1-20 of 25 Results

  • Keywords: historical linguistics x
Clear all

Article

Yiddish  

Lea Schäfer

The Yiddish language is directly linked to the culture and destiny of the Jewish population of Central and Eastern Europe. It originated as the everyday language of the Jewish population in the German-speaking lands around the Middle Ages and underwent a series of developments until the Shoah, which took a particularly large toll on the Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jewish population. Today, Yiddish is spoken as a mother tongue almost exclusively in ultra-Orthodox communities, where it is now exposed to entirely new influences and is, thus, far from being a dead language. After an introductory sketch, information on the geographical distribution and number of speakers as well as key historical developments are briefly summarized. Particularly important are the descriptions of the various sociolinguistic situations and the source situation. This is followed by a description of various (failed) attempts at standardization, as well as the geographical distribution and surveys of the dialects. The following section describes the status of Yiddish in the early 21st century, which overlaps with the sociolinguistic situation of Orthodox Yiddish. Finally, the linguistic features of modern Eastern Yiddish (dialects, standard, and Orthodox) are presented. In this context, linguistic levels and structures in which Yiddish differs from other (standard) Germanic languages are also discussed. Since Yiddish, as a language derived from Middle High German, is particularly close to German varieties, the differences and similarities between the two languages are particularly emphasized.

Article

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.

Article

Romance in Contact with Albanian  

Walter Breu

Albanian has been documented in historical texts only since the 16th century. In contrast, it had been in continuous contact with languages of the Latin phylum since the first encounters of Romans and Proto-Albanians in the 2nd century bce. Given the late documentation of Albanian, the different layers of matter borrowings from Latin and its daughter languages are relevant for the reconstruction of Proto-Albanian phonology and its development through the centuries. Latinisms also play a role in the discussion about the original home of the Albanians. From the very beginning, Latin influence seems to have been all-embracing with respect to the lexical domain, including word formation and lexical calquing. This is true not only for Latin itself but also for later Romance, especially for Italian historical varieties, less so for now extinct Balkan-Romance vernaculars like Dalmatian, and doubtful for Romanian, whose similarities with Albanian had been strongly overestimated in the past. Many Latin-based words in Albanian have the character of indirect Latinisms, as they go back to originally Latin borrowings via Ancient (and Medieval) Greek, and there is also the problem of learned borrowings from Medieval Latin. As for other Romance languages, only French has to be considered as the source of fairly recent borrowings, often hardly distinguishable from Italian ones, due to analogical integration processes. In spite of 19th-century claims in this respect, Latin (and Romance) grammatical influence on Albanian is (next to) zero. In Italo-Albanian varieties that have developed all over southern Italy since the late Middle Ages, based on a succession of immigration waves, Italian influence has been especially strong, not only with respect to the lexical domain but by interfering in some parts of grammar, too.

Article

Language Shift  

Lenore A. Grenoble

Language shift occurs when a community of users replaces one language by another, or “shifts” to that other language. Although language shift can and does occur at the level of the individual speaker, it is shift at the level of an entire community that is associated with widespread language replacement and loss. Shift is a particular kind of language loss, and differs from language attrition, which involves the loss of a language over an individual’s lifetime, often the result of aging or of language replacement (as in shift). Both language shift and attrition are in contrast to language maintenance, the continuing use of a language. Language maintenance and revitalization programs are responses to language shift, and are undertaken by communites who perceive that their language is threatened by a decrease in usage and under threat of loss. Language shift is widespread and can be found with majority- or minority-language populations. It is often associated with immigrant groups who take up the majority language of their new territory, leaving behind the language of their homeland. For minority-language speaker communities, language shift is generally the result of a combination of factors, in particular colonization. A nexus of factors—historical, political, social, and economic—often provides the impetus for a community to ceasing speaking their ancestral language, replacing it with the language of the majority, and usually politically dominant, group. Language shift is thus a social issue, and often coupled with other indicators of social distress. Language endangerment is the result of language shift, and in fact shift is its most widespread cause.Since the 1960s there has been ever-increasing interest across speaker communities and linguists to work to provide opportunities to learn and use minority languages to offset shift, and to document speakers in communities under the threat of shift.

