Andries Coetzee recently gave three presentations at two of University of California campusses. His West Coast tour started with a colloquium presentation on November 23 at the newest of the University of California campuses, UC Merced, in the Central Valley of California. UC Merced was established less than 10 years ago in 2005. They have an exciting interdisciplinary Cognitive Science program that brings together researchers with broad interests in human cognition, including several that focus on various aspects of linguistic cognition. Andries's colloquium presentation (Modelling Phonological Variation) focused on how to model the complex interaction of grammatical and non-grammatical factors that co-determine the nature of phonological variation. See below for an abstract of this presentation.

The second leg of his West Coast tour took Andries to the Lingiustics Department at UC Berkeley, where he gave two presentations on November 30: a colloquium presentation (similar to the presentation at UC Merced) and a presentation anbout Patagonian Afrikaans. This second presentation is based on an ongoing project (in collaboration with Nick Henriksen, Lorenzo García-Amaya, and Daan Wissing). See below for an abstract of this presentation.

Modeling Phonological Variation (abstract)

Existing approaches to phonological variation differ in the role that they ascribe to grammar. Some assume no role for grammar, considering variation as the result of non-grammatical factors impacting the categorical output of phonological grammar. Others assume that grammar and non-grammatical factors contribute equally to variation. Yet others attempt to account for all aspects of variation with grammar alone, allowing no room for non-grammatical factors. In this talk, I will develop a fourth possible model with the following features: (i) Grammar itself is variable and hence contributes to variation. (ii) Non-grammatical factors also contribute. (iii) But the model is grammar dominant – grammar defines the space of possible variation and non-grammatical factors can only influence how variation is realized within this grammar-delimited variable space. The model will be implemented in Harmonic Grammar, and will be applied to English variable t/d-deletion (west bank~wes_ bank),variable cross-word nasal place assimilation (green boat~greem boat), and variable devoicing of Afrikaans plosives, focusing on the interaction of grammar with factors such as usage frequency, speech rate, and communicative context.

Patagonian Afrikaans: the early modern history of Afrikaans, language contact and change, language attrition and death (abstract)

In this presentation, I will give a progress report on an ongoing project to document a unique variety of Afrikaans spoken in a small community  in Patagonia, Argentina. The members of this community are the descendants of a group of around 600 Afrikaans speakers who left South Africa between 1902 and 1906. Until 1925, Afrikaans had no official status in South Africa, was not taught in schools and was rarely written so that there is relatively little documentary evidence about Afrikaans before 1925. The South African government declared Afrikaans a language and replaced Dutch with Afrikaans as official language in 1925. Together with this change in status and recognition also came the inevitable standardization and loss of regional variation. Since the Patagonia speakers did not participate in this standardization process, their language has the potential to inform us about the early modern history of Afrikaans. I will explore some of the morphosyntactic, phonological and phonetic features of Patagonian Afrikaans, comparing these to current South African Afrikaans and Patagonian Spanish. I will discuss the difficulties of determining the source of differences between Patagonian and South African Afrikaans: Do these differences reflect remnants of an older pre-standardization form of Afrikaans, the result of internal developments in Patagonian Afrikaans, of attrition, or of contact with Spanish?