Contact and continuity in the morphology of Ibatan

Presentation Date: 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


Canberra, Australia
The 24th International Conference on Historical Linguistics
Paper presentation
The Australian National University
1-5 July 2019
This research examines a case of contact-induced change in progress in the morphology of Ibatan, an Austronesian language spoken on the island of Babuyan Claro, Philippines. The speech community is characterized by intense and continuous contact with Ilokano, the regional lingua franca of northern Luzon, leading to a high degree of bilingualism among the speakers. Moreover, the mixed linguistic background of the speakers (with ancestry traced to both Ilokano-speaking families of the neighboring Babuyan Islands and Batanic-speaking families of the Batanes Islands) has resulted in contact-induced language change, with features not seen in other Batanic languages occurring uniquely in Ibatan. For this paper, we will be looking at the nature of some transferred Ilokano affixes in Ibatan, identified initially by Maree (2007), such as voice affixes and ordinal number prefix:
Native (Batanic)
Borrowed (Ilokano)
May- vs mag-
(inflecting agentive voice)
‘to ride a rowboat’
av -motorized.boat
‘to ride a motorized boat’
Cha- vs maika-
(forming ordinals)
ord -two
It is acknowledged that in contact situations, the transfer of linguistic materials from the source to the recipient language is often primarily in the lexicon, while the transfer of structural materials seems to be disprefered, with the latter often facilitated through the transfer of lexical items (Haugen 1950, Weinreich 1953, Thomason and Kaufman 1988, Matras and Sakel 2007, Gardani et al. 2015). As a general rule in Ibatan, non-native affixes appear with non-native stems, suggesting that these are cases of complex loanwords rather than authentic morphological transfers. However, actual usage both by dominant and non-dominant speakers of the language paints a more complex picture. That is, the native affix may- also occurs with certain borrowed stems (2a), and conversely, there are some instances of the borrowed affix mag- occurring with native stems as well (2b):
(2a) Native affix with borrowed stem:
(2b) Borrowed affix with native stem:
‘to dry the banana under the sun’
‘Uncle is going bald.’
This can also be seen in the formation of ordinals in (1), in which both native cha- and borrowed maika- are used with native Ibatan numerals, as in dadwa ‘two’. Such patterns of usage lead to competing forms in the language, suggesting a change in progress in the morphology of the language. That Ibatan and Ilokano are two typologically similar and genetically related languages promotes the transfer of otherwise highly stable and more structured linguistic materials (i.e. morphology). However, the nature of the bilingual speaker plays an equally important role in such casesthere is an evident difference in the language of dominant and non-dominant speakers of Ibatan (cf. van Coetsem 2000). Taking a more nuanced approach to bilingualism by focusing on the transmission mechanisms of grammatical materials and their possible outcomes allows for a better understanding of the nature and direction of change on-going in the morphology of Ibatan. This research will contribute to both fields of historical and contact linguistics by exploring questions which have been seldom discussed in both fields, namely the role of contact in driving language change, as well as the nature and outcomes of contact between genetically related and typologically very similar languages.
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Maree, Rundell. 2007. Ibatan: A grammatical sketch of the language of Babuyan Claro Island. Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines.
Matras, Yaron and Jeanette Sakel (eds.) 2007. Grammatical borrowing in cross-linguistic perspective. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
Thomason, Sarah and Terrence Kaufman. 1988. Language Contact, Creolization and Genetic Linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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