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Writing Systems in Modern West Germanic  

Martin Evertz-Rittich

The writing systems of the modern West Germanic languages have many features in common: They are all written using the Modern Roman Alphabet and exhibit a certain depth, that is, in addition to the pure grapheme–phoneme correspondences, prosodic, morphological, and syntactic information that is systematically encoded in their writing systems. A notable exception is the writing system of Yiddish, which is not only written with an alphabet evolved from the Hebrew script but is also almost completely transparent. Except for Yiddish, all writing systems of modern West Germanic languages use graphematic syllable and foot structures to encode suprasegmental properties such as vowel quantity. Paradigmatic relations are represented by morphological spellings (especially stem and affix constancy). Syntagmatic relations are expressed, for example, in compound spelling, which adheres to the same principles in all writing systems under discussion. The writing systems of modern West Germanic languages have been studied by grapholinguists in varying depth. While German is probably the best researched writing system in the world, some writing systems, such as Luxembourgish, await thorough grapholinguistic investigation.


Central Italo-Romance (Including Standard Italian)  

Elisa De Roberto

Central Italo-Romance includes Standard Italian and the Tuscan dialects, the dialects of the mediana and perimediana areas, as well as Corsican. This macro-area reaches as far north as the Carrara–Senigallia line and as far south as the line running from Circeo in Lazio to the mouth of the Aso river in Le Marche, cutting through Ceprano, Sora, Avezzano, L’Aquila and Accumoli. It is made up of two main subareas: the perimediana dialect area, covering Perugia, Ancona, northeastern Umbria, and Lazio north of Rome, where varieties show greater structural proximity to Tuscan, and the mediana area (central Le Marche, Umbria, central-eastern Lazio varieties, the Sabine or Aquilano-Cicolano-Reatino dialect group). Our description focuses on the shared and diverging features of these groups, with particular reference to phonology, morphology, and syntax.


Phonological Variation and Change in Latin American Spanish  

Pedro Martín-Butragueño and Érika Mendoza

“Latin American Spanish” (LAS) represents a substantial portion of the Spanish-speaking world. The geographical distances, the contrasts between rural and extremely urbanized areas, the existence of strong social inequalities and migratory streams, and the presence of a high number of indigenous American languages—all create the conditions for a complex linguistic reality, clearly diversified, while also unitary. Many variable linguistic phenomena correlate with the age of LAS expansion and the continuing massive urbanization that began in the 1960s. American Spanish-speaking communities have different segmental processes, such as consonantal weakening in intervocalic contexts, deletion in syllabic coda, vowel devoicing, among others. On the prosodic level, there is dialectal variation in intonational patterns and differences in rhythmic properties. Both segmental and prosodic variation is conditioned by linguistic, geographical, and social factors.


Segmental Phenomena in Germanic: Consonants  

Samantha Litty and Joseph Salmons

Speech sounds are divided into vowels and consonants, the latter being the focus here. Germanic includes ancient and modern “named languages”—traditionally divided into North Germanic (e.g., Swedish, Danish, Faroese), West Germanic (e.g., German, English, Yiddish), and East Germanic languages not spoken for centuries (notably Gothic). The family also includes countless “dialects,” which are often not mutually intelligible and so could be understood as distinct languages. Languages of the world vary in how many consonants distinguish differences in meaning (create phonological contrasts), like bear versus pear, from 6 to over 100. Most have about 20 and Germanic languages are near that number. Beyond abstract phonological contrasts, each consonant varies phonetically, in actual pronunciation, from varying degrees of aspiration on p, t, k and voicing on b, d, g to fundamental variation in the realizations of /r/, /l/, and /h/. Key consonantal phenomena are presented in historical context and for contemporary languages, with an emphasis on distinguishing abstract, phonological patterns from concrete, phonetic ones. Despite the long research tradition, many issues proffer opportunities to advance the field and are discussed to encourage readers to engage with them.


Foot Structure in Germanic  

Joshua Booth and Aditi Lahiri

A foot is an organizing unit of prosodic structure built on moras and syllables. Prominence falls on the heads of feet, and feet can be right- or left-headed (an iamb or a trochee, respectively). Feet can be constructed from the right or the left edge and lexical stress falls on the head of the leftmost or rightmost foot. The metrical system of a language can thus be defined by (a) the nature of the foot (trochee/iamb), (b) the direction of parsing, and (c) the foot that carries main stress. Each prosodic word minimally comprises a stressed foot. Germanic languages are traditionally divided into three branches, East Germanic (Gothic), West Germanic, and North Germanic. East Germanic has no modern descendants, unlike the latter two branches, which include, for example, English, German, and Dutch (West Germanic), and Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish (North Germanic), respectively. The status of the foot has remained remarkably consistent across the history of Germanic, remaining trochaic and quantity sensitive (although details differ across the relevant languages). This is despite significant changes to the quantity systems of Germanic languages, which have almost exclusively lost the distinction in either vowel or consonant quantity (whereas Proto-Germanic had both). The extensive borrowing from Romance languages across Germanic has also had a substantial impact. Germanic words rarely contain more than one foot, whereas Romance loans are largely longer than native Germanic vocabulary and therefore frequently comprise two or more feet. Due to the fact that native vocabulary was broadly stressed on the initial foot, whereas Romance loans often retained right-edge stress, a choice had to be made as to which foot to stress and the modern languages demonstrate that the right edge was selected in every case. Thus, while feet remain quantity sensitive and trochaic, the modern languages construct them from right to left and place main stress on the rightmost foot. This is in contrast to the early stages of the languages, when the opposite was the case.



