Balkan sprachbund: Wikis

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The Balkan sprachbund or linguistic area is the ensemble of areal features—similarity in grammar, syntax, vocabulary and phonology—among languages of the Balkans, which belong to various branches of Indo-European, such as Slavic, Greek, Romance and Albanian. While they share little vocabulary, their grammars also have similarities; for example they have similar case systems and have all become more analytic, although to differing degrees.

Contents

History

The earliest scholar to notice the similarities between Balkan languages belonging to different families was the Slovenian scholar Jernej Kopitar in 1829.[1] August Schleicher (1850)[2] more explicitly developed the concept of areal relationships as opposed to genetic ones, and Franc Miklošič (1861)[3]studied the relationships of Balkan Slavic and Romance more extensively.

Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1923),[4] Kristian Sandfeld-Jensen (1930),[5] and Gustav Weigand developed the theory in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the 1930s, the Romanian linguist Alexandru Graur criticized the notion of “Balkan linguistics,” saying that one can talk about “relationships of borrowings, of influences, but not about Balkan linguistics”.[6]

The term "Balkan linguistic union" was coined by the Romanian linguist Alexandru Rosetti in 1958, when he claimed that the shared features conferred the Balkan languages a special similarity. Theodor Capidan went further, claiming that the structure of Balkan languages could be reduced to a standard language. Many of the earliest reports on this theory were in German, hence the term "Balkansprachbund" is often used as well.

Languages

The languages that share these similarities belong to five distinct branches of the Indo-European languages:

However, not all of these languages have the same number of features shared. That is why they are divided into three groups:

  1. Albanian, Romanian, Macedonian, Aromanian and Bulgarian have the most properties in common
  2. Serbian language (especially transitional Torlak dialect) and Greek share with the others a lower number of properties
  3. Turkish - shares mainly vocabulary and replacement of infinitive with subjunctive.

The Finnish linguist Jouko Lindstedt computed in 2000 a "Balkanization factor" which gives each Balkan language a score proportional with the number of features shared in the Balkan linguistic union.[7] The results were:

Language Score
Macedonian 12
Balkan Slavic 11.5
Albanian 10.5
Greek, Balkan Romance 9.5
Romani (Gypsy) 7.5

Another language that may have been influenced by the Balkan language union is the Judeo-Spanish variant that used to be spoken by Sephardi Jews living in the Balkans. The grammatical features shared (especially regarding the tense system) were most likely borrowed from Greek.

Origins

The source of these features as well as the directions have long been debated, and various theories were suggested.

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Thracian, Illyrian or Dacian

Since most of these features cannot be found in languages related to those that belong to the linguistic union (such as other Slavic or Romance languages), early researchers, including Kopitar, believed they must be inherited from the Paleo-Balkan languages (Thracian, Illyrian and Dacian) which formed the substrate for the modern Balkan languages. But since very little is known about any of these languages, it cannot be determined whether the features were present.

Greek

Another theory, advanced by Kristian Sandfeld in 1930, was that these features were an entirely Greek influence, under the presumption that since Greece "always had a superior civilization compared to its neighbours", Greek could not have borrowed its linguistic features from them. However, no ancient dialects of Greek possessed Balkanisms, so that the features shared with other regional languages appear to be post-classical innovations. Also, Greek appears to be only peripheral to the Balkan linguistic union, lacking some important features, such as the postposed article.

Latin and Romance

The Roman Empire ruled all the Balkans, and local variation of Latin may have left its mark on all languages there, which were later the substrate to Slavic newcomers. This was proposed by Georg Solta. The weak point of this theory is that other Romance languages have few of the features, and there is no proof that the Balkan Romans were isolated for enough time to develop them.

An argument for this would be the structural borrowings or "linguistic calques" into Macedonian from Aromanian, which could be explained by Aromanian being a substrate of Macedonian, but this still does not explain the origin of these innovations in Aromanian.

