In this project, we aim to develop a theory of syntactic change in contact, by observing how specific syntactic structures react to both endogenous change (EC) and change in contact (CIC). Italian heritage languages offer a unique combination of wide diachronic written documentation and multiple contact with other, minimally different, languages, which will allow us to investigate EC and CIC and integrate syntactic theory with the tools that are necessary for their analysis.
The study of EC and CIC usually examines two stages of a language: Stage1- before the change -, and Stage 2- after the change-. This project introduces a third observation point: the “in between” stage, which will be provided by microcontact. With microcontact here we mean contact between two minimally different syntactic systems (grammars). While microvariation will make parts of grammars comparable and will make it possible to have “snapshots” of languages while change is happening, genetic and typological similarity between the languages in contact will allow us to control for one element at a time: the languages in contact do not differ very much since they are genetically related.
This project aims to give an answer to the following major research questions:
1. How does contact-induced syntactic change (CIC) happen?
2. What are the main differences between EC and CIC?
3. Are there elements in the grammar that are more prone to contact-induced change, and are there elements that are more prone to spontaneous change?