U-M Linguistics PhD candidate Ariana Bancu presented a paper on 'Language Variation and Change in Transylvanian Saxon' at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 45. The paper is a result of her qualifying research paper (QRP) work. It focuses on language contact effects in Transylvanian Saxon in a multilingual community from Viscri, Romania. The conference took place in November at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.
The data presented in Ariana Bancu's paper were collected during her fieldwork in 2015 in Viscri, Romania, in a multilingual community, featuring TrSax, German, and Romanian. The study analyzes variation and change in Transylvanian Saxon (TrSax), an endangered language spoken in Romania. In an intense language contact situation syntactic transfer is observable in the domain of TrSax verb clusters, resulting in word order variation between TrSax and German-influenced structures.
Current data collected through sociolinguistic interviews were compared to data from other TrSax dialects, and to ancestors of TrSax (e.g. Middle High German, Luxembourgish) to show that subordinate clause verb clusters pattern differently in TrSax than in related varieties, displaying flexible distribution between available structures. The transfer of new structures from German into TrSax is facilitated by the typological similarity between the two languages (c.f. Thomason, 2003), however a complete change towards German is prevented by Romanian, which shares similar structures with TrSax. Speakers who use Romanian regularly display different patterns than speakers who do not use Romanian.