Multiple sources

The most commonly accepted theory, advanced by Polish scholar Zbigniew Gołąb, is that the innovations came from different sources and the languages influenced each other: some features can be traced from Latin, Slavic or Greek languages, while others, particularly features that are shared only by Romanian, Albanian, Macedonian and Bulgarian, could be explained by the substratum kept after Romanization (in the case of Romanian) or Slavicization (in the case of Bulgarian). Albanian was influenced by both Latin and Slavic, but it kept many of its original characteristics.

Several arguments favour this theory. First, throughout the turbulent history of the Balkans, many groups of people moved to another place, inhabited by people of another ethnicity. These small groups were usually assimilated quickly and sometimes left marks in the new language they acquired. Second, the use of more than one language was common in the Balkans before the modern age, and a drift in one language would quickly spread to other languages. Third, the dialects that have the most "balkanisms" are those in regions where people had contact with people of many other languages.

Most likely areas of language contact

(Old) Albanian

According to the central hypothesis of a project undertaken by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, Old Albanian had a significant influence on the development of many Balkan languages. Intensive research now aims to confirm this theory. This little-known language is being researched using all available texts before a comparison with other Balkan languages is carried out. The outcome of this work will include the compilation of a lexicon providing an overview of all Old Albanian verbs. As project leader Dr. Schumacher explains, the research is already bearing fruit: "So far, our work has shown that Old Albanian contained numerous modal levels that allowed the speaker to express a particular stance to what was being said. Compared to the existing knowledge and literature, these modal levels are actually more extensive and more nuanced than previously thought. We have also discovered a great many verbal forms that are now obsolete or have been lost through restructuring - until now, these forms have barely even been recognized or, at best, have been classified incorrectly." These verbal forms are crucial to explaining the linguistic history of Albanian and its internal usage. However, they can also shed light on the reciprocal relationship between Albanian and its neighbouring languages. The researchers are following various leads which suggest that Albanian played a key role in the Balkan Sprachbund. For example, it is likely that Albanian is the source of the suffixed definite article in Romanian, Bulgarian and Macedonian, as this has been a feature of Albanian since ancient times.[8]

Timeline of contacts

(under development)

Most likely the earliest contact was between the Proto-Romanians and Proto-Albanians, (1st century - 5th century AD) this theory being supported by the Albanian vocabulary borrowed from Balkan Latin, as well as the Romanian substrate, which has words cognate to Albanian words.

The exact area where contact occurred is under debate, ranging from Northern Albania to Transylvania. For more, see Origin of Romanians and Origin of Albanians. All Romanian varieties (from the Republic of Moldova to the Vlachs of Serbia) are part of the sprachbund, which shows that the contact happened before they diverged.

The invasion of the Slavs led to a period of migrations throughout the Balkans which created multi-ethnic communities and this led to the sprachbund beginning around the 8th century; most features were present by the 12th century, but in some parts it continued until the 17th century.

Features

Grammatical features

Case system

The number of cases is reduced, several cases being replaced with prepositions, the only exception being Serbian. In Bulgarian and Macedonian, on the other hand, this development has actually led to the loss of all cases except the vocative.

A common case system of a Balkan language is:

Syncretism of genitive and dative

In the Balkan languages, the genitive and dative cases (or corresponding prepositional constructions) undergo syncretism.

Example:

Language Dative Genitive
English I gave the book to Maria. It is Maria's book.
Albanian Ja dhashë librin Marisë. Është libri i Marisë.
Aromanian U-ded vivliapi Maria. Easte vivlia aliMarie.
Bulgarian Дадох книгата на Мария
[dadoh knigata na marija]
Книгата е на Мария
[knigata e na Marija]
Romanian I-am dat cartea Mariei.
colloq. for fem. (oblig. for masc.):
I-am dat cartea lui Marian.
Este cartea Mariei.
colloq. for fem. (oblig. for masc.):
Este cartea lui Marian.
Macedonian Ѝ ја дадов книгата на Марија.
[ì ja dadov knigata na Marija]
Книгата е на Марија.
[knigata e na Marija]