Article

The History of African-American Vernacular English  

Guy Bailey

African American English (AAE) originated from contact between Africans and Whites during slavery. The trajectory of slavery in the United States was different from that in the Caribbean, but in areas where population ratios and time frames were most like those in the Caribbean, a creole language, Gullah, emerged. In other areas, various degrees of creolization may have taken place. As a result, early AAE was not monolithic and included some regional variation. In recordings with former slaves and African Americans born during the last half of the 19th century, the reflexes of AAE’s origins appear in features that have strong parallels with Gullah and Caribbean creoles, including zero copula/auxiliary, monophthongal /e/ and /o/, fully back vowels, and non-front onsets of /au/. As African Americans moved from slavery into farm tenancy, features emerged in AAE that were shared with Southern White vernaculars. These include grammatical forms such as yall and fixin’ to and phonological features like monophthongal /ai/ and the pin/pen merger. However, even as shared features emerged, AAE maintained its distinctiveness by typically not participating in the Southern Shift that affected vowels in Southern White vernaculars. Developments during the Great Migration in the 20th century enhanced AAE’s distinctiveness. During the Great Migration such well-known features as durative/habitual be, ain’t for didn’t, and had + past as a simple past became widespread. AAE, then, is a product both of its unique heritage and the historical and demographic processes that promoted its independent development and also of people who valued (and still value) it as a mode of communication and as an instrument for identity and solidarity.

Article

Reconstructing Proto-Germanic  

Martin Joachim Kümmel

In this article, the methodology of protolanguage reconstruction and its application to Proto-Germanic (PG) are discussed, with emphasis on the special case of an intermediate protolanguage and the problem of parallel changes in daughter languages. Then, a short description of PG and its reconstruction is given. The main focus is on phonology (section 2). Section 2.1 is a description of PG phonology as it can be reconstructed: first the segmental inventory (vowels and consonants), then suprasegmentals (accent, quantity, and syllables) and morphophonology. In section 2.2, the most important phonological changes relevant for PG are given, including some common post-PG developments. Section 3 treats PG inflectional morphology: After a short general characterization, section 3.1 describes nominal morphology, discussing inflectional categories and special features of nouns, adjectives, and pronouns, including some example paradigms of nouns. Section 3.2 deals with verbal morphology: After a discussion of the inflectional categories, the main features of morphological classes are described—mainly the characteristics of “strong” and “weak” verbs and their subclasses, followed by so-called preterite-presents and further irregular verbs, with example paradigms of one strong and one weak verb. In section 4, some short remarks on syntax follow. Section 5 discusses lexical reconstruction, especially cases of limited distribution in the daughter branches, showing that the availability of Indo-European comparanda often helps. It also treats language contact and borrowing relations of PG, both into PG (from Celtic or possible substrates) and from PG (into Saamic, Finnic, and Slavonic), as well as the hypothesis of Semitic influence.

Article

Morphological Change  

Carola Trips

Morphological change refers to change(s) in the structure of words. Since morphology is interrelated with phonology, syntax, and semantics, changes affecting the structure and properties of words should be seen as changes at the respective interfaces of grammar. On a more abstract level, this point relates to linguistic theory. Looking at the history of morphological theory, mainly from a generative perspective, it becomes evident that despite a number of papers that have contributed to a better understanding of the role of morphology in grammar, both from a synchronic and diachronic point of view, it is still seen as a “Cinderella subject” today. So there is still a need for further research in this area. Generally, the field of diachronic morphology has been dealing with the identification of the main types of change, their mechanisms as well as the causes of morphological change, the latter of which are traditionally categorized as internal and external change. Some authors take a more general view and state the locus of change can be seen in the transmission of grammar from one generation to the next (abductive change). Concerning the main types of change, we can say that many of them occur at the interfaces with morphology: changes on the phonology–morphology interface like i-mutation, changes on the syntax–morphology interface like the rise of inflectional morphology, and changes on the semantics–morphology like the rise of derivational suffixes. Examples from the history of English (which in this article are sometimes complemented with examples from German and the Romance languages) illustrate that sometimes changes indeed cross component boundaries, at least once (the history of the linking-s in German has even become a prosodic phenomenon). Apart from these interface phenomena, it is common lore to assume morphology-internal changes, analogy being the most prominent example. A phenomenon regularly discussed in the context of morphological change is grammaticalization. Some authors have posed the question of whether such special types of change really exist or whether they are, after all, general processes of change that should be modeled in a general theory of linguistic change. Apart from this pressing question, further aspects that need to be addressed in the future are the modularity of grammar and the place of morphology.

