Balto-Slavic languages

Balto-Slavic languages

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The Balto-Slavic language group traditionally comprises Baltic
Baltic languages
The Baltic languages are a group of related languages belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family and spoken mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe...

 and Slavic languages
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

, belonging to the Indo-European family
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 of languages. Baltic and Slavic languages share several linguistic traits not found in any other Indo-European branch, which points to the period of common development. Most Indo-Europeanists classify Baltic and Slavic languages into a single branch, even though some details of the nature of their relationship remain in dispute in some circles, usually due to political controversies. Some linguists, however, have recently suggested that Balto-Slavic should be split into three equidistant nodes: Eastern Baltic, Western Baltic and Slavic.

A Proto-Balto-Slavic language
Proto-Balto-Slavic language
Proto-Balto-Slavic is reconstructed proto-language descending from Proto-Indo-European and out of which all later Balto-Slavic languages and dialects descended, such as modern Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Russian.The Proto-Balto-Slavic language is not directly attested by any surviving texts...

 is reconstructable by comparative method
Comparative method
In linguistics, the comparative method is a technique for studying the development of languages by performing a feature-by-feature comparison of two or more languages with common descent from a shared ancestor, as opposed to the method of internal reconstruction, which analyzes the internal...

, descending from Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 by means of well-defined sound laws, and out of which modern Slavic and Baltic languages descended. One particularly innovative dialect separated from the Balto-Slavic dialect continuum and became ancestral to Proto-Slavic language, out of which all other Slavic languages descended.

Historical dispute


The nature of the relationship of the Balto-Slavic languages has been the subject of much discussion from the very beginning of historical Indo-European linguistics as a scientific discipline. A few are more intent on explaining the similarities between the two groups not in terms of a genetic relationship, but by language contact and dialectal closeness in the Proto-Indo-European period.
Baltic and Slavic share more close phonological
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, lexical
Lexical (semiotics)
In the lexicon of a language, lexical words or nouns refer to things. These words fall into three main classes:*proper nouns refer exclusively to the place, object or person named, i.e...

, morphosyntactic and accentological similarities than do any other language groups within the Indo-European language family. The notable early Indo-Europeanist August Schleicher
August Schleicher
August Schleicher was a German linguist. His great work was A Compendium of the Comparative Grammar of the Indo-European Languages, in which he attempted to reconstruct the Proto-Indo-European language...

 (1861) proposed a simple solution: From Proto-Indo-European descended Proto-Balto-Slavic, out of which Proto-Baltic and Proto-Slavic emerged. The Latvian linguist Jānis Endzelīns thought, however, that any similarities among Baltic and Slavic languages were a result of an intensive language contact, i.e., that they were not genetically related and that there was no common Proto-Balto-Slavic language. Antoine Meillet
Antoine Meillet
Paul Jules Antoine Meillet was one of the most important French linguists of the early 20th century. Meillet began his studies at the Sorbonne, where he was influenced by Michel Bréal, Ferdinand de Saussure, and the members of the Année Sociologique. In 1890 he was part of a research trip to the...

 (1905, 1908, 1922, 1925, 1934), the distinguished French Indo-Europeanist, in reaction to a second simplified theory of Schleicher's, propounded a view according to which all similarities of Baltic and Slavic occurred accidentally, by independent parallel development, and that there was no Proto-Balto-Slavic language. In turn, the Polish linguist Rozwadowski suggests that the similarities among Baltic and Slavic languages are a result of not only genetic relationship, but also of later language contact. Thomas Olander corroborates the claim of genetic relationship in his research in the field of comparative Balto-Slavic accentology.

Even though some linguists still reject a genetic relationship, most scholars accept that Baltic and Slavic languages experienced a period of common development. , for example, states expressly that "[t]he Baltic and Slavic languages were originally one language and so form one group". Gray and Atkinson's (2003) application of language-tree divergence analysis supports a genetic relationship between the Baltic and Slavic languages and dating the split of the family to about 1400 BCE. That this was found using a very different methodology than other studies lends some credence to the links between the two.

Modern interpretation


The Balto-Slavic languages are most often divided into Baltic and Slavic branches. However, another division was proposed in the 1960s by Vyacheslav Ivanov
Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov
Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov is a prominent Soviet/Russian philologist and Indo-Europeanist probably best known for his glottalic theory of Indo-European consonantism and for placing the Indo-European urheimat in the area of the Armenian Highlands and Lake Urmia.-Early life:Vyacheslav Ivanov's...

 and Vladimir Toporov
Vladimir Toporov
Vladimir Nikolayevich Toporov was a leading Russian philologist associated with the Tartu-Moscow semiotic school. His wife was Tatyana Elizarenkova....

