Modeling the Linguistic Consequences of Digital Language Contact is a three year project (2016-2019) financed by a Grant of Excellence (ISK 117,500,000) from the Icelandic Research Fund (grant no. 162991-051) awarded to Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir and Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, professors at the University of Iceland. The project aims to investigate and model the linguistic consequences of digital language contact, using the rise of English in the Icelandic language community as a test case.
The main empirical goal of the project is to construct a nationwide profile of the distribution and nature of English and Icelandic input in the Icelandic language community and the differences in linguistic knowledge which arise as a result of novel types of intense encounters with English. The main theoretical goal is to integrate sociological factors and bilingualism into the evolving field of models which derive the linguistic knowledge of speakers from the quantified distribution of input in acquisition as well as from hypothesized constraints on possible languages. In particular, our work will extend Yang’s Variational Model of Language Acquisition.
The implementation of the project includes an online survey which is sent to a stratified random sample of 5000 speakers of age 3 and upwards. The purpose is to obtain information on the amount and nature of input the speakers receive in English and Icelandic. Sociolinguistic variables, like speakers’ language attitudes and self-evaluation of their skills in the respective languages, will also be assessed. The second step consists in in-depth interviews with a group comprising 400 speakers selected from the participants in the online survey according to certain criteria. They will be assessed in a careful and precise manner to obtain more fine-grained information on the same variables as the online survey. The third step of data collection will consist of getting a large proportion of the population (~10%) to participate in an online survey by using crowdsourcing methods focused on social media. This will be a less controlled methodological experiment which will still allow us to test the predictive power of our models.
The study of the digital minoritization of Icelandic will have important implications for theories on language acquisition and change, language vitality, and lifespan change of individuals.