Article

Pidgins and Creoles  

John McWhorter

Creole languages have mostly resulted from interactions between Europeans and subordinated peoples amid colonization, trade, and imperialism. Given that the creation of these languages was usually driven as much by adults as children, second-language acquisition has a larger effect upon creole language structures than it does under most other conditions of language change and contact. Namely, it has traditionally been supposed that creole languages begin as makeshift pidgin varieties, expanded from this into full languages. However, various creolists have proposed that most creoles did not in fact emerge in this way; some argue that creoles are relexifications of indigenous languages, while others argue that nothing distinguishes creole genesis from language contact more generally.

Article

Tupian Languages  

Wolf Dietrich

“Tupian” is a common term applied by linguists to a linguistic stock of seven families spread across great parts of South America. Tupian languages share a large number of structural and morphological similarities which make genetic relationship very probable. Four families (Arikém, Mondé, Tuparí, and Raramarama-Poruborá) are still limited to the Madeira-Guaporé region in Brazil, considered by some scholars to be the Tupí homeland. Other families and branches would have migrated, in ancient times, down the Amazon (Mundurukú, Mawé) and up the Xingú River (Juruna, Awetí). Only the Tupí-Guarani branch, which makes up about 40 living languages, mainly spread to the south. Two Tupí-Guaraní languages played an important part in the Portuguese and Spanish colonisation of South America, Tupinambá on the Brazilian coast and Guaraní in colonial Paraguay. In the early 21st century, Guaraní is spoken by more than six million non-Indian people in Paraguay and in adjacent parts of Argentina and Brazil. Tupí-Guaraní (TG) is an artificial term used by linguists to denominate the family composed by eight subgroups of languages, one of them being the Guaraní subgroup and the other one the extinct Tupinambá and its varieties. Important phonological characteristics of Tupian languages are nasality and the occurrence of a high central vowel /ɨ/, a glottal stop /ʔ/, and final consonants, especially plosives in coda position. Nasality seems to be a common characteristic of all branches of the family. Most of them show phenomena such as nasal harmony, also called nasal assimilation or regressive nasalization by some scholars. Tupian languages have a rich morphology expressed mainly by suffixes and prefixes, though particles are also important to express grammatical categories. Verbal morphology is characterized by generally rich devices of valence-changing formations. Relational inflection is one of the most striking phenomena of TG nominal phrases. It allows marking the determination of a noun by a preceding adjunct, its syntactical transformation into a nominal predicate, or the absence of any relation. Relational inflection partly occurs also in other branches and families than Tupí-Guaraní. Verbal person marking is realized by prefixing in most languages; some languages of the Tuparí and Juruna family, however, use only free pronouns. Tupian syntax is based on the predication of both verbs and nouns. Subordinate clauses, such as relative clauses, are produced by nominalization, while adverbial clauses are formed by specific particles or postpositions on the predicate. Traditional word order is SOV.

Article

The Contact History of English  

Marcelle Cole and Stephen Laker

Contact between Early English and British Celtic, Latin, Norse, and French came about through a myriad of historical, political, and sociocultural developments: invasion, foreign governance, and the spread of Christianity, but also via peaceful coexistence, intermarriage, cultural exchange, and trade. The so-called Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain brought speakers of an emerging insular West Germanic variety, which became known as Englisc, into contact with British Celtic and, to some extent, Latin speakers. The Northumbrian historian Bede painted a vivid picture of 8th-century multilingual Britain as an island comprising “five nations, the English, Britons, Scots, Picts and Latins, each in its own peculiar dialect, cultivating the sublime study of divine truth.” The Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons led to renewed contact with Latin, the lingua franca of Christendom. The Church became an important conduit for Latin-derived lexis related to learning and ecclesiastical ritual and organization, although it was the cultural appeal of Latin in the early modern period that explains the massive lexical contribution of Latin to English. Later periods of foreign rule and migration following Viking settlement, mainly in the 9th and 10th centuries, and the Norman Conquest of 1066 brought English into contact with Norse and Old French, respectively. Lexical borrowing from these languages involved loans reflecting foreign rule but also basic everyday words. Extensive bilingualism and second-language learning most likely promoted the rapid loss of inflection that English underwent during the medieval period. Opinions usually vary, however, on whether contact brought about direct structural transfer or merely reinforced internal developments already in progress. Contact left its mark most noticeably on the lexicon of English; the influx of Latin and French loan vocabulary extensively reshaped the lexicon and, with it, the derivational morphology of English and explains the heavy Romance element in present-day English.

