This project studies a multilingual West-African ecology, with Mano and Kpelle languages at its core, and its impact on the evolution of the individual languages. I propose an innovative methodology by developing a holistic program, combining a study of individual and language-level processes, synchrony and diachrony, ethnography, corpus study and experiment. I will first study stable contact effects of Kpelle on the Mano grammar resulting from a long history of sustained bilingualism. I will then turn to contact-induced change in the making, manifesting itself in the patterns of variation, including variation in bilingual child and adult speech and contact-induced register variation. The necessary social context will be given by a detailed ethnography of multilingual settings, from family to institution-mediated social settings, such as the Catholic Church. The theoretical novelty of the study is two-fold. First, I articulate the relationship between patterns of bilingual language acquisition and stable effects of language contact through a study of language socialization and language ideologies. Second, I propose the model of differential language contact, where specific registers of language (in particular, religious) play a role of locus, and then source, of further spreading of language contact effects.
This is a bold initiative for two reasons. First, the project proposes an innovative contribution to the methodology of language contact by developing a holistic program, combining individual and language-level processes, synchrony and diachrony, ethnography, corpus study and experiment. And second, the study proposes two bold theoretical innovations, including the model of differential language contact with a focus on the role of register in language contact and change.