Greek

Έδωσα το βιβλίο στην Μαρία.
[édōsa to biblío stīn maría]
     or
Έδωσα το βιβλίο της Μαρίας.
[édōsa to biblío tīs marías]
Είναι το βιβλίο της Μαρίας.
[eínai to biblío tīs marías]
Της το έδωσα
[tīs to édōsa]
'I gave it to her.'
Είναι το βιβλίο της.
[eínai to biblío tīs]
'It is her book.'
Syncretism of locative and directional expressions
language "in Greece" "into Greece"
Albanian në Greqi në Greqi
Aromania tu Gãrtsia tu Gãrtsia
Bulgarian в Гърция (V Gărtsiya) в Гърция (V Gărtsiya)
Greek στην Ελλάδα (stīn Helláda) στην Ελλάδα (stīn Helláda)
Macedonian Во Грција (vo Grcija) Во Грција (vo Grcija)
Romanian în Grecia în Grecia

Verb tenses

Future tense

The future tense is formed in an analytic way using an auxiliary verb or particle with the meaning "will, want", referred to as de-volitive, similar to the way the future is formed in English. This feature is present to varying degrees in each language. Decategoralization is less advanced in Romanian voi and in Serbian ću, ćeš, će, where the future marker is still an inflected auxiliary. In Modern Greek, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian, decategoralization and erosion have given rise to an uninflected tense form, where the frozen 3rd person singular of the verb has turned into an invariable particle followed by the main verb inflected for person.[9]

Language Variant Formation Example: "I'll see"
Albanian Tosk "do" (invariant) + subjunctive Do të shikoj
Gheg "kam" (conjugated) + me + verbal noun Kam me shikue
Aromanian "va" (invariant) + subjunctive Va s-ved
Greek "θα" (invariant) + subjunctive Θα δω / βλέπω (tha dō / blépō); "I'll see / be seeing"
Bulgarian "ще" (invariant) + present tense Ще видя (shte vidya)
Macedonian "ќе" (invariant) + present tense Ќе видам (ḱe vidam)
Serbian (literary standard) "хтети/hteti" (conjugated) + infinitive Ја ћу видети (видећу) (ja ću videti [videću])
(colloquial) "хтети/hteti" (conjugated) + subjunctive Ја ћу да видим (ja ću da vidim)
Romanian (literary standard) "a voi" (conjugated) + infinitive Voi vedea/vedeare
(colloquial) "o" (invariant) + subjunctive O să văd
(colloquial alternate) "a avea" (conjugated) + subjunctive Am să văd
(archaic) "va" (invariant) + subjunctive Va să văd
Romani (Erli) "ka" (invariant) + subjunctive Ka dikhav
Analytic perfect tense

The analytic perfect tense is formed in the Balkan languages with the verb "to have". The origin of this language feature could be Latin. However, this does not apply to Slavic languages (examples in Bulgarian and Serbian) where the analytic perfect is formed with the verb "to be" and the past active participle: обещал - "who has promised" (past active participle); съм (Bul.); сам (Ser.) - "I am"; обещал съм; обећао сам (Ser.) - "I have promised" (lit. "I am one who has promised"), perfect tense. Constructions using the verb to have are characteristic of Macedonian language (Имам ветено./Imam veteno. = I have promised.).

Avoidance of infinitive

The use of the infinitive (common in other languages related to some of the Balkan languages, such as Romance and Slavic) is generally replaced with subjunctive constructions, following early Greek innovation.

  • in Bulgarian, Macedonian and Tosk Albanian, the loss of the infinitive is complete
  • in demotic Greek, the loss of the infinitive was complete, whereas in literary Greek it was not; the natural fusion of the demotic (vernacular) form with the literary (archaic) one resulted in the creation of the contemporary common Greek (Koine Neohellenic), where the infinitive, when used, is principally used as noun (e.g. λέγειν "speaking, fluency, eloquence", γράφειν "writing", είναι "being", etc.) deriving directly from the ancient greek infinitive formation. But its substitution by the subjunctive form when the infinitive would be used as a verb is complete. Most of the times, the subjunctive form substitutes the infinitive also in the cases when it would be used as a noon (eg. το να πας/το να πάει κανείς "to go, the act of going", το να δεις/βλέπεις "to see/be seeing, the act of seeing" instead of the infinitive "βλέπειν", etc)
  • in Aromanian and Southern Serbian dialects, it is almost complete
  • in Gheg Albanian and Megleno-Romanian, it is used only in a limited number of expressions
  • in standard Romanian and Serbian, the infinitive shares many of its functions with the subjunctive. In these two languages, the infinitive will always be found in dictionaries and language textbooks. In Romanian, the long infinitives, which are identical to the Italian ones (-are, -ere, and -ire) can also be used in both formal and informal conversation.
  • Turkish as spoken in Sliven and Šumen has also almost completely lost the infinitive, clearly due to the influence of the Balkan Sprachbund.

