Cognitive factors of language contact
Introduction - cognitive factors and their limits of contribution
Most linguists would agree that language contact can serve as an explanation for linguistic development on the individual level, as well as for language variation and change on the community level. As social beings we are, of course, always in contact with each other and thus with different idiolects, which include different languages, varieties, and styles. Humans only learn and develop languages in social settings, i.e., in contact situations. Therefore, some researchers have argued that language contact is the most important reason for individual language development as well as for language variation and change on the community level. One common consequence of language contact is bilingualism. There is, however, still a need to link the process of language contact with research outcomes on bilingualism at the individual level (Li Wei, 2013, p. 31). This deficit is highlighted by Romaine (2005, p. 49):
Linguists studying language contact often seek to describe changes at the level of linguistic systems in isolation and abstraction from speakers, thus losing sight of the fact that the [. . .] individual is the ultimate locus of contact.
Although the desideratum is evident, there are relatively few studies in contact linguistics that explicitly deal with cognitive factors (see chapters in Zenner, Backus and Winter-Froemel, 2019: Matras, 2009: Myers-Scotton, 2002; Winford, 2009; Muysken, 2010).
There are two types of cognitive factors that may play a role in language contact, which is defined here as speakers of language (variety) A communicating with speakers of language (variety) B, so contact is seen primarily as an inter-individual process. These types primarily reveal contact as an inter-individual process. The first type relates to cognitive factors that have an impact on language use and interaction more generally, such as aural perception, pragmatics, intentionality, and the general processes of language production and perception. The second type concerns the specific cognitive factors in bilingual and multilingual processing. There is a vast literature on both types; we will deal with only a part of that in our contribution.