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Afrikaans in a quantitative microtypology of Germanic standard and non-standard varieties

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conference contribution
posted on 2024-02-05, 07:27 authored by Simon Pröll, Thilo Weber

Besides English, Afrikaans is considered “the [Germanic] language which deviates grammatically the farthest from the others” (Harbert 2007: 17). But how exactly do we measure “grammatical deviation”, and how deviant is Afrikaans really if we compare it not just to other standard languages but also to non-standard varieties? The present contribution aims to address those questions combining functional-typological and dialectometric perspectives. We first select data for 28 Germanic varieties showing vastly different speaker numbers, grades of standardisation and amounts of language contact. Based on 48 (micro)typological variables from syntax, morphology and phonology, we perform cluster analysis and multidimensional scaling and present ways of visualizing and interpreting the results. Inter alia, the analyses show a major divide between Continental West Germanic and North Germanic (as might be expected) and they also identify a number of outliers, including English and pidgin and creole languages such as Russenorsk or Rabaul Creole German. Afrikaans appears to cluster with the other West Germanic languages rather than the outliers. Within West Germanic, however, it does indeed emerge as rather deviant and, according to our metric, it is, for example, typologically closer to other high-contact varieties such as Yiddish than it is to Dutch.

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