For example, "I want to write" in several Balkan languages:

Language Example Notes
Albanian "Dua të shkruaj" as opposed to Gheg me fjet "to sleep" or me hangr "to eat"
Aromanian "Voi sã-ngrapsescu"
Macedonian "Сакам да пишувам"
Bulgarian "Искам да пиша"
Modern Greek "Θέλω να γράψω" as opposed to Ancient Greek "βούλομαι γράψαι"
Romanian "Vreau să scriu" as opposed to "Vreau a scrie/scriere", which is also correct, but rarely used.
Serbian "Želim da pišem"/"Желим да пишем as opposed to the literary, more correct form: "Želim pisati"/"Желим пиcaти, where pisati/пиcaти is the infinitive. Both phrases are correct and do not create misunderstandings, although the colloquial one is more commonly used in daily conversation.
Bulgarian Turkish "isterim yazayım" In Standard Turkish in Turkey this is "yazmak istiyorum" where "yazmak" is the infinitive.

But here is an example of a relict form, preserved in Bulgarian:

Language Without infinitive With relict "infinitive" Translation Notes
Bulgarian "Недей да пишеш." "Недей писа." Don't write. The first part of the first three examples is the prohibitative element недей ("don't", composed of не, "not", and дей, "do" in the imperative). The second part of the examples, писа, я, зна and да, are relicts of what used to be an infinitive form (писати, ясти, знати and дати respectively). This second syntactic construction is colloquial and more common in the eastern dialects. The forms usually coincide with the past aorist tense of the verb in the third person singular, as in the case of писа; those that don't coincide (as in the last three examples) are highly unusual today, but do occur, above all in older literature.
"Недей да ядеш." "Недей я." Don't eat.
"Недей да знаеш." "Недей зна." Don't know.
"Можете ли да ми дадете?" "Можете ли ми да?" Can you give me?

Bare subjunctive constructions

Sentences which include only a subjunctive construction can be used to express a wish, a mild command, an intention or a suggestion.

This example translates in the Balkan languages the phrase "You should go!", using the subjunctive constructions.

Language Example Notes
Macedonian Да одиш!
Bulgarian Да си ходиш!
Serbian Да идеш!
Albanian Të shkosh!
Modern Greek Να πας!
Romany (Gypsy) Te dža!
Romanian Să te duci! in Romanian, the "a se duce" (to go) requires a reflexive construction, literally "take yourself (to)"
Megleno-Romanian S-ti duţ!
Aromanian S-ti duts!

Morphology

Postposed article

With the exception of Greek and Romani, all languages in the union have their definite article attached to the end of the noun, instead of before it. None of the related languages (like other Romance languages or Slavic languages) shares this feature and it is thought to be either an innovation or Albanian borrowing spread in the Balkans.

However, each language created its own internal articles, so the Romanian articles are related to the articles (and demonstrative pronouns) in Italian, French, etc., while the Bulgarian articles are related to demonstrative pronouns in other Slavic languages.

Language Feminine Masculine
without

article

with

article

without

article

with

article

English woman the woman man the man
Albanian shtëpi shtëpia qiell qielli
Aromanian muljare muljarea bãrbat bãrbatlu
Bulgarian жена жената мъж мъжът
Macedonian жена жената маж мажот
Romanian muiere muierea bărbat bărbatul
Serbian Torlak жена жената муж мужот
Number formation

The Slavic way of composing the numbers between 10 and 20, e.g. "one + on + ten" for eleven, called superessive, is widespread.
Greek does not follow this.

