LINGUIST List 13.1974

Thu Jul 25 2002

Review: Historical Ling/Lang Description:Circum-Baltic

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <naomilinguistlist.org>


What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Simin Karimi at siminlinguistlist.org.

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  1. Mark Chamberlin, Dahl & Koptjevskaja-Tamm (2001) Circum-Baltic Languages, Vol. 1

Message 1: Dahl & Koptjevskaja-Tamm (2001) Circum-Baltic Languages, Vol. 1

Date: Wed, 24 Jul 2002 17:57:58 +0000
From: Mark Chamberlin <malichiimail.com>
Subject: Dahl & Koptjevskaja-Tamm (2001) Circum-Baltic Languages, Vol. 1


Dahl and Koptjevskaja-Tamm, ed. (2001)
Circum-Baltic Languages, Volume 1: Past and Present.
John Benjamins, hardback ISBN 1-58811-020-6,
Studies in Language Companion Series 54.

Book Announcement on Linguist:
http://linguistlist.org/get-book.html?BookID=3418


Mark L. Chamberlin, Acting Director, 
Center for Interactive Interdisciplinary Information, Tartu, Estonia


Introduction -- �. Dahl and M. Koptjevskaja-Tamm 

The opening serves as an outline of geographic and historical
relationships among the linguistic divisions. Additional relational
information is found in the openings of most of the articles. Part 6
(in Volume 2) is a much more useful guide to the whole of the content,
the geography, and the linguistic relationships within the region. It
would have been good to have noted its value in this earlier
Introduction as the perspective and balance it provides are useful in
understanding the relationships developed in the articles. It also
accounts for nearly 1/5th of the set and fills somewhat for areas not
represented in articles. A comprehensive treatment of additional
areas of interest at the depth of the articles could easily fill an
eight volume series.

Discussions of areal linguistics based on the typological evaluation
of isoglosses lead to broader summation of the difficulties of
managing large amounts of data over wide and disparate regions. These
efforts are noted as being driven by the recent political changes
which have eased east-west relations and pressed the development of
new linguistic policy and processes on a European Union in full growth
mode.

The opening map and short analysis of the content of the volumes are
followed by a hierarchical list of languages included in the
Circum-Baltic area. The languages in the list, those included in the
text, and those appearing on the map are not given well
synchronization. While the work in each article and in the Synthesis
of Part 6 do add up to a great amount of detailed information, the way
it is delivered leaves a bit of uncertainty until near the end. Even
then there is confusion in terminology and groupings that could have
been better resolved. Volume 1 contains Parts 1 to 3, discussed here;
Volume 2 contains Parts 4 to 6, discussed in my review of that volume.


Part 1. Survey of Selected Circum-Baltic languages and language varieties

The Latvian language and its dialects -- L. Balode and A. Holovet

Current speaker totals, 1935 ethnic totals, and mention of the
historical decline of the Finnic speaking Livonian who had lived in
coastal and northern areas. Four territorial divisions followed by a
map of three dialect divisions not closely correlated to the fist
mentioned. The reason for this difference should have been noted. A
short technical analysis of some important features of present-day
Latvian leads to a discussion of its morphology and historical
development. This builds to a clear discussion of the dialects which
forms the body of the article. Phonemic analyses of linguistic
aspects most affected by external adstrata, especially those related
to Finnic contact, like word stress, but less deeply in word order and
case endings.

The Lithuanian language and its dialects - L. Balode and A. Holovet

Current speaker totals, interwar ethnic totals are said to be
unavailable, and a map with areas not correlated to the text. Here is
described an opposite course of development from Latvian with effects
in the phonemic analyses of the Finnic contact showing more change in
word order and case endings and less in word stress. Greater
involvement with Slavic sources, especially Polish is shown.

Russian: Urban Russian of the 19th century - V. Cekmonas

Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn saw small populations of bureaucrats and
military who established social structures within elite enclaves and
dealt rarely with the established Germanic nobility and experienced
little population change until being expelled after WWI. Standard
Russian usage prevailed and was increasingly employed in the
russification processes into the early 20th century. Larger in urban
numbers than the administrators were the Old Believer merchants and
craftsmen, who were linked to even larger such rural populations
growing and shifting toward Lithuania as the Russian Empire
strengthened controls. Good examination of historical and statistical
information on populations, the press and the theatre with little
phonemic analysis and little discussion beyond 1897.

Russian: Rural dialects - V. Cekmonas

The larger Old Believer centers are described and mapped along the
Russian and Byelorussian boarders. There is a tree structure of the
dialects and a good deal of morphological analysis. The affects of
additional relocations of Orthodox Russians in the last half of the
1800s are also described with indications that more change has
occurred in these dialects in the last 50 years than over the previous
200 of isolation.