Article

Languages of the Balkans  

Victor A. Friedman

The Balkan languages were the first group of languages whose similarities were explained in modern linguistic terms as a result of language contact rather than as a result of descent from a common ancestor. Nikolai Trubetzkoy coined the term Sprachbund ‘linguistic league’ (as opposed to Sprachfamilie ‘language family’) to describe this relationship. Balkan linguistics, as both a subset of and precursor to contact linguistics, is, at its base, an historical linguistic discipline. It seeks to explain similarities among the relevant languages as the result of diffusion rather than of either transmission or of putative universal, typological properties of human language (which latter assumes parallel developments whose causation is ahistorical, i.e., unconnected with either contact or ancestry). The relevant languages are, with the exception of Turkic, all part of the Indo-European language family, but they belong to five distinct groups that are known to have been separated for a significant length of time (presumably millennia). Moreover, for four out of five Indo-European groups as well as for Turkic, there exists documentation that goes back more than a millennium, and in some cases several millennia. The Balkan languages are thus the oldest example of a well-documented and still living Sprachbund. The primary questions that Balkan linguistics seeks to answer are these: What are the results of language contact in the Balkan languages, and how did they come about? The Balkan languages are traditionally defined as Albanian, Modern Greek, Balkan Romance (Romanian, Aromanian, and Meglenoromanian), and Balkan Slavic (Bulgarian, Macedonian, and the southernmost dialects of the former Serbo-Croatian). In recent decades, it has been recognized that the relevant dialects of Romani, Judezmo, and Turkish and Gagauz also participate in at least some of the convergent processes that are taken as definitive of the Balkan linguistic league. While the language family is defined by regular sound correspondences, which in turn help define shared morphology and a core lexicon, the Balkan linguistic league is defined principally by shared morphosyntactic developments and a shared lexicon of borrowings often called “cultural.” In the Balkan linguistic league, phonological developments are sometimes shared among different languages at the dialectal level, but there are no such features that characterize the Balkan languages as a group. Just as in the language family not every diagnostic item is represented in every branch, so, too, in the Balkan linguistic league not every feature is equally represented in all languages and dialects. Among the most characteristic morphosyntactic features are the following: (1) replacement of infinitives by analytic subjunctives, (2) the use of a particle derived from etymological ‘want’ to mark the future, (3) replacement of synthetic gradation of adjectives with analytic constructions, (4) replacement of conditionals by anterior futures, (5) resumptive clitic pronouns for certain direct and indirect objects, (6) various simplifications in the declensional system, (7) postposed definite articles (for Balkan Slavic, Balkan Romance, and Albanian), (8) grammaticalized evidentials (Balkan Slavic, Albanian, Turkic, and to some extent Balkan Romance and Romani). While some of these convergences began in the ancient or medieval periods, the Balkan linguistic league took its definitive modern shape during the centuries of the Ottoman Empire (14th to early 20th centuries).

Article

Phonological Variation and Change in Canadian and U.S. French  

Edith Szlezák

The varieties of Canadian French are the result of both conservatism and innovation. The conservatism is manifested in the retention of archaic structures, which derive on the one hand from the dialects of northern and western France, the areas of origin of the Quebecker and Acadian settlers, and on the other hand from the common vernacular of the Ile-de-France area, the français populaire. Innovation has occurred independently of France because of the political rupture between France and New France in 1763, which also severed emotional ties: France had to cede territories to Great Britain due to its defeat in the Seven Years’ War and chose to separate from its North American colony while holding onto more profitable colonies, such as Guadeloupe. All normative influence on the development of Canadian French stopped. Since the French-speaking territories in North America have never been united administratively, and English has been the dominant language for the majority of citizens in Canada, no common institution providing prescriptive guidelines as to language use (such as the Académie Française in France) has been established. The varieties of Quebec and Acadian French spoken in Canada—and subsequently in the United States—developed freely. This resulted in an almost indescribable amount of linguistic variants in all fields. Whereas the phonological systems of Canadian and standard French (i.e., the hexagonal norm), in other words the inventory of sounds, barely differ, there is considerable variation in phonetics (i.e., pronunciation). The traditional areas of settlement for speakers of predominantly northern French dialects (Quebec) and predominantly western French dialects (Acadia and Maritime Provinces) have stayed administratively separate, resulting in considerable variation among the varieties of Canadian French.