Language The word "Eleven" compounds
Albanian "njëmbëdhjetë" një + mbë + dhjetë
Aromanian "unãsprã" unã + sprã
Bulgarian "единадесет" един + (н)а(д) + десет
Macedonian "единаесет" еде(и)н + (н)а + (д)есет
Romanian "unsprezece" or, more commonly, "unşpe" un + spre + zece < *unu + supre + dece; unu + spre; the latter is more commonly used, even in formal speech.
Serbian "jedanaest/једанаест" jedan+ (n)a+ (d)es(e)t/један + (н)а + (д)ес(е)т
Clitic pronouns

Direct and indirect objects are cross-referenced, or doubled, in the verb phrase by a clitic (weak) pronoun, agreeing with the object in gender, number, and case or case function. This can be found in Romanian, Greek, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian. In Albanian and Macedonian, this feature shows fully grammaticalized structures and is obligatory with indirect objects and to some extent with definite direct objects; in Bulgarian, however, it is optional and therefore based on discourse. In Greek, the construction contrasts with the clitic-less construction and marks the cross-referenced object as a topic. Southwest Macedonia appears to be the location of innovation.

For example, "I see George" in Balkan languages:

Language Example
Albanian "E shikoj Gjergjin"
Aromanian "U- ved Yioryi"
Bulgarian "Виждам го Георги." (colloquial form; see note)
Macedonian "Гo гледам Ѓорѓи."
Greek "Τον βλέπω τον Γιώργο"
Romanian "Îl văd pe George."

Note: The neutral case in normal (SVO) word order is without a clitic: "Виждам Георги." However, the form with an additional clitic pronoun is also possible in colloquial speech: "Виждам го Георги." And the clitic is obligatory in the case of a topicalized object (with OVS-word order), which serves also as the common colloquial equivalent of a passive construction. "Георги го виждам."

Adjectives

The replacement of synthetic adjectival comparative forms with analytic ones by means of preposed markers is common. These markers are:

  • Bulgarian and Macedonian: по-
  • Albanian:
  • Romanian: mai
  • Modern Greek: πιο (pió); though Greek has retained some of the earlier synthetic forms.
  • Aromanian: (ca)ma
Suffixes

Also, some common suffixes can be found in the linguistic area, such as the diminutive suffix of the Slavic languages (Srb. Bul. Mac.) "-ovo" "-ica" that can be found in Albanian, Greek and Romanian.

Vocabulary

Loan words

Several hundred words are common to the Balkan union languages; the origin of most of them is either Greek or Turkish, as the Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire directly controlled the territory throughout most of its history, strongly influencing its culture and economics.

Albanian, Aromanian, Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Serbian and Macedonian also share a large number of words of various origins:

Source Source word Meaning Albanian Aromanian Bulgarian Greek Romanian Macedonian Serbian Turkish
Latin mensa table menca (tavolinë) masã маса (masa) - masă маса (masa) маса (col.) masa
Thracian rompea spear rrufë roféja - ρομφαία (rhomphaía) - - - -
Byzantine Greek λιβάδιον meadow livadh livadã ливада (livada) λιβάδι livadă ливада (livada) livada
ливада (livada)
-
Byzantine Greek διδάσκαλος teacher - dascal даскал (daskal) (colloquial) δάσκαλος dascăl даскал (daskal) (colloquial) даскал (daskal) (colloquial) -
Byzantine Greek κουτίον box kuti cutii кутия κουτί cutie кутија (kutija) kutija
кутија (kutija)
kutu
Turkish boya paint, color bojë (but also ngjyrë) boi боя (boya) μπογιά (boyá) boia боја (boja) boja
боја (boja)
boya

Calques

Apart from the direct loans, there are also many calques that were passed from one Balkan languages to another, most of them between Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Greek, Aromanian and Romanian.

