Lars Johanson (Mainz/ Tokio):
Linguistic convergence in the Volga area

Freitag, 12.00 Uhr

The paper deals, in the framework of the Code-Copying Model, with the complex language contact interaction of Turkic, Fennic and Russian in the Volga-Kama area, where contact-induced processes of mutual code-copying have led to convergence of socially dominated and dominant codes and introduced new linguistic patterns, partly typical so-called 'Sprachbund' phenomena.

The Turkic varieties involved are Chuvash, Tatar and Bashkir, the Fennic ones Mari, Votyak and Mordvin. Chuvash is an Oghur Turkic language, developed after the settlement of Oghur tribes in the region in the 9th century (at the latest). Tatar and Bashkir are Kipchak Turkic languages introduced into the region from the 14th century on. The Russian linguistic influence on the region increased rapidly from the middle of the 16th century on, i.e. after the fall of the Khanate of Kazan.

The Kipchak, Fennic and Russian varieties are commonly thought to be fundamentally influenced by Oghur Turkic, mainly in the phonology. Chuvash, particularly Upper Chuvash, displays phenomena due to close contact with Fennic: phonological, lexical and probably grammatical influence, mostly from Mari. The Fennic languages and Chuvash are heavily influenced by Kipchak, mostly Tatar, in lexicon and word-formation. All varieties of the area show strong Russian lexical and syntactic influence.

The linguistic nature of the language contacts has not yet been fully established. It is clear that the Kipchak lexical and morphosyntactic influence on Chuvash (most strongly Low Chuvash) and on Fennic is due to adoption of linguistic copies from a socially dominant code. The same is true of the Russian lexical and syntactic impact on the Fennic and Turkic varieties of the area.

However, many similarities are results of the complex processes of ethnolinguistic assimilation in the region since the 10th century, and thus due to imposition (German Unterschiebung) of linguistic copies following a shift to a socially dominant code. Early imposition of Fennic elements on Oghur is highly probable, since Oghur tribes early came to dominate the local Fennic groups on the left Volga bank and assimilated Votyak and Meadow Mari groups. The Fennic influence on Chuvash is a substratum influence due to assimilation of segments of a local Fennic population by Oghur immigrants. The influence is typically strongest in Upper Chuvash, especially in the Sundyr dialect spoken in the northwest of the Chuvash republic, in immediate Mari neighbourhood. The old Oghur impact is also likely to be a substratum influence, especially since Oghur groups on the left Volga bank were also assimilated by Kipchak groups from the 14th century on.

The Volga-Kama area thus displays effects of long-term contact processes of mutual influence, implying varying relations of social dominance. The sociolinguistic role of most of the codes involved has changed from dominant to dominated. The areal convergence is due to very complex combinations of adoption and imposition processes. Furthermore, the prehistory of both the Oghur and the Kipchak varieties is likely to have involved changes due to abrupt reorganization processes, which came about when groups using different codes were brought together to coexist in tribal confederations, i.e. in mixed speech communities with new social networks.

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