Swedish dialects around the Baltic Sea -- A-C. Rendahl

Very good balanced treatment of most linguistic concerns. There is a
well laid out history with a map of the core areas from which the
major dialects emerged, examples of the morphological and phonemic
distinctions, and closing summation with a map of current groupings
along with a proposal for slight alterations in traditional dialect
boundaries.

The Finnic languages -- J. Laakso

The core of the article presents phonemic, morphological, and
structural details of the languages with a diagram of their
relationships. The introduction is historically correct but short, but
the close helps clarify the relationships and the current state of
endangerment of the smaller members of the group. The legend and
nearby text coordinate well. Language family relationships are not
clearly spelled out. Showing a larger area and adding a few lines
could have reduced some terminology confusion. Were the map larger,
the Baltic contingent could be more prominent but at least an
indication of the locations of Saami, Komi (not mentioned) and the
Volgic relatives would be possible.

The differences between and interactions with neighboring languages
need more complete discussion since 'Uralia' forms a more contrastive
and less studied region of modern Europe than do any of the
other. There is also an effective chart of Baltic Finnic
relationships.

Transformations which have increased the linguistic distance between
the groups are noted. Current and expected changes index the losses
of the past fifty and more years and underscore the fragility of the
remaining languages. Hope is raised for rebuilding efforts.



Part 2. Early history of the Circum-Baltic languages

The origin of the Scandinavian languages -- �. Dahl

A rejection of the "Cracked Monolith" hypothesis: that there had been
a uniform Germanic language over much of the region. Uses
archaeological evidences and the spread of toponyms and runic
inscriptions to posit a region of diverse and uncertain speech
communities like the mixed Germano-Slavic Urheimat culture between the
Elbe, the Erzgebirge, and the Thuringian Forest being subjugated by a
Germanic Iron-based Jastorf culture out of Lower Saxony 600 to 300 BC.
Waves of mobile Nordic elites dominate the Baltic leading to
feudalistic Viking expansion from 800 AD.

The predominant dialect may have developed in a Germanic-Slavic
population in Hedeby, Schleswig; supplanted in turn by Birka Swedish
and its Danish cousin, with continuing boundary adjustments. The
almost monolithic center was not achieved until the late medieval and
the persistent fragments in the outlands seem to be very old.

Baltic influence on Finnic languages -- L-G. Larsson

Broader interactions between Indo-European and Uralic languages are
noted, including Middle-Volga but not Hungarian relatives. Baltic
loanwords in Sámi dialects in the far north are said to
indicate an earlier interaction in unspecified regions. The
concentration is on the morphology of interactions in Baltic-Finnish
contacts with a short mention of Germanic and later influences.


Part 3. Contact phenomena in minor Circum-Baltic languages


The role of language contact in the formation of Karelian, past and
present -- S. M. Pugh 

Charts Russian, Finnish and other influences in six stages in
morphology, phonology and word structures and adds a final stage
analyzing possible future alignments.

Syntactic code-copying in Karaim -- �.�. Csat�

An incorporation process bilingual transition over the 600 years that
the Western branch Kipchak Turkic been in Lithuania and its reduction
in the past 50 years to 200 members with about 50 elderly speakers.
Only 6 speakers of this branch are left in Halich, Ukraine and the
Eastern branch in the Crimean is extinct. The examples are of Slavic
roots, endings and structures.

Yiddish in the Baltic region -- N. G. Jacobs

A good historical summary of Yiddish with a map from Holland to the
Urals with a major triangular mixed zone from Corland to the Caucasus
to the Dardanelles and back. The emphasis is on the East Baltic coast
because other areas saw early declines while this are had greater and
more continuous impact on its neighbors. Morphology, syntax, gender
patterns and loan words seem strongly Lithuanian with the low impact
of Latvian seemingly due to the expansion to the north following
Baltic German contacts and social ties concentrated to the south.

The North Russian Romany dialect: Interference and Code Switching --
A. Y. Rusakov

Presents interesting evidence of the earmarks of a dying language that
yet lives by the bond of secretiveness in alien territory. Mixed
borrows much from its neighbors and some differences from its cousins.

On some Circum-Baltic features of the Pskov-Novgorod (Northwestern
Central Russian) dialect -- V. Cekmonas

This region shows the dominance of the stable side of a rather mobile
boundary where conditions had been such as to efface the former Finnic
speech leaving a substratum. Relies on sound shifts and develops the
interesting concept of voiceless Russian consonants being
'over-voiced' after assimilation.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Mark L. Chamberlin is Acting Director, The Center of Interactive
Interdisciplinary Information <www.ciiigeo.ut.ee>, Tartu, Estonia,
which lets researchers view colleagues' work, collaborate with them
online, and share findings with the world. He is a media librarian and
specialist in related computer work with a continuing interest in
Ethnography.
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