Vera Scholvin is an entrepreneur and a linguist from Freie Universität Berlin & Sorbonne Paris.
In her video, she tells us about her research on language contact. She explores patterns that arise when words are adapted by a foreign language, focusing on Vietnamese and French.
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Due to its history of language contact with French, modern Vietnamese contains numerous loanwords of French origin, many of which refer to a variety of culturally transmitted items (such as clothing, food, technology, tradeable objects more generally). The present study deals with the phonological aspects of such loans, considering tone, syllable structure and segmental structure. The analysis is based on a corpus of roughly 500 Vietnamese nouns of French origin that, according to native speakers’ judgments, are still in use. As for tonal structure, generalizations about tone assignment made in previous research are modified. The systematic analysis of repair strategies applying to French consonant clusters in onsets and codas shows that Vietnamese generally prefers deletion over epenthesis, unlike many other languages, with two additional repair processes being attested in specific contexts, as well.
The integration of loanwords is one of the classical research topics in linguistics, since the processes occurring in loanword integration potentially shed light on questions pertaining to a variety of linguistic subdisciplines, among which are sociolinguistics, historical linguistics as well as grammatical theory. The present study addresses the integration of French loanwords into Vietnamese, with a focus on the phonology of tone and syllable structure. The phonological systems of French, an Indo-European language of the Romance branch, spoken in Western Europe, and Vietnamese, an Austroasiatic language of the Vietic branch, spoken in Vietnam, are structurally distinct. First, concerning the prosodic type (in the sense of Hyman 2006), French is (probably) a stress accent language (Pulgram, 1965; Di Cristo, 1999), while Vietnamese is a tone language (Nguyễn, 1997; Pham, 2003; Kirby, 2011; Brunelle, 2014; Brunelle and Kirby, 2016). Second, French and Vietnamese have different phonotactics: While French allows complex syllable onsets and codas (Klausenburger, 1970; Tranel, 1987), in Vietnamese onsets and codas consisting of more than a single consonant are illicit (Nguyễn, 1997; Kirby, 2011). In addition, only a subset of the Vietnamese consonants can occur in coda position, but in French the inventories of onset and coda consonants are roughly identical.