Wednesday Seminar: Substrate 1, SLA nil: the case of -t/d deletion in Palauan English

David Britain, a professor and chair of Modern English Linguistics at the University of Bern, Switzerland, will give a talk on -t/d deletion in Palauan English (with Kazuko Matsumoto, the University of Tokyo). 

In research on so-called ‘New’ or ‘World’  Englishes, there has long been a debate about whether substrate influences or principles of second language acquisition most account for the ultimate structures of these new varieties. Research on –t/d deletion in coda clusters (found previewto some extent in all Englishes) (e.g. [bes] for ‘best’ and [praiz] for ‘prized’) in New Englishes has traditionally not been able to distinguish between substrate L1 and SLA influence, since the substrate varieties in question (e.g. Cantonese in work on Hong Kong English) avoid consonant clusters, and SLA research would encourage us to believe that simple CVCV structures tend to be favoured over more complex syllable shapes. Here we investigate a ‘new’ variety of English, that of the Republic of Palau, a former US colony in the Western Pacific. We argue that for this variety it is possible to distinguish substrate influence from the SLA preference for CVCV.

A variationist investigation of Palauan English stratified for age, gender, education and time spent in the US, found that the linguistic constraint profile of deletion was similar to that of L1 varieties but, perhaps unexpectedly, the social and language proficiency profiling of variation was overturned. ‘Middle class’, well-educated Palauans, who had travelled regularly to the US were more likely to delete –t/d (i.e. behave more non-standardly) than working class, less well-educated, less well-travelled Palauans. We attempt in the presentation to explain why this might be.



David Britain studied Linguistics at the University of East Anglia and received a PhD in sociolinguistics at the University of Essex. In the 1990s, he was part of theVictoria University of Wellington research team (along with Janet Holmes, Allan Bell and Mary Boyce) undertaking the first large-scale social dialect analysis of New Zealand English. He returned to the University of Essex as a Lecturer in 1993, but retained his links with the Southern Hemisphere throughout 1990s-2000s. Since January 2010 he has held the Chair of Modern English Linguistics at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Professor David Britain's impressive list of publications includes books: Linguistics: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2009, co-authored with Andrew Radford, Martin Atkinson, Harald Clahsen and Andrew Spencer);  Language in the British Isles (Cambridge University Press, 2007, edited), and Social Dialectology (Benjamins, 2003, co-edited with Jenny Cheshire). in 2008-2017, he was Associate Editor of the Journal of Sociolinguistics, and  is currently on the editorial boards of Journal of SociolinguisticsEnglish Language and LinguisticsEnglish World-Wide and the Journal of Linguistic Geography


Kellie Gonçalves, Olga Solovova
Published Aug. 23, 2019 11:17 AM - Last modified Oct. 15, 2019 3:59 PM