11. Language contraction and language shift

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A shift in primary language solidarity from one language towards another, via overlapping bilingualism, is probably a common process taking place in the course of life of many people in Africa (and elsewhere) today. One main cause for this phenomenon is urbanisation. When moving from a rural area, where a number of languages may be used in essentially complementary domains by individuals (e.g. at home versus the marketplace), to a major urban centre (e.g. because of better job prospects in the latter), this migration usually results in a modification of social networks and corresponding language behaviour on a day-to-day basis. In this chapter, we analyse the structural consequences of language obsolescence as a result of contact; in addition, we discuss the role of language as a marker of social identies.


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