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Conference Information

Full Title: Morpho-syntactic Isoglosses in Indo-European: Diachrony, Typology and Linguistic Areas

Location: Thessaloniki, Greece
Start Date: 31-Mar-2017 - 02-Apr-2017
Contact: Nikos Lavidas, Artemij Keidan, Leonid Kulikov
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: Keynote Speakers:

Jóhanna Barðdal (Ghent University)
Krzysztof Stroński (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)

Workshop Conveners:

Artemij Keidan - Sapienza University of Rome (
Leonid Kulikov - Ghent University (
Nikolaos Lavidas - Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (

The last decades are marked with an increasing interest towards the study of isoglosses shared by some branches of the Indo-European language family. As is well-known, next to well-established branches such as Germanic, Greek or Indo-Iranian, there are larger subdivisions within Indo-European, grouping together several branches, in accordance with a number of features, traditionally called isoglosses, shared by more than one group, or by several languages not belonging to the same group (branch-crossing isoglosses). Such isoglosses were always in the spotlight of vivid Indo-Europeanist discussions, giving rise to numerous hypotheses on early splits within Proto-Indo-European or, on the contrary, later contacts among historically attested languages.

Next to a few notorious isoglosses, such as the kentum/satəm division, or the 'ruki' division (retraction of the sibilant s), which have been known for a century or so, there are a few less studied morphosyntactic features, often of a much vaguer nature, that equally group together a number of branches and/or languages. These include, for instance, the presence of augment (prefix *(H)e-) (in Indo-Iranian, Armenian, Greek and Phrygian), several isoglosses in the evolution of the PIE case system (such as the development of the agglutinating cases in Indo-Iranian and Tocharian), the emergence of the infinitive form of the verb, several types of evolution of constructions with non-canonical subjects or the two types of evolution of transitivity oppositions (syncretic vs. antisyncretic type, roughly corresponding to the West/East division within Indo-European branches), the emergence of a separate lexical class of adjectives.

There are three possible types of isoglosses, as far as their origin and nature are concerned.

1) A common innovation within a genetic group of languages; such innovations correspond to the divergent isoglosses, allowing the creation of phylogenetic trees;

2) Mutual contacts between (and borrowings from) separate branches and daughter-languages; these are the convergent isoglosses, originating from either direct contacts among sister languages, or common borrowing from a common ''substrate'' language.

3) Random coincidences and common drifts. Some convergent developments can arise thanks to the general principles of natural morphology. In terms of markedness degree, it can be observed that unmarked outcomes are more widespread than the opposite.

Moreover, while in the 19th and most of the 20th centuries Indo-European studies predominantly focused on historical, comparative and reconstructional aspects of the Indo-European linguistic family, thus entirely remaining within a descriptive and genetic framework, from the end of the 20th century onwards Indo-European linguistics increasingly concentrates on the typological and explicative evaluation of the reconstructed proto-language and its historical evolution/development(s) towards its reflexes actually attested in the daughter languages. In this perspective, the convergent isoglosses represent one of the most reliable tools for the analysis of the structure of Proto-Indo-European, its dialectal split and its further evolution towards actually attested Indo-European languages.
Linguistic Subfield: General Linguistics; Genetic Classification; Historical Linguistics; Typology
Subject Language Family: Indo-European
LL Issue: 27.5134

This is a session of the following meeting:
23rd International Symposium on Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

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