Mixed languages as outcomes of code-switching: Recent examples from Australia and their implications

Patrick McConvell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


There has been much debate about whether mixed languages arise from code-switching. This paper presents one clear example of this kind of genesis, Gurindji Kriol, and other probable examples, from recent language contact in Australia between traditional Australian languages and English-based pidgins/creoles. In particular the paper focuses on what has been called the Verbal- Nominal split in the genesis of these languages, which is parallel to other cases elswhete in the world, such as Michif. Here the Verbal- Nominal split is reanalysed as a split between INFL (Tense-Aspect- Mood) dominated elements and the rest of the clause. There are two classes of such INFL mixed languages with contrasting characteristics: those in which the new language takes over the INFL elements and the nominal morphology is still drawn from the old language, like Gurindji Kriol; and those in which the verb and its morphology is retained from the old language but other elements are drawn from the new language. This is explained in terms of the 'arrested turnover' hypothesis of Myers-Scotton. The original 'centre of gravity' hypothesis of McConvell related the two kinds of mixed language outcomes to the grammatical type of the old language: whether it was 'dependent-marking' or 'headmarking'. In this paper this hypothesis is modified by seeing the important causal factor in the second type as incorporation of INFL and pronouns in the verb in head-marking and polysynthetic languages. Finally some other examples of mixed languages of the INFL-split type are mentioned, and a research program outlined aiming to detect where this kind of language-mixing forms part of the history of other languages by looking at the current pattern of composition of elements from different language sources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-212
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Language Contact
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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