Peter Gilles

This article provides an overview of the structure of the Luxembourgish language, the national language of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which has developed from a Moselle Franconian dialect to an Ausbau language in the course of the 20th century. In the early 21st century, Luxembourgish serves several functions, mainly as a multifunctional spoken variety but also as a written language, which has acquired a medium level of language standardization. Because of the embedding into a complex multilingual situation with German and French, Luxembourgish is characterized by a high degree of language contact. As a Germanic language, Luxembourgish has developed its distinct grammatical features. In this article, the main aspects of phonetics and phonology (vowels, consonants, prosody, word stress), morphology (inflection of nouns, adjectives, articles and pronouns, partitive structures, prepositions, verbal system), and syntactic characteristics (complementizer agreement, word order in verbal clusters) are discussed. The lexicon is influenced to a certain degree by loanwords from French. Regarding language variation and change, recent surveys show that Luxembourgish is undergoing major changes affecting phonetics and phonology (reduction of regional pronunciations), the grammatical system (plural of nouns), and, especially, the lexical level (decrease of loans from French, increase of loans from German).


Raeto-Romance: Romansh, Ladin, Friulian  

Luca Melchior

Raeto-Romance languages are spoken in northeastern Italy and (south)eastern Switzerland. They are subdivided into three major groups: Romansh, with about 40,000 speakers in Switzerland; Dolomite Ladin, with about 30,000 speakers in the Italian South Tyrol, Trentino, and Veneto; and Friulian—whose speaker number is estimated between 420,000 and 600,000—in the Italian Friuli and in eastern Veneto. The (supposed) linguistic unity of these subgroups bases on phonological and morphological features like the retention of Lat. clusters C+l, sigmatic noun plural, sigmatic second-person singular ending, palatalization of Lat. c a , g a , and syncope of proparoxytones, which separate them from Italian dialects. Other features, such as verb–subject (clitic) inversion in interrogative sentences, are more or less spread, and others like periphrastic future or differential object marking are characteristic only for one or few subvarieties. The unity (and uniqueness) of the Raeto-Romance group is hardly debated. The three groups do not have a common history and do not correspond to a unique political entity. Therefore, they show different language contact phenomena, whereby Romansh and Dolomite Ladin are characterized by a strong influence from German, while Friulian has been historically influenced by Germanic and Slavic languages, but much more from Venetan and Italian. Standardization efforts do not have the same success in the three areas: rumantsch grischun and Standard Friulian dominate in the official written uses in Grisons and Friuli, whereas the use of ladin dolomitan is more marginal. Romansh and Dolomite Ladin are compulsory subjects in school education while Friulian is only an optional subject.


Southern Gallo-Romance: Occitan and Gascon  

Andres M. Kristol

Occitan, a language of high medieval literary culture, historically occupies the southern third of France. Today it is dialectalized and highly endangered, like all the regional languages of France. Its main linguistic regions are Languedocien, Provençal, Limousin, Auvergnat, Vivaro-dauphinois (Alpine Provençal) and, linguistically on the fringes of the domain, Gascon. Despite its dialectalization, its typological unity and the profound difference that separates it from Northern Galloroman (Oïl dialects, Francoprovençal) and Gallo-Italian remain clearly perceptible. Its history is characterised by several ruptures (the Crusade against the Albigensians, the French Revolution) and several attempts at "rebirth" (the Baroque period, the Felibrige movement in the second half of the 19th century, the Occitanist movement of the 20th century). Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the Occitan koinè, a literary and administrative language integrating the main dialectal characteristics of all regions, was lost and replaced by makeshift regional spellings based on the French spelling. The modern Occitanist orthography tries to overcome these divisions by coming as close as possible to the medieval, "classical" written tradition, while respecting the main regional characteristics. Being a bridge language between northern Galloroman (Oïl varieties and Francoprovençal), Italy and Iberoromania, Occitan is a relatively conservative language in terms of its phonetic evolution from the popular spoken Latin of western Romania, its morphology and syntax (absence of subject clitics in the verbal system, conservation of a fully functional simple past tense). Only Gascon, which was already considered a specific language in the Middle Ages, presents particular structures that make it unique among Romance languages (development of a system of enunciative particles).



