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Language Contact

An Introduction

Sarah G. Thomason

Paperback (Printed to Order)

What happens to different peoples and to their languages when they come into contact?

Language contact is everywhere: many nations have more than one official language, and quite possibly most people in the world speak two or more languages. What happens to different peoples and to their languages when they come into contact?

In this survey of the social, political and linguistic consequences of language contact, Sarah G. Thomason focuses on what happens to the languages themselves - sometimes nothing, sometimes new words enter a language, sometimes new sounds and sentence structures will spread across many languages in a large geographical region; more rarely, entirely new languages arise in a contact situation. Conversely, one of the languages in contact may vanish entirely, and issues of language endangerment and death are explored here, together with chapters on multilingualism, pidgins and creoles, mechanisms of interference and the origins and results of contact-induced language change.

Accessibly written by a leading expert in the field, this book is an ideal introduction for beginning students at all levels, and a useful resource for postgraduates, teachers and academic linguists.

Key Features

  • Accessibly written by a leading figure in the field
  • Sources and further reading provided for each chapter
  • World map showing the location of the languages discussed


Contents: 1. Introduction
2. Contact onsets and stability
3. Multilingualism in nations and individuals
4. Contact-induced language change: results
5. Contact-induced language change: mechanisms
6. Mechanisms of interference
7. Contact languages I: Pidgins and creoles
8. Contact languages II: Other mixed languages
9. Language obsolescence
10. Endangered languages.

About the Author

Sarah G. Thomason is Professor of Linguistics at University of Michigan.


Written with a common sense attitude and a sense of humor, with examples often drawn from the author's own research or personal experience. It is to be recommended both to students and to interested individuals not just as a textbook, but as an exciting reading material in general.
- Linguist list
A eulogy to the richness of expression in language … This is a very exciting book for readers who take delight in the diversity of the world's languages as well as for those readers who have made it their task to theorize about language on the basis of speech behaviour.
- Journal of Sociolinguistics