: that the Balto-Slavic proto-language split from the start into West Baltic, East Baltic and Proto-Slavic. Thus Ivanov and Toporov questioned not only Balto-Slavic unity, but also Baltic unity. In their framework, Proto-Slavic is a peripheral and innovative Balto-Slavic dialect which suddenly expanded, due to a conjunction of historical circumstances, and effectively erased all the other Balto-Slavic dialects, except in the marginal areas where Lithuanian
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

, Latvian
Latvian language
Latvian is the official state language of Latvia. It is also sometimes referred to as Lettish. There are about 1.4 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad. The Latvian language has a relatively large number of non-native speakers, atypical for a small language...

 and Old Prussian developed. This model is supported by glottochronologic
Glottochronology
Glottochronology is that part of lexicostatistics dealing with the chronological relationship between languages....

 studies by V.V.Kromer although both of the most recent computer-generated family trees have a Baltic node parallel to the Slavic node. Onomastic
Onomastics
Onomastics or onomatology is the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names. The words are from the Greek: "ὀνομαστικός" , "of or belonging to naming" and "ὀνοματολογία" , from "ὄνομα" "name". Toponymy or toponomastics, the study of place names, is one of the principal branches of...

 evidence shows that Baltic languages were once spoken in much wider territory than the one they cover today, all the way to Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, and were later replaced by Slavic.


Historical Expansion


The sudden expansion of Proto-Slavic in the sixth and the seventh century (around AD 600, uniform Proto-Slavic with no detectable dialectal differentiation was spoken from Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

 in Greece to Novgorod in Russia) is according to some connected to the hypothesis that Proto-Slavic was in fact a koiné
Koine language
In linguistics, a koiné language is a standard language or dialect that has arisen as a result of contact between two mutually intelligible varieties of the same language. Since the speakers have understood one another from before the advent of the koiné, the koineization process is not as rapid...

of the Avar state
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

, i.e. the language of the administration and military rule of the Avar khaganate in Eastern Europe. It is well-known from historical sources that Slavs and Avars jointly attacked the Byzantine Empire and laid siege to Constantinople. According to that interpretation, Avars were a thin layer of military aristocracy in that state/alliance, while the Slavs were a military caste – warriors (i.e. not a nation or ethnicity in the proper sense of that word). Their language – at first possibly only one local speech – once koinéized, became a lingua franca of the Avar state. This might explain how Proto-Slavic spread to the Balkans and the areas of the Danubian basin, and would also explain why the Avars were assimilated so fast, leaving practically no linguistic traces, and that Proto-Slavic was so unusually uniform. However, such a theory fails to explain how Slavic spread to Eastern Europe, an area which had no historical links with the Avar Khanate
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

.

That sudden expansion of Proto-Slavic erased most of the idioms of the Balto-Slavic dialect continuum, which left us today with only two branches: Baltic and Slavic (or East Baltic, West Baltic, and Slavic in the minority view). This secession of the Balto-Slavic dialect ancestral to Proto-Slavic is estimated on archaeological and glottochronological criteria to have occurred sometime in the period 1500–1000 BCE.

Balto-Slavic isoglosses



The close relationship of the Baltic and Slavic languages is indicated by a series of exclusive isogloss
Isogloss
An isogloss—also called a heterogloss —is the geographical boundary of a certain linguistic feature, such as the pronunciation of a vowel, the meaning of a word, or use of some syntactic feature...

es representing innovations not shared with any other IE branch (especially in their phonology) and by the fact that one can establish the relative chronology of those innovations, which is the most important criterion for establishing genetic relationship in historical linguistics. The most important of these isoglosses are:
  • Winter's law (lengthening of vowels before PIE voiced consonants, probably only in a closed syllable)
  • identical reflexes of PIE syllabic sonorants
  • Hirt's law (retraction of PIE accent to the preceding syllable closed by a laryngeal)
  • rise of the Balto-Slavic acute before PIE laryngeals in a closed syllable
  • replacement of PIE genitive singular of thematic nouns with ablative
  • ending for instrumental plural of *-miHs; e.g. Lith. sūnumìs, OCS
    Old Church Slavonic
    Old Church Slavonic or Old Church Slavic was the first literary Slavic language, first developed by the 9th century Byzantine Greek missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius who were credited with standardizing the language and using it for translating the Bible and other Ancient Greek...

     synъmi 'with sons'
  • formation of past tense with the ending *-ē (a type of Lithuanian preterite dãvė 'he gave', OCS imperfect 'he was')
  • generalization of the PIE neuter *to- stem to the nominative singular of masculine and feminine demonstratives instead of PIE *so-, i.e. PIE demonstrative (‘this, that’) became PBSl. *tos, *ta, *tod
  • formation of so-called definite adjectives with a construction that includes adjective and a relative pronoun, e.g. Lith. geràsis 'the good' as opposed to gẽras 'good', OCS dobrъjь 'the good' as opposed to dobrъ 'good'
  • usage of genitive to state the object of a negated verb, e.g. Russ. knigi (ja) ne čital, Lith. knygos neskaičiau 'Book, haven't read'.