Eva Skafte Jensen

Danish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 6 million people. Genealogically, it is related to the other Germanic languages, in particular the other North Germanic languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese), but also, for example, German, Dutch, and English; typologically, Modern Danish is closer to Norwegian and Swedish than to any other language. Historically deriving from Proto-Germanic, Danish morphology once had three grammatical genders (the masculine, the feminine, and the neuter) and case inflection (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive) in all nominal words; it also had inflection for mood, tense, number, and person in the verbal conjugations. In Modern Standard Danish, much of the traditional nominal and verbal inflection has disappeared. Instead, other kinds of morphosyntactic constructions and structures have emerged. Middle Danish and Modern Danish are typologically very different languages. One of the structural innovations linked to the typological change is that a syntactic subject becomes obligatory in Danish sentences. Correlated to this, Danish develops expletive constructions with det ‘it’ and der ‘there’. Another important point differentiating Middle Danish from Modern Danish concerns agreement. Traditional Indo-European agreement (verbal as well as nominal) has receded in favor of more fixed word order, both on the sentence level and internally within phrases. As part of this, Modern Danish has developed a set of definite and indefinite articles. The traditional three genders are reduced to two (common and neuter) and have developed new syntactic-semantic functions alongside the traditional lexically distributed functions. In the verbal systems, Danish makes use of two different kinds of passive voice (a periphrastic and an inflected one), which carry different meanings, and also of two different auxiliaries in perfective constructions, that is, have ‘have’ and være ‘be’, the latter doubling as an auxiliary in periphrastic passive constructions. Perfective constructions are made up by an auxiliary and the supine form of the main verb. Danish is a V2-language with a relatively fixed word order, often depicted in the form of the so-called sentence frame, a topological model designed specifically for Danish. Like most other Germanic languages, Danish has a rich set of modal particles. All these morphosyntactic features, Danish shares with Swedish and Norwegian, but the distribution is not completely identical in the three languages, something that makes the Mainland Scandinavian languages an interesting study object to the typologically interested linguist. Exclusive for Danish is the so-called stød, a suprasegmental prosodic feature, used as a distinctive feature. Modern Danish is strongly standardized with only little of the traditional dialectal variation left. From the end of the 20th century, in the larger cities, new sociolects have emerged, that is, multi-ethnolects. The new multi-ethnolects are based on a substrate of Danish with lexical features from the languages of Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In addition to the lexical innovations, the multi-ethnolects are characteristic in intonation patterns different from Standard Danish, and they have morphosyntactic features different from Standard Danish, for example, in word order and in the use of gender.



Erik M. Petzell

Swedish is a V2 language, like all Germanic except English, with a basic VO word order and a suffixed definite article, like all North Germanic. Swedish is the largest of the North Germanic languages, and the official language of both Sweden and Finland, in the latter case alongside the majority language Finnish. Worldwide, there are about 10.5 million first-language (L1) speakers. The extent of L2 Swedish speakers is unclear: In Sweden and Finland alone, there are at least 3 million L2 speakers. Genealogically, Swedish is closest to Danish. Together, they formed the eastern branch of North Germanic during the Viking age. Today, this unity of old is often obscured by later developments. Typologically, in the early 21st century, Swedish is closer to Norwegian than to Danish. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was great dialectal variation across the Swedish-speaking area. Very few of the traditional dialects have survived into the present, however. In the early 21st century, there are only some isolated areas, where spoken standard Swedish has not completely taken over, for example, northwestern Dalecarlia. Spoken standard Swedish is quite close to the written language. This written-like speech was promoted by primary school teachers from the late 19th century onward. In the 21st century, it comes in various regional guises, which differ from each other prosodically and display some allophonic variation, for example, in the realization of /r/. During the late Middle Ages, Swedish was in close contact with Middle Low German. This had a massive impact on the lexicon, leading to loans in both the open and closed classes and even import of derivational morphology. Structurally, Swedish lost case and verbal agreement morphology, developed mandatory expletive subjects, and changed its word order in subordinate clauses. Swedish shares much of this development with Danish and Norwegian. In the course of the early modern era, Swedish and Norwegian converged further, developing very similar phonological systems. The more conspicuous of the shared traits include two different rounded high front vowels, front /y/ and front-central /ʉ/, palatalization of initial /k/ and /g/ before front vowels, and a preserved phonemic tonal distinction. As for morphosyntax, however, Swedish has sometimes gone its own way, distancing itself from both Norwegian and Danish. For instance, Swedish has a distinct non-agreeing active participle (supine), and it makes use of the morphological s-passive in a wider variety of contexts than Danish and Norwegian. Moreover, verbal particles always precede even light objects in Swedish, for example, ta upp den, literally ‘take up it’, while Danish and Norwegian patterns with, for example, English: tag den op/ta den opp, literally ‘take it up’. Furthermore, finite forms of auxiliary have may be deleted in subordinate clauses in Swedish but never in Danish/Norwegian.