Special Issue "Word Formation and Language Contact: A Formal Perspective"

A special issue of Languages (ISSN 2226-471X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 November 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Artemis Alexiadou
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of English and American Studies, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
2. Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS), Schützenstraße 18, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Interests: syntax; morphology; heritage languages
Prof. Dr. Terje Lohndal
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Language and Literature, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway
2. Department of Language and Culture, UiT-The Arctic University of Norway, PO Box 6050, Langnes, 9037 Tromsø, Norway
Interests: syntax; morphology; multilingualism

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

While the study of word formation processes from a comparative perspective has gained the interest of morphologists, there is comparatively little work on word formation processes from the point of view of language contact, e.g., the contributions to Callies and Stolz (2016), Alexiadou and Lohndal (2018), Riksem et al. (2019), and Alexiadou (2020). Studying word formation processes where properties of more than one language is involved offers a unique window onto the basic word formation mechanisms. Furthermore, it allows scholars to address a fundamental question regarding the nature of the lexicon in multilingual speakers: Do they have one integrated lexicon or two separate lexicons?

In this Special Issue, we invite papers dealing with word formation processes, focusing on inflection, derivation and compounding in language contact settings and employing the tools of current morphological theories to analyze them. An explicit objective is to investigate what data from different types of language contact settings may tell us about formal models of word formation. We invite scholars representing different formal frameworks to explore their implications for word formation and language contact, either through case studies, comparative studies, or comparing multiple frameworks and their different implications for a set of data.

Authors should submit abstracts of 400–600 words to the Languages guest editors by 31 March 2021 for a preliminary assessment and selection. Submission of papers will be done through the Languages online submission system (after the abstract is accepted) before 31 August 2021. Authors should follow the Instructions for Authors found on Languages. Publication of the Special Issue is planned for December 2021.


Alexiadou, Artemis. 2020. Compound formation in language mixing. Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 11.

Alexiadou, Artemis and Terje Lohndal. 2018. Units of language mixing: a cross-linguistic perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9.

Callies, Marcus and Christel Stolz. Eds. 2106. Word-formation. Language contact, language contrast and language comparison. STUF, Language Typology and Universals 69: 4.

Riksem, Brita Ramsevik, Maren Berg Grimstad, Terje Lohndal and Tor A. Åfarli. 2019. Language mixing within verbs and nouns in American Norwegian. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 22: 189-209.

Prof. Dr. Artemis Alexiadou
Prof. Dr. Terje Lohndal
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Languages is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • word formation
  • language contact
  • inflection
  • derivation
  • compounding
  • formal grammar

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Compound-internal language mixing in American Norwegian
Authors: Brita Ramsevik Riksem; Ragnhild Eik
Affiliation: NTNU, Norway
Abstract: This paper investigates cases of compounding in the heritage language American Norwegian (AmNo) where elements from Norwegian and English are mixed word-internally, e.g., hostecandy 'cough candy’. Norwegian and English create compounds in similar ways, however with certain important differences, e.g., the use of linking elements. We will investigate the outcomes of the encounter of these two languages within one word, and we argue that this provides new insights into both the structure of compounds and the nature of language mixing. Furthermore, the paper contributes to the general typology of compound-internal language mixing with different language pairs (Alexiadou 2020).

Title: The borrowability of derivation: A typological overview
Authors: Francesco Gardani
Affiliation: University of Zurich
Abstract: To date, there is no comprehensive work on the wide range of phenomena which occur under the heading of contact-induced morphological change, such as the borrowing of derivational and inflectional formatives. Numerous instances of both phenomena have become known during the last few decades, but they are scattered in myriad publications dealing mostly with single languages. While inflectional borrowing has recently received some detailed coverage (Gardani 2008, 2012), derivational borrowing has remained largely understudied, despite the widespread belief that it is not infrequent. As an example of derivational borrowing, consider the agentive suffix dór borrowed from Portuguese (1b) into Tetun Dili (1a) (data from Hajek 2006: 172). (1) a. Tetun Dili b. Portuguese hemu-dór descobri dor someone who likes to drink discoverer The present paper aims to provide a first systematic survey of instances of borrowed derivational formatives and to test whether some types of derivation are predictably more accessible to borrowing than other types. Based on the observation that lexical transfer is very common in language contact, it is plausible to assume that the type of morphology that shares more similarities with the lexicon is more prone to borrowing than the type of morphology that shares more similarities with the syntax. Accordingly, derivation would be borrowed more frequently than inflection, and inside both inflection and derivation, certain subtypes would be preferred, as shown by Gardani (2008; Gardani 2012; 2012) for inflection. In order to test the borrowability of derivation, I draw upon two theoretical approaches to the lexicon-to-syntax-continuum, viz. Dressler 1989, 1997) vs. Bauer (2004). Inspired by prototype-theory, Dressler distinguishes between prototypical derivation, non-prototypical derivation, non-prototypical inflection and prototypical inflection. Dressler s model leads to hypothesize that prototypical derivation, such as result noun formatives, is more prone to borrowing than non-prototypical derivation, such as agent noun formatives. Bauer advocates six classes of morphology: contextual, inherent, valency-changing, transpositional, evaluative, lexicon-expanding. His model leads to hypothesize that lexicon-expanding derivation, such as agent noun formatives, is more prone to borrowing than evaluative morphology, such as diminutives, and that the latter is more prone to borrowing than transpositional derivation, such as action noun formatives. The two models are tested against data drawn from 50 typologically diverse recipient languages, from South and North America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Austronesia and Oceania. The analysis shows that adjectivizers, diminutives (evaluative morphology), and nominalizers (particularly to form agent nouns, as in (1a)) rank highest in terms of borrowing frequency. This does not conform with the prediction made on the basis of Dressler s model, whereas Bauer (2004) allows for more adequate predictions concerning the borrowability of derivational morphology. Although we re still far away from having a clear picture of derivation borrowing and hypotheses need to be tested against a larger body of evidence, this paper intends to be a step forward towards a better understanding of the principles underlying contact-induced morphological change and its theoretical modeling.

