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BA English Language and French

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Language Contact

Unit code LELA30292
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module provides an introduction to the study of language contact both as a process (the processing of different languages by multilingual individuals) and as a result (observed language change over time as a result of multilingual language use). Both aspects will be discussed on the basis of a range of case studies involving languages from around the world and different scenarios of multilingualism. This module overlaps in content with LELA30751 Language Policy and Planning and LELA31111 First and Second Language Acquisition.


At least one unit out of:

  • LELA20102 Societal Multilingualism;
  • LELA20031 Introduction to Typology;
  • LELA20072 Language Variation and Change;
  • LELA20042 Grammatical Semantics;
  • LELA20961 Psycholinguistics – or comparable


Students will:
  • obtain an overview of processes of historical language change
  • obtain an overview of the formation of new languages due to language contact, 
  • obtain an overview of the relation between the above and multilingual language use. 
  • critically reflect on the concept of “language” as a delimited system, 
  • learn to analyse relevant aspects of the phonology, grammar and semantics of a range of languages, including non-European ones. 


Draft syllabus; the order of the coverage of topics might change
Week 1. Introduction
Week 2. Bilingual and second language acquisition: implications for the study of language contact
Week 3. Bilingual language processing
Week 4. Language choice in multilingual societies
Week 5. Language mixing in conversation 1: discourse functions
Week 6. Language mixing in conversation 2: structural aspects 
Week 7. Lexical borrowing
Week 8. Grammatical borrowing
Week 9. Linguistic areas
Week 10. Pidgin and creole languages
Week 11. Mixed languages
Week 12. Summary and further discussion

Teaching and learning methods

  • Weekly lecture
  • Weekly seminars with exercises and discussion of readings
  • Assignment guidance in written form and during consultation hours
  • Feedback on written assignment
  • Through Blackboard
    • Course materials
    • Assignment guidelines
    • Web links to selected course reading and other relevant resources

Knowledge and understanding

  • understand the role of some key conceptual notions in language contact such as “borrowing”, “code-switching”, and “creole genesis”
  • link historical processes of contact-induced change to the processing of multiple languages by multilingual speakers
  • apply these concepts to data from languages unfamiliar to them

Intellectual skills

  • identify patterns in sets of data
  • identify key points in the literature relevant to a given topic
  • identify conceptual links between synchronic and diachronic phenomena
  • critically evaluate theoretical claims and sources of data

Practical skills

  • transcribe and analyse multilingual conversations (depending on choice of assignment)
  • conduct interviews in an intercultural setting (depending on choice of assignment)
  • use glosses and translations to analyse structures of unfamiliar languages

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • provide explicit evidence and precise argumentation in written work
  • gain an increased appreciation of linguistic and cultural diversity

Employability skills

The course will have particular benefits for any student interested in pursuing a career which involves teaching and learning, diversity management, intercultural communication and community cohesion. The course will also provide key skills in critical analysis, dissemination of information to specialist (but non-academic) audiences and therefore be of value for a range of career paths. The course content encourages students to critically reflect upon the world outside the university thereby providing confidence to use academic research in a variety of settings.

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Coursework 1: 4 definition questions on key concepts introduced during the first half of the course

Formative and summative

2000 words


Coursework 2: Review essay on any topic covered during the course


3000 words




Assessment task





Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

oral feedback during seminars


written feedback via TurnitIn on assignments

Formative and summative

additional one-to-one feedback during consultation hours



Recommended reading


Butler, Yuko Goto. 2013. Bilingualism/Multilingualism and Second-Language Acquisition. In Tej K. Bhatia, William C. Ritchie (eds.), The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, Second Edition,  109–136. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Holm, John. 2010. Contact and Change: Pidgins and Creoles. In Raymond Hickey (ed.), The Handbook of Language Contact,  253–261. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Matras, Yaron. 2009. Language contact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Winford, Donald. 2003. An introduction to contact linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Wei, Li. ed. 2000. The bilingualism reader. London: Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Eva Schultze-Berndt Unit coordinator
Daniele Leggio Unit coordinator

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