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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Aleksandrs BERDICEVSKIS

Internet as a source of evidence about contact-induced language change: the case of Russian

Abstract/Résumé: Most research concerning the consequences of English-Russian contact is limited to lexical borrowings. Sometimes it is acknowledged that English might have contributed to certain trends in grammatical change in Russian, e.g. the trend towards analyticity, but the effect of this influence is disputed and often considered small. In other words, the common view is that currently the language contact does not result in any significant structural innovations in Russian. Obviously, this view does not apply to some marginal varieties of Russian. For instance, language of heritage speakers often exhibits great structural variation. In this talk, I show that also in “mainland” Russian there exist varieties where language contact leads to the emergence of unusual grammatical innovations. In order to find them, we have to move beyond the standard language, or, more precisely, beyond edited speech — to spontaneous one. Consider the following example from a gamers’ forum: go aren-a, nup))) go arena-NOM.SG, noob-NOM.SG ‘Let’s go to the arena, stupid unexperienced player)))’ Two of the three words are very recent borrowings from English. The noun "nup" corresponds to the English "noob" (which, in turn, derives from "newbie"). More interesting is the verb "go": here, only the verbal stem is borrowed and used without any morphological markers, which is exceptional for Russian verbal morphology. The most unusual thing, however, is the case of the word "arena": no verb can govern nominative in Russian, an oblique case is always required. In spite of that, the construction "go+nominative" is quite frequent and productive. The absence of a preposition is remarkable, since "go" is not a transitive verb in Russian. Nor is it in English, and that means that the construction is not a simple borrowing, but a more complex outcome of language contact. The informal registers of Russian internet (fora, blogs, chats etc.) are abundant with further examples of contact-induced grammatical innovations: English words are borrowed together with the constructions they are part of; or bring their grammatical features with them, even if they fit poorly into Russian grammar; or trigger the emergence of new constructions, as in the example above. By referring to “Russian internet” I do not imply that the innovations discussed above exist exclusively in this medium (most likely they penetrate into oral speech as well), nor that “Russian internet” is a single and linguistically homogeneous medium (it is not). However, I do believe that internet can be singled out not only as a data source, but also as one of the factors in contact-induced language change.