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  • Author: DONALD WINFORD x
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Abstract

Previous research has repeatedly pointed to the need for a unified framework for language contact phenomena - one that would include social factors and motivations, structural factors and linguistic constraints, and psycholinguistic factors involved in processes of language processing and production. In this paper, I argue that the New Englishes offer a promising opportunity to integrate the three components of a unified framework for the study of contactinduced change. Such a framework must address, among other things, the nature of the processes underlying contact-induced change, that is, both the actuation and implementation of change (Weinreich et al. 1968), which relate respectively to the roles played by the individual and the community in the origin and spread of change. This would be in keeping with Weinreich’s observation that language contact can best be understood only “in a broad psychological and socio-cultural setting” (1953: 4). In that spirit, I assess the contribution of the Ecology of Language (EL) framework (Mufwene 2001, 2008) to our understanding of the processes by which the New Englishes emerged. In the first place, I argue that, while this framework offers valuable insight into the social ecology of contact-induced changes, it fails to provide a principled explanation for the actuation of such changes, that is, the psycholinguistic mechanisms underlying the innovations that individuals introduce into their emerging interlanguage grammars or idiolects. Secondly, contra the EL framework, I argue in favor of the traditional view that all New Englishes, including creoles, arose via natural SLA, involving processes of restructuring, not in Mufwene’s sense, but in the sense intended by researchers in first and second language acquisition (Hulstijn 1990: 32). Such restructuring includes, among other things, the replication of L1 grammatical patterns in the learners’ interlanguage systems (ILs), which involves the psycholinguistic mechanism of imposition, that is, applying the language production procedures of one’s L1 in producing structures in an emerging L2. An approach of this kind provides principled explanations for the kinds of innovative restructuring found in the formation of the New Englishes - explanations which the EL framework has so far failed to offer. A truly comprehensive framework for the study of the New Englishes must therefore establish links between linguistic, sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic approaches to language contact and change.