In Romance–Slavic language contact, both language families have had foreign influence, with Romance varieties as donor and as recipient languages. Slavic has been in contact with languages of the Latin phylum at least since the first encounters of South-Slavic tribes with the Balkan–Romance population in the 6th century ce. Mutual language contact became especially visible in South-Slavic influence on Romanian and its South Danubian varieties (Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian) and also the other way round, in the form of Romance borrowings in the Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian–Croatian–Montenegrin, Serbian) continuum, Bulgarian / Macedonian, and Slovene. However, pre-Balkan contacts of Proto-Slavic with Italic or Latin have also been claimed. Balkan Latin derived from common Latin and split into Western and Eastern Balkan Romance, forming the basis of local Romance vernaculars, with (extinct) Dalmatian in the west of the peninsula and Proto-Romanian in the east. Proto-Romanian and Old Bulgarian mutually influenced each other, which led to a divergent position of Romanian and Bulgarian / Macedonian in their respective language families. Mutual Romance–Slavic language contact continued even after the Middle Ages, between Romanian, Italo-Romance, French, and Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, Bulgarian / Macedonian. The vocabulary of all Balkan languages and varieties in contact has been heavily affected by words and concepts of the respective contact languages—in the case of Romanian-based varieties as a donor language by distributing shepherd and dairy terminology throughout South Slavic. As for grammar, Macedonian developed a possessive perfect by copying the Aromanian model. In the situation of South-Slavic minority languages in all-embracing contact with Italo-Romance in southern and northern Italy, many contact-induced developments occurred, not only in the lexicon but also in the grammatical system. Examples of the effect of 500 years of bilingualism of the Molise Slavs, following immigration from Dalmatia to southern Italy in the 16th century, include the loss of the locative due to the homonymic expression of motion and state in the Italo-Romance donor varieties, the loss of the neuter gender of nouns, and the preservation of a fully functional imperfect. Others are the formation of a new de-obligative future and a venitive passive. Loans were fully integrated in the existing morphological systems, for example, by developing special integration rules for verbs, including a procedure of forming aspectual pairs from telic source verbs. One thousand years of Romance–Slavic contact have had similar effects on Slovene-based Resian in northeastern Italy, although to a lesser extent. The opposite case of Slavic (Croatian) influence on a Romance microlanguage is found in far-reaching contact-induced changes in Istro-Romanian grammar, such as the rise of a neuter gender and, especially, the development, at least in part, of a Slavic-type aspect category, formally marked by affixes. The numeral systems of the recipient languages have often been restructured by the influence of their donor languages, resulting, as a rule, in mixed systems with higher numbers (starting from 5) being predominantly of foreign provenience. The Slavic way of counting teens (one on ten, etc.) has spread throughout the Balkans.
Matthew J. Gordon
William Labov (b. 1927) is an American linguist who pioneered the study of variationist sociolinguistics. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Labov studied English and philosophy at Harvard University (BA, 1948) and worked as an industrial chemist for several years before entering graduate school in linguistics at Columbia University in 1961. He completed his PhD in 1964, under the direction of Uriel Weinreich. He worked at Columbia until 1971, when he joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught until his retirement in 2014. Labov’s influence on the field began with research he conducted in graduate school. His study of changing pronunciations on Martha’s Vineyard, the subject of his master’s thesis, introduced a method for observing sound change in progress and broke with tradition by exploring social motivations for linguistic innovations. For his PhD dissertation, Labov carried out a study of dialect patterns on the Lower East Side of New York City. Using a systematic, quantitative methodology, he demonstrated that linguistic variation is socially stratified, such that the use of pronunciation features (e.g., dropping of post-vocalic /r/) correlates with social class, ethnicity, etc. in regular patterns. Labov’s early research was greatly influential and inspired many scholars to carry out similar projects in other communities. The paradigm came to be known as variationist sociolinguistics. Much of Labov’s scholarship seeks to advance our understanding of language change. Historical linguists traditionally study completed linguistic changes, often long after they occurred, but Labov developed a method for examining active changes through a quantitative comparison of speakers representing several generations. This approach produces a new perspective on the change process by revealing intermediate stages. Labov has brought insights from this research to bear on theoretical debates within historical linguistics and the field more broadly. His work in this area has also documented many active sound changes in American English. Among these changes are innovations underway in particular dialects, such as the vowel changes in Philadelphia, as well as broader regional patterns, such as the Northern Cities Shift heard in the Great Lakes states. Throughout his career, social justice concerns have fueled Labov’s research. He has sought to demonstrate that the speech of stigmatized groups is as systematic and rule-governed as any other. He led a pioneering study in Harlem in the late 1960s that shone new light on African American English, demonstrating, for example, that grammatical usages like the deletion of the copula (e.g., He fast) are subject to regular constraints. Labov has served as an expert witness in court and before the U.S. Congress to share insights from his study of African American English. He has also worked to promote literacy for speakers of non-standard dialects, carrying out research on reading and developing material for the teaching of reading to these populations.
The use of a sociolinguistic approach in the comparative study of word formation is a quite modern phenomenon. The lack of any continuous documentation for many of the nonstandard Romance varieties results in the still partial nature of such analyses. However, they are undoubtedly of great interest from a comparative point of view. In short, while all the Romance varieties are connected through genetic affinity, contact phenomena have instead caused significant divergences related to status in the realm of word formation. What was the cause and how did this happen? In particular, the lack of an intense and continuous contact with the Greek-Latin cultural superstrate prevented the creation of new formation rules for words of learned origin in the minor Romance varieties and dialects (e.g., Corsican, Occitan, Friulian, Sardinian). This lack of interconnection with the Greek-Latin lexical stock has caused the minor Romance varieties to be distanced from the standard Romance languages (e.g., French, Italian, Spanish) and besides has brought the last ones closer to the learned levels of the main European non-Romance languages.