Alexander R. Coupe

Assessing the evidence for contact-induced grammaticalization in South Asia
Alexander R. Coupe
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Since Emeneau’s seminal 1956 paper and subsequent work by Masica (1976), the subcontinent of South Asia has been recognized as a linguistic area in which particular linguistic features have diffused across the genetic boundaries of unrelated languages as a consequence of longstanding multilingualism. Emeneau (1956: 16) defines a linguistic area as ‘an area which includes languages belonging to more than one family but showing traits in common which are found not to belong to the other members of (at least) one of the families’. Heine & Kuteva (2005) recognize three types of linguistic area: (1) those established by the presence of a shared set of linguistic features; (2) those in which the languages share a high degree of mutual intertranslatability; and (3), those that share the same processes of grammaticalization (and thus form a grammaticalization area). As they note, these are not mutually exclusive, and the features of all three types may be present in the one linguistic area.

While it is has been clearly demonstrated that South Asian languages in sustained contact can undergo a remarkable convergence in structure, as amply illustrated by the celebrated example of multilingual Kupwar village (Gumperz & Wilson 1971), the possibility of grammaticalization patterns being replicated in genetically unrelated South Asian languages is yet to be investigated in sufficient detail. This paper considers the evidence for the diffusion of conceptual schemas in Austroasiatic, Dravidian, Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Burman languages in contact. Topics to be addressed include the grammaticalization of relational morphology, conative modality markers, causative markers and relative-correlative constructions, and the extent to which these patterns may have been replicated as a result of longstanding language contact.

Selected references
Emeneau, Murray B. 1956. India as a linguistic area. Language 32(1): 3–16.
Gumperz, John J. & Robert Wilson. 1971. Convergence and creolization: A case from the Indo-Aryan/Dravidian border in India. In Hymes, Dell (ed.) Pidginization and creolization of languages: Proceedings of a conference held at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, April 1968, 151–167. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Heine, Bernd & Tania Kuteva. 2005. Language contact and grammatical change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Masica, Colin P. 1976. Defining a linguistic area. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press.