In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Language Contact

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks and General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Edited Collections
  • Dynamics and Motivations of Contact
  • Lexical Borrowing
  • Diglossia and Code-Switching
  • Borrowing from Phonological and Morphological Perspectives
  • Borrowing of Morphosyntactic Structures: Diffusion and Convergence
  • Contact and Semantics
  • Linguistic Areality and Areal Typology
  • Contact, Inheritance, and Linguistic Prehistory
  • Dialect Contact
  • Sign Languages and Contact
  • Substrate Influence and Contact in Attrition
  • Colonial and Immigrant Languages in Contact

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Linguistics Language Contact
Patience L. Epps
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0239


The study of language contact addresses the dynamics and outcomes of multilingual interaction. Accordingly, it intersects with many branches of linguistics, including sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, and psycholinguistics. It also engages with the full range of areas of linguistic investigation, from discourse to lexicon to grammar, and spanning phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics/pragmatics. Despite its wide relevance and a relatively long pedigree, language contact as a field of study in its own right is relatively young, having come into its own only in the latter half of the 20th century. This bibliography focuses on language contact from the perspective of its effects on the languages involved; in other words, the approach taken here is grounded primarily in the study of language variation and change, although it necessarily keeps social and psycholinguistic considerations in view. The vast literature on new languages that arise in contact conditions is not directly addressed here; the reader may consult the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Linguistics articles “Pidgins”, “Creoles”, “Grammatical Categories in Creoles”, and “Mixed Languages” for information on those topics. Further coverage of areas relating to language contact is also provided in the Oxford Bibliographies in Linguistics articles “Bilingualism and Multilingualism”, “Psycholinguistic Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism”, “Language Shift”, and “Linguistic Areas”.

Textbooks and General Overviews

The last two decades have seen the emergence of a number of comprehensive works that address contact linguistics very generally and from a wide range of angles. These include two handbooks, of which Goebl, et al. 1996 was among the first of its kind, followed by Hickey 2010. For general textbooks, Thomason 2001 is a very accessible introduction, while Winford 2003 is more in-depth and notably comprehensive in scope. Additional overviews of the field include Matras 2009 and Myers-Scotton 2002, both of which take more specific theoretical perspectives and are aimed at researchers and advanced students. Many other handbooks in linguistics include overviews of language contact as it relates to their particular focus.

  • Goebl, H., P. Nelde, Z. Stary, and W. Wölck, eds. 1996. Kontaktlinguistik/Contact linguistics. Handbücher zur sprachund Kommunikationswissenschaft. Vols. 12.1 and 12.2. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.

    A very extensive and comprehensive overview of the field through the late 1990s. A new and updated version of this handbook is currently in progress.

  • Hickey, R., ed. 2010. The handbook of language contact. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

    A comprehensive overview of language contact, approached from many different angles. The book also includes discussions of contact in particular regions of the world.

  • Matras, Y. 2009. Language contact. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511809873

    A general overview from an explicitly functional-typological perspective, with attention to both synchronic and diachronic aspects of contact. Primarily geared for an audience of scholars or advanced graduate students.

  • Myers-Scotton, C. 2002. Contact linguistics. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299530.001.0001

    Offers an overview of the field with a heavy focus on code-switching. The discussion of contact phenomena throughout is theoretically grounded in the author’s Matrix Language Turnover hypothesis.

  • Thomason, S. G. 2001. Language contact: An introduction. Washington, DC: Georgetown Univ. Press.

    A very accessible overview of the field, with an emphasis on historical linguistics. This book is probably the most appropriate textbook for an undergraduate or beginning-level graduate course on language contact or historical linguistics.

  • Winford, D. 2003. An introduction to contact linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.

    A very in-depth and comprehensive textbook that addresses contact from a wide range of perspectives, spanning historical effects on lexicon and grammar, second language acquisition, code-switching, pidgins, creoles, and mixed languages. Various exercises are provided throughout. An excellent textbook for a graduate course on language contact.

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