddish and produce no non-target past participles. At the same time, the speech of the informants exhibits Lithuanian impact in phonetics and non-core morphosyntax. While limited input does play a role, it is unclear whether and where the border between incomplete acquisition and contact-induced structural change can be drawn.

Published Online: 2014-2-28
Published in Print: 2014-3-1

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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