Title: The internal structure of Spanish-German verbalisations and the sophistication of bilinguals' linguistic knowledge
Authors: Antonio Fábregas; Jason Rothman
Affiliation: Department of Language and Culture, University of Tromsø-Norges Arktiske Universitet
Abstract: Couched at the cross-roads of both formal (morpho)-syntactic theory and its application for understanding, if not unpacking, the latent constraints that apply to code-switiching/ mixing in bilingualism, the present article reassess some available data regarding verbal word-internal language mixing (Spanish-German) involving verbs and nouns (González-Vilbazo & López 2011, 2012). The empirical generalization is that Spanish roots can be combined with German verbalisers, but not vice versa (1) utilis-ieren 'useSp-vblsGer, to use' (2) *benutz-ear 'useGer-vblsSp'. This alone demonstates the non-random nature, i.e. the grammatical constraints, on licit code-switching in general. In other words, data of this type highlight the sophisicated knowledge of the underlying representions that code-switching bilinguals must have of both contributing grammars and, in turn, how these contribute to the formation of the grammar that underlies their rule-governed systems for amalgamating them in real time (Belazi, Rubin & Toribio, 1994; MacSwan 2000, 2005; Vilbazo & López 2011, 2012; Alexiadou & Lohndal 2018, among many others). Despite agreeing with the general conclusions of the authors regarding what the data tell us about code-switching more generally, we question the two main theoretical approaches that have been put forth to explain such data: (i) the asymmetry is due to Spanish v needing a specification of conjugation class in the root which German roots lack (González-Vilbazo & López 2011) and (ii) the asymmetry reflects the fact that Spanish has zero exponents for the verbalisers, but German provides overt verbalisers that can be used (Alexiadou & Lohndal 2018). Alternatively, we present a novel approach to these facts, showing that –even if Spanish roots specifiy conjugation class, which is conceptually problematic– absence of conjugation class specification should not trigger ungrammaticality in Spanish. Furthermore, Spanish does have a set of overt verbalisers, which are structurally located with independence of theme vowels. Conversely, we will argue that the basic reason for the asymmetry responds to two properties that conspire: (i) the German verbaliser spells out a bigger chunk of the structure required for the verbalisation than any of the Spanish affixes available, which makes it preferable over the Spanish set of exponents and (ii) the internal structure of derived verbs from roots is distinct in German and Spanish in a way that only in a sequence such as (2) the structural description of the two languages coincides. This argumentation will allow us to discuss the different structural possibilities available to verbalizations from different types of bases, more or less syntactically complex.

Title: Lexicalizing Plurality in Pennsylvania Dutch: A Nanosyntactic Approach
Authors: Rose Fisher; David Natvig; Michael T. Putnam; Katharina Schuhmann
Affiliation: Department of Germanic & Slavic Languages & Literatures / Program in Linguistics, Penn State University
Abstract: Although more than a century’s worth of linguistic research has been carried outon Pennsylvania Dutch (PD), predominantly from a sociolinguistic perspective or for dialectcomparison (Haldemann, 1872; Keiser, 2012; Louden, 1989, 2016; Meister Ferré, 1994; Page,2011; Reed, 1942), formal approaches to PD are still in their infancy. The diglossic nature ofPD (Grosjean, 2008) leads us to classify its speakers as “deep bilinguals” (López, 2020), meaningthat their syntax and lexicon are housed in the same cognitive space. In this article, we drawon a nanosyntactic perspective (Caha, 2018; Starke, 2009) to examine this hybridity – i.e.,with regard to which elements are principally more ‘German-like’, those more ‘English-like’,and those which are uniquely PD – in relation to morphosemantic and morphophonologicalrealizations of plurality in PD (Acuaviva, 2008).

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