A sociolinguistic study of language contact, shift and change
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Bilingual speech communities provide linguists with a favorite laboratory to study the effects of language contact on linguistic structure. Without denying the interest or importance of this traditional contrastive approach to the problem of bilingualism, attention is attracted to the often concomitant problem of language shift and to the linguistic consequences of the resultant restriction in subordinate language use: grammatical simplification and stylistic reduction. These internal developments, but also external ones due to language contact, are examined through the multiple variants of a prepositional variable in Ontarian French, a contact variety of Canadian French whose speakers evidence varying degrees of knowledge of and shift to English. It is shown that even a high level of retention of French is not a safeguard against grammatical influence from English, any more than maintenance of French on a par with English is a guarantee against simplification. This suggests that in a situation of UNSTABLE bilingualism, speakers may be unable to preserve the structural 'integrity' of the subordinate language.