Article

Altaic Languages  

George Starostin

“Altaic” is a common term applied by linguists to a number of language families, spread across Central Asia and the Far East and sharing a large, most likely non-coincidental, number of structural and morphemic similarities. At the onset of Altaic studies, these similarities were ascribed to the one-time existence of an ancestral language—“Proto-Altaic,” from which all these families are descended; circumstantial evidence and glottochronological calculations tentatively date this language to some time around the 6th–7th millennium bc, and suggest Southern Siberia or adjacent territories (hence the name “Altaic”) as the original homeland of its speakers. However, since the mid-20th century the dominant view in historical linguistics has shifted to that of an “Altaic Sprachbund” (diffusion area), implying that the families in question have not sprung from a common source, but rather have acquired their similarities over a long period of mutual linguistic contact. The bulk of “Altaic” has traditionally included such uncontroversial families as Turkic, Mongolic, and Manchu-Tungusic; additionally, Japanese (Japonic) and Korean are also frequently seen as potential members of the larger Altaic family (the entire five branches are sometimes referred to as “Macro-Altaic”). The debate over the nature of the relationship between the various units that constitute “Altaic,” sometimes referred to as “the Altaic controversy,” has been one of the most hotly debated topics in 20th-century historical linguistics and a major focal point of studies dealing with the prehistory of Central and East Eurasia. Supporters of “Proto-Altaic,” commonly known as “(pro-)Altaicists,” claim that only divergence from an original common ancestor can account for the observed regular phonetic correspondences and other structural similarities, whereas “anti-Altaicists,” without denying the existence of such similarities, insist that they do not belong to the “core” layers of the respective languages and are therefore better explained as results of lexical borrowing and other forms of areal linguistic contact. As a rule, “pro-Altaicists” claim that “Proto-Altaic” is as reconstructible by means of the classic comparative method as any uncontroversial linguistic family; in support of this view, they have produced several attempts to assemble large bodies of etymological evidence for the hypothesis, backed by systems of regular phonetic correspondences between compared languages. All of these, however, have been heavily criticized by “anti-Altaicists” for lack of methodological rigor, implausibility of proposed phonetic and/or semantic changes, and confusion of recent borrowings with items allegedly inherited from a common ancestor. Despite the validity of many of these objections, it remains unclear whether they are sufficient to completely discredit the hypothesis of a genetic connection between the various branches of “Altaic,” which continues to be actively supported by a small, but stable scholarly minority.

Article

External Influences in the History of English  

Markku Filppula and Juhani Klemola

Few European languages have in the course of their histories undergone as radical changes as English did in the medieval period. The earliest documented variety of the language, Old English (c. 450 to 1100 ce), was a synthetic language, typologically similar to modern German, with its three genders, relatively free word order, rich case system, and verbal morphology. By the beginning of the Middle English period (c. 1100 to 1500), changes that had begun a few centuries earlier in the Old English period had resulted in a remarkable typological shift from a synthetic language to an analytic language with fixed word order, very few inflections, and a heavy reliance on function words. System-internal pressures had a role to play in these changes, but arguably they were primarily due to intensive contacts with other languages, including Celtic languages, (British) Latin, Scandinavian languages, and a little later, French. As a result, English came to diverge from its Germanic sister languages, losing or reducing such Proto-Germanic features as grammatical gender; most inflections on nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and verbs; verb-second syntax; and certain types of reflexive marking. Among the external influences, long contacts with speakers of especially Brittonic Celtic languages (i.e., Welsh, Cornish, and Cumbrian) can be considered to have been of particular importance. Following the arrival of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from around 450 ce onward, there began an intensive and large-scale process of language shift on the part of the indigenous Celtic and British Latin speaking population in Britain. A general wisdom in contact linguistics is that in such circumstances—when the contact is intensive and the shifting population large enough—the acquired language (in this case English) undergoes moderate to heavy restructuring of its grammatical system, leading generally to simplification of its morphosyntax. In the history of English, this process was also greatly reinforced by the Viking invasions, which started in the late 8th century ce, and brought a large Scandinavian-speaking population to Britain. The resulting contacts between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings also contributed to the decrease of complexity of the Old English morphosyntax. In addition, the Scandinavian settlements of the Danelaw area left their permanent mark in place-names and dialect vocabulary in especially the eastern and northern parts of the country. In contrast to syntactic influences, which are typical of conditions of language shift, contacts that are less intensive and involve extensive bilingualism generally lead to lexical borrowing. This was the situation following the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066 ce. It led to an influx of French loanwords into English, most of which have persisted in use up to the present day. It has been estimated that almost one third of the present-day English vocabulary is of French origin. By comparison, there is far less evidence of French influence on “core” English syntax. The earliest loanwords were superimposed by the French-speaking new nobility and pertained to administration, law, military terminology, and religion. Cultural prestige was the prime motivation for the later medieval borrowings.

