08 February 2021: Roberta D’Alessandro (U Utrecht), “What microcontact tells us about language”



Change in contact is known to affect some areas of grammar and leave others virtually untouched. The parts of grammar that are more often targeted are those involving interfaces, as they need mastery of more than one grammatical module. In this talk I will argue that microcontact, i.e. contact between minimally-differing grammars, is an important dimension to consider when drawing generalizations on change in contact. A number of studies on microcontact between Italo-Romance heritage languages in Argentina, Brazil, Canada and US (carried out within the Microcontact  ERC project) show that some generalizations drawn on the basis of contact between two varieties only are in fact incomplete. It will be shown how topicality and indexicality are used as core strategies for change-in-contact resolution when speakers have no real perception of structural and typological distance.


Re-watch the lecture here:




Roberta D’Alessandro is professor of Syntax and Language Variation at Utrecht University, where she is also PI of an ERC CoG on Microcontact. Language Variation and Change from the Italian heritage perspective. Her interests include impersonal pronouns, agreement, auxiliary selection, the syntax-PF interface, language change in contact and heritage languages; her main focus is on Romance languages. She is editor-in-chief of Isogloss. Open Journal of Romance Linguistics and of the Brill Grammars and Sketches of the World Languages. Romance. She is also co-editor of the Open Generative Syntax series of Language Science Press. She is an Open Access advocate, and collaborates with the Joint Research Center of the EU on science advice to policy makers.