Wednesday Seminar: Contact, variation, and phonetic-phonological change in Norwegian-American Speech

David Albert Natvig (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, MultiLing) will give a practice talk on contact effects in the sound patterns of American Norwegian bilinguals.


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In an upcoming workshop, Language Variation and Change in Diaspora Communities, I will discuss two examples of contact effects in the sound patterns of American Norwegian bilinguals: the transfer of the English-like approximant [ɹ] into Norwegian, and the variable lack of a surface distinction of /s~z/ in English. Data from present-day American Norwegian speakers, from recordings stored in the Corpus of American Nordic Speech (Johannessen 2015), indicate varied, yet structured, bilateral transfer between Norwegian and English (Natvig 2019; Salmons forthcoming). However, Einar Haugen’s recordings of American Norwegian from the 1940s and analyses of the English of American-Norwegian communities since the 1930s (Simley 1930; Haugen 1969; Allen 1973–1979: vol. 1: 138; Moen 1991; Salmons forthcoming) reveal the same and similar sound patterns over time and among different generations of speakers. What appear to be clean examples of bilingual influence on individuals’ phonological and phonetic systems may in fact be natively learned structures and alternations resulting from generations of community-wide multilingualism. Accordingly, these case studies clarify the relationship between phonetic variation and phonological structure over time in sustained contact situations. 



Allen, Harold. 1973–1979. The Linguistic Atlas of the Upper Midwest. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Johannessen, Janne Bondi. 2015. The Corpus of American Norwegian Speech (CANS). In Béata Megyesi (ed.), Proceedings of the 20th Nordic Conference of Computational Linguistics, NODALIDA 2015, May 11–13, Vilnius, Lithuania. NEALT Proceedings 23

Haugen, Einar. 1969. The Norwegian Language in America: A Study in Bilingual Behavior. 2nd edn. Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press.

Moen, Per. 1991. The influence of the Norwegian substratum on the pronunciation of Norwegian-Americans in the Upper Midwest. In Botolv Helleland (ed.), Norsk språk i Amerika — Norwegian Language in America, 97–115. Oslo: Novus.

Natvig, David. 2019. English r and American Norwegian: Sound systems in contact. Conference presentation at the 10thAnnual Workshop of Immigrant Languages in America. Halden: Østfold University College, 10–12 October.

Salmons, Joseph. Forthcoming. The laryngeal phonetics and phonology of Norwegian-American English /s~z/. Festschrift chapter.

Simley, Ann. 1930. A study of Norwegian dialect in Minnesota. American Speech 5: 469—474.


David Natvig is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the University of Oslo’s Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan and holds a Ph.D. in Scandinavian Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research focuses on phonological theory, language contact – including language shift and maintenance – and language change, particularly in connection to variation in English, Norwegian, and Heritage Norwegian sound systems.



Yesim Sevinc
Published Oct. 25, 2019 9:49 AM - Last modified Nov. 8, 2019 9:04 AM