Article

Analogy in Morphology  

David Fertig

Analogy is traditionally regarded as one of the three main factors responsible for language change, along with sound change and borrowing. Whereas sound change is understood to be phonetically motivated and blind to structural patterns and semantic and functional relationships, analogy is licensed precisely by those patterns and relationships. In the Neogrammarian tradition, analogical change is regarded, at least largely, as a by-product of the normal operation (acquisition, representation, and use) of the mental grammar. Historical linguists commonly use proportional equations of the form A : B = C : X to represent analogical innovations, where A, B, and C are (sets of) word forms known to the innovator, who solves for X by discerning a formal relationship between A and B and then deductively arriving at a form that is related to C in the same way that B is related to A. Along with the core type of analogical change captured by proportional equations, most historical linguists include a number of other phenomena under the analogy umbrella. Some of these, such as paradigm leveling—the reduction or elimination of stem alternations in paradigms—are arguably largely proportional, but others such as contamination and folk etymology seem to have less to do with the normal operation of the mental grammar and instead involve some kind of interference among the mental representations of phonetically or semantically similar forms. The Neogrammarian approach to analogical change has been criticized and challenged on a variety of grounds, and a number of important scholars use the term “analogy” in a rather different sense, to refer to the role that phonological and/or semantic similarity play in the influence that forms exert on each other.

Article

Diez, Meyer-Lübke, and Co. The Founding of Romance Linguistics  

Marcello Barbato

The study of Romance linguistics was born in the 19th-century German university, and like all linguistics of that era it is historical in nature. With respect to Indo-European and Germanic linguistics, a difference was immediately apparent: Unlike Indo-European and Common Germanic, Latin’s attestation is extensive in duration, as well as rich and varied: Romance linguists can thus make use of reconstruction as well as documentation. Friedrich Diez, author of the first historical grammar and first etymological dictionary on Romance languages, founded Romance linguistics. His studies singlehandedly constructed the foundations of the discipline. His teaching soon spread not only across German-speaking countries, but also into France and Italy. Subsequently, the most significant contributions came from two scholars trained in the Indo-European field: the German linguist Hugo Schuchardt, whose doctoral thesis studied with sharp theoretical awareness the passage from Latin to the Romance languages, and the Italian Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, who showed how the Romance panorama could be extraordinarily enriched by the analysis of nonstandard varieties. The discipline thus developed fully and radiated out. Great issues came to be debated: models of linguistic change (genealogical tree, wave), the possibility of distinguishing dialect groups, the relative weight of phonology, and semantics in lexical reconstruction. New disciplines such as linguistic geography were born, and new instruments like the linguistic atlas were forged. Romance linguistics thus became the avant-garde of general linguistics. Meanwhile, a new synthesis of the discipline had been created by a Swiss scholar, Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke, who published a historical grammar and an etymological dictionary of the Romance languages.

Article

Morphology in Indo-European Languages  

Paolo Milizia

Indo-European languages of the most archaic type, such as Old Indic and Ancient Greek, have rich fusional morphologies with predominant use of suffixation and ablaut as formal devices. The presence of cumulative inflectional morphs in final position is also a general IE feature. A noteworthy property of the archaic IE morphological system is its root-based organization. This is well observable in Old Indo-Aryan, where the mental lexicon is largely made up of roots unspecified for word-class membership. In the historical development of the different IE branches, recurrent phenomena are observed that lead to an increase in configurationality and a decrease in the degree of synthesis (use of adpositions at the expense of case forms, rise of auxiliaries and increasing employment of periphrastic morphology, creation of determiners). However, not all the documented developments can be subsumed under the rubric ‘morphological decay’: new synthetic verbal forms, which often coexist with the inherited ones, are often created via resynthesization of periphrases; new nominal case forms are sometimes created through univerbation of adpositional phrases; instances of prefixation recurrently arise from former compound structures consisting of adverb (‘preverb’) + verb. The formation of inflectional paradigms with several mutually unpredictable subsections and of relatively complex systems of inflectional classes is also observed in various IE languages. The same holds for the rising of new patterns of morphophonological alternations, which often allow the preservation of several morphological oppositions even after the loss of inflectional endings. As a consequence, modern IE languages may exhibit higher degrees of fusionality, at least in specific morphological subsystems, than their diachronic foregoers. In the various branches, the system of inflectional morphology could undergo several reshapings at the level of both the structure of grammatical categories and the formal organization of paradigms, sometimes with noteworthy typological changes. English poor morphology, Ossetic and New Armenian agglutinative nominal inflections, lack of verbal inflection of number, and presence of numeral classifiers in Eastern New Indo-Aryan varieties are among the examples of extreme departure from the ancient IE morphological type. A common development concerning word formation is the decline of the root-based organization of morphology.