Common Balto-Slavic innovations include several other prominent, but non-exclusive isoglosses, such as the Satemization, Ruki
Ruki sound law
Ruki refers to a sound change in Balto-Slavic, Albanian, Armenian, and Indo-Iranian, wherein an original phoneme changed into after the consonants , , and the semi-vowels , , or:...

, change of PIE */o/ to PBSl. */a/ (shared with Germanic
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

, Indo-Iranian
Indo-Iranian languages
The Indo-Iranian language group constitutes the easternmost extant branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It consists of three language groups: the Indo-Aryan, Iranian and Nuristani...

 and Anatolian
Anatolian languages
The Anatolian languages comprise a group of extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in Asia Minor, the best attested of them being the Hittite language.-Origins:...

 branch) and the loss of labialization in PIE labiovelars (shared with Indo-Iranian, Armenian and Tocharian). A number of these, however, fit only in the relative chronology of other otherwise exclusive Balto-Slavic isoglosses, which makes them specific Balto-Slavic innovation.

Baltic and Slavic languages also show some correspondence in vocabulary; about 100 words are shared by Baltic and Slavic languages, either being a common innovation (i.e. not of PIE origin) or sharing the same semantic development from PIE root.
For example:
  • PBSl. 'tilia
    Tilia
    Tilia is a genus of about 30 species of trees native throughout most of the temperate Northern Hemisphere. The greatest species diversity is found in Asia, and the genus also occurs in Europe and eastern North America, but not western North America...

    ' > Lith. líepa, Old Pr. līpa, Latv. liẽpa; PSl. *léjpā > Common Slavic *lipa (OCS lipa, Russ. lipa, Pol. lipa)
  • PBSl. 'hand' > Lith. rankà, Old Pr. rānkan (A
    Accusative case
    The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

     sg.
    Grammatical number
    In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

    ), Latv. rùoka; PSl. *ránkā > Common Slavic } (OCS rǫka, Russ. ruká, Pol. ręka)
  • PBSl. 'head' > Lith. galvà, Old Pr. galwo, Latv. galva; PSl. } > Common Slavic *golvà (OCS glava, Russ. golová, Pol. głowa)


Among Balto-Slavic archaisms notable is the retention of free PIE accent
Proto-Indo-European accent
Proto-Indo-European accent refers to the accentual system of Proto-Indo-European language.-Description:Proto-Indo-European is reconstructed to have a pitch accent system that is usually described as a free tonal accent...

 (with many innovations).

Proto-Balto-Slavic language



Proto-Balto-Slavic is a reconstructed
Linguistic reconstruction
Linguistic reconstruction is the practice of establishing the features of the unattested ancestor of one or more given languages. There are two kinds of reconstruction. Internal reconstruction uses irregularities in a single language to make inferences about an earlier stage of that language...

 proto-language
Proto-language
A proto-language in the tree model of historical linguistics is the common ancestor of the languages that form a language family. Occasionally, the German term Ursprache is used instead.Often the proto-language is not known directly...

 descending from Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 and out of which all later Baltic and Slavic languages and dialects descended.

See also

  • Baltic languages
    Baltic languages
    The Baltic languages are a group of related languages belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family and spoken mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe...

  • Slavic languages
    Slavic languages
    The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

  • Proto-Slavic
  • Corded Ware culture
    Corded Ware culture
    The Corded Ware culture , alternatively characterized as the Battle Axe culture or Single Grave culture, is an enormous European archaeological horizon that begins in the late Neolithic , flourishes through the Copper Age and culminates in the early Bronze Age.Corded Ware culture is associated with...

  • International Workshop on Balto-Slavic Accentology
    International Workshop on Balto-Slavic Accentology
    International Workshop on Balto-Slavic Accentology is an annual international conference on comparative and historical Balto-Slavic accentology, including the prehistory and history of the separate Baltic and Slavic languages, as well as synchronic and dialectal issues that have to do with...


External links

  • Balto-Slavic Accentuation, by Kortlandt; a very idiosyncratic approach to Balto-Slavic accentuation (Bernstein and Trubachev on the Balto-South-Slavic isoglosses)