koineization (dialect mixing)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

The Milton Keynes project, conducted in the early 1990s, "was a study of the emergence of a new dialect in the new town of Milton Keynes" in Buckinghamshire, England ("Dialect Levelling" by A. Williams and P. Kerswill in Urban Voices: Accent Studies in the British Isles, 1999/2014). (Charles Bowman/robertharding/Getty Images)


In sociolinguistics, koineization is the process by which a new variety of a language emerges from the mixing, leveling, and simplifying of different dialects. Also known as dialect mixing and structural nativization.

The new variety of a language that develops as a result of koineization is called a koiné. According to Michael Noonan, "Koineization has probably been a fairly common feature of the history of languages" (The Handbook of Language Contact, 2010).

The term koineization (from the Greek for "common tongue") was introduced by linguist William J. Samarin (1971) to describe the process that leads to the formation of new dialects.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples of Koiné Languages:


Examples and Observations

  • "The only necessary process in koineisation is that of the incorporation of features from several regional varieties of a language. In the early stages one can expect a certain amount of heterogeneity in the realisation of individual phonemes, in morphology and, possibly, syntax."
    (Rajend Mesthrie, "Language Change, Survival, Decline: Indian Languages in South Africa." Languages in South Africa, ed. by R. Mesthrie. Cambridge University Press, 2002)

  • "Examples of koines (the outcomes of koineization) include the Hindi/Bhojpuri varieties spoken in Fiji and South Africa, and the speech of 'new towns' such as Høyanger in Norway and Milton Keynes in England. In some cases, the koine is a regional lingua franca which does not replace the already existing dialects."
    (Paul Kirswill, "Koineization." The Handbook of Language Variation and Change, 2nd ed., edited by J. K. Chambers and Natalie Schilling. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013)
  • Leveling, Simplification, and Reallocation
    "In a dialect mixture situation, large numbers of variants will abound, and through the process of accommodation in face-to-face interaction, interdialect phenomena will begin to occur. As time passes and focusing begins to take place, particularly as the new town, colony, or whatever begins to acquire an independent identity, the variants present in the mixture begin to be subject to reduction. Again this presumably occurs via accommodation, especially of salient forms. This does not take place in a haphazard manner, however. In determining who accommodates to whom, and which forms are therefore lost, demographic factors involving proportions of different dialect speakers present will clearly be vital. More importantly, though, more purely linguistic forces are also at work. The reduction of variants that accompanies focusing, in the course of new-dialect formation, takes place during the process of koineization. This comprises the process of levelling, which involves the loss of marked and/or minority variants; and the process of simplification, by means of which even minority forms may be the ones to survive if they are linguistically simpler, in the technical sense, and through which even forms and distinctions present in all the contributory dialects may be lost. Even after koineization, however, some variants left over from the original mixture may survive. Where this happens, reallocation may occur, such that variants originally from different regional dialects may in the new dialect become social-class dialect variants, stylistic variants, areal variants, or, in the case of phonology, allophonic variants."
    (Peter Trudgill, Dialects in Contact. Blackwell, 1986)
  • Koineization and Pidginization
    - "As Hock and Joseph (1996:387,423) point out, koineisation, the convergence between languages, and pidginisation usually involve structural simplification as well as the development of an interlanguage. Siegel (2001) argues that (a) pidginisation and koineisation both involve second language learning, transfer, mixing and levelling; and (b) the difference between pidginisation and creole genesis, on the one hand, and koineisation, on the other, are due to differences in the values of a small number of language-related, social, and demographic variables. Koineisation is usually a gradual, continuous process which takes place over a long period of sustained contact; whereas pidginisation and creolisation are traditionally thought of as relatively rapid and sudden processes."
    (Frans Hinskens, Peter Auer, and Paul Kerswill, "The Study of Dialect Convergence and Divergence: Conceptual and Methodological Considerations." Dialect Change: Convergence And Divergence in European Languages, ed. by P. Auer, F. Hinskens, and P. Kerswill. Cambridge University Press, 2005)

    - "[T]he social contexts of the two processes differ. Koineization requires free social interaction between speakers of the various varieties in contact, whereas pidginization results from restricted social interaction. Another difference is the time factor. Pidginization is most often considered a rapid process in response to a need for immediate and practical communication. In contrast, koineization is usually a process which occurs during prolonged contact between speakers who can almost always understand each other to some extent."
    (J. Siegel, "The Development of Fiji Hindustani." Language Transplanted: The Development of Overseas Hindi, ed. by Richard Keith Barz and Jeff Siege. Otto Harrassowitz, 1988)


    Alternate Spellings: koineisation [UK]

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