Article

Dene-Yeniseian  

Edward Vajda

Dene-Yeniseian is a proposed genealogical link between the widespread North American language family Na-Dene (Athabaskan, Eyak, Tlingit) and Yeniseian in central Siberia, represented today by the critically endangered Ket and several documented extinct relatives. The Dene-Yeniseian hypothesis is an old idea, but since 2006 new evidence supporting it has been published in the form of shared morphological systems and a modest number of lexical cognates showing interlocking sound correspondences. Recent data from human genetics and folklore studies also increasingly indicate the plausibility of a prehistoric (probably Late Pleistocene) connection between populations in northwestern North America and the traditionally Yeniseian-speaking areas of south-central Siberia. At present, Dene-Yeniseian cannot be accepted as a proven language family until the purported evidence supporting the lexical and morphological correspondences between Yeniseian and Na-Dene is expanded and tested by further critical analysis and their relationship to Old World families such as Sino-Tibetan and Caucasian, as well as the isolate Burushaski (all earlier proposed as relatives of Yeniseian, and sometimes also of Na-Dene), becomes clearer.

Article

Judeo-Spanish (Judezmo, Ladino)  

David M. Bunis

The Ibero-Romance-speaking Jews of medieval Christian Iberia were linguistically distinct from their non-Jewish neighbors primarily as a result of their language’s unique Hebrew-Aramaic component; preservations from older Jewish Greek, Latin, and Arabic; a tradition of translating sacred Hebrew and Aramaic texts into their language using archaisms and Hebrew-Aramaic rather than Hispanic syntax; and their Hebrew-letter writing system. With the expulsions from Iberia in the late 15th century, most of the Sephardim who continued to maintain their Iberian-origin language resettled in the Ottoman Empire, with smaller numbers in North Africa and Italy. Their forced migration, and perhaps a conscious choice, essentially disconnected the Sephardim from the Spanish language as it developed in Iberia and Latin America, causing their language—which they came to call laðino ‘Romance’, ʤuðezmo or ʤuðjó ‘Jewish, Judezmo’, and more recently (ʤudeo)espaɲol ‘Judeo-Spanish’—to appear archaic when compared with modern Spanish. In their new locales the Sephardim developed the Hispanic component of their language along independent lines, resulting in further differentiation from Spanish. Divergence was intensified through borrowing from contact languages of the Ottoman Empire such as Turkish, Greek, and South Slavic. Especially from the late 18th century, factors such as the colonializing interests of France, Italy, and Austro-Hungary in the region led to considerable influence of their languages on Judezmo. In the 19th century, the dismemberment of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires and their replacement by highly nationalistic states resulted in a massive language shift to the local languages; that factor, followed by large speech-population losses during World War II and immigration to countries stressing linguistic homogeneity, have in recent years made Judezmo an endangered language.

Article

Etymology in Romance  

Éva Buchi and Steven N. Dworkin

Etymology is the only linguistic subdiscipline that is uniquely historical in its study of the relevant linguistic data and one of the oldest fields in Romance linguistics. The concept of etymology as practiced by Romanists has changed over the last 100 years. At the outset, Romance etymologists took as their brief the search for and identification of individual word origins. Starting in the early 20th century, various specialists began to view etymology as the preparation of the complete history of all facets of the evolution over time and space of the words or lexical families being studied. Identification of the underlying base was only the first step in the process. From this perspective, etymology constitutes an essential element of diachronic lexicology, which covers all formal, semantic, and syntactic facets of a word’s evolution, including, if appropriate, the circumstances leading to its demise and replacement.