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Review of  Circum-Baltic Languages

Reviewer: Mark L. Chamberlin
Book Title: Circum-Baltic Languages
Book Author: Östen Dahl Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Danish
Sami, Kemi
Issue Number: 13.1974

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Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2002 23:53:11 +0800
From: Mark Chamberlin
Subject: Dahl & Koptjevskaja-Tamm (2001) Circum-Baltic Languages, Vol. 1

Dahl, Östen and Maria 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.

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

Introduction -- Ö 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 -- Ö. 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 -- É. Á. Casató
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 , 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.