Syntactic hybrids in language border zones

Innovative solutions between internal and external variation. Evidence from Eastern Poland and Southern Denmark

Lecture by Lars Behnke, Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies, University of Copenhagen in the lecture series "Norm, variation, language change".


Language border varieties, i.e. varieties at the periphery of their respective dialect continua, are somewhat difficult to grasp, because they frequently disguise their border character by borrowing structures and/or forms from their neighbours. The possibilities for mutual exchange seem somewhat multiplied when the contact varieties belong to closely related languages.

In my presentation I want to give examples of peculiar, contact-induced uses of function words (prepositions and conjunctions) from two such border zones – one between Denmark and Germany, the other between Poland and its Eastern neighbors – and show, how they combine structure and form from both sides of the border in innovative, “hybrid” ways. By confronting the distinct and seemingly unique phenomena I wish to raise the question, if there might be a general mechanism and/or restrictions for the mixing of morphosyntactic phenomena in border varieties.