For example, the word "ripen" (as in fruit) is constructed in Albanian, Romanian and (rarely) in Greek (piqem, a (se) coace, ψήνομαι) by a derivation from the word "to bake" (pjek, a coace, ψήνω).[10]

Another example is the wish "(∅/to/for) many years":

Language Expression Transliteration
Greek (medieval) εις έτη πολλά is eti polla
(modern) χρόνια πολλά khronia polla
Latin ad multos annos
Aromanian ti multsã-anj
Romanian la mulţi ani
Albanian për shumë vjet
Bulgarian за много години za mnogo godini
Macedonian за многу години za mnogu godini
Serbian за многo годинa za mnogo godina

Idiomatic expressions for "whether one <verb> or not" are formed as "<verb>-not-<verb>".[11]

Language expression meaning
Bulgarian ще - не ще "whether one wants or not"
Greek θέλει δε θέλει "whether one wants or not"
Romanian vrea nu vrea "whether one wants or not"
Turkish ister istemez "whether one wants or not"
Serbian Hteo- ne hteo/хтео - не хтео "whether one wants or not"
Albanian deshti - nuk deshti "whether one wants or not"
Macedonian сакал - не сакал / нејќел "whether one wants or not"
Aromanian i vrei - i nu vrei "whether one wants or not"

Phonetics

The main phonological features consist of:

  • the presence of an unrounded central vowel, either a mid-central schwa /ə/ or a high central vowel phoneme
    • ë in Albanian; ъ in Bulgarian; ă in Romanian; ã in Aromanian
    • In Romanian and Albanian, the schwa is obtained via centralizing unstressed /a/
      • Example: Latin camisia "shirt" > Romanian cămaşă /kə.ma.ʃə/, Albanian këmishë /kə.mi.ʃə/)
    • The schwa phoneme occurs in some dialects of the Macedonian language, even in some cases in the western-central dialects, on which the standard is based (сл`нце, к`лбас, к`смет etc.)
  • some kind of vowel harmony in stressed syllables with differing patterns depending on the language.
    • Romanian: a mid-back vowel ends in a low glide before a nonhigh vowel in the following syllable
    • Albanian and Bulgarian: back vowels are fronted before i in the following syllable.

This feature also occurs in Greek, but it is lacking in some of the other Balkan languages; the central vowel is found in Romanian, Bulgarian, some dialects of Albanian, and Serbian, but not in Greek or Standard Macedonian.

Less widespread features are confined largely to either Romanian or Albanian, or both:

  • frequent loss of l before i in Romanian and some Romani dialects
  • the alternation between n and r in Albanian and Romanian.
  • change from l to r in Romanian, Greek and very rarely in Bulgarian and Albanian.
  • the raising of o to u in unstressed syllables in Bulgarian, Romanian and Northern Greek dialects.
  • change from ea to e before i in Bulgarian and Romanian.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Kopitar, Jernej K. (1829). "Albanische, walachische und bulgarische Sprache". Jahrbücher der Literatur (Wien) 46: 59–106. ISBN 3-89131-038-2.  
  2. ^ Schleicher, August (1850). Die Sprachen Europas.  
  3. ^ Miklosich, F. (1861). "Die slavischen Elemente im Rumunischen". Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse 12: 1–70.  
  4. ^ Trubetzkoj, N.S.. "Vavilonskaja bašnja i smešenie jazykov". Evrazijskij vremennik 3: 107–24.  
  5. ^ K. Sandfeld, Linguistique balkanique, 1930 (first published in Danish in 1926),
  6. ^ Chase Faucheux, Language Classification and Manipulation in Romania and Moldova, M.A. thesis, Louisiana State University, 2006 quoting André Du Nay, The Origins of the Rumanians: The Early History of the Rumanian Language, 1996.
  7. ^ Lindstedt, J. (2000). "Linguistic Balkanization: Contact-induced change by mutual reinforcement". in D. G. Gilbers & al. (eds.). Languages in Contact ((Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics, 28.) ed.). Amsterdam & Atlanta, GA, 2000: Rodopi. pp. 231–246. ISBN 90-420-1322-2.  
  8. ^ http://www.fwf.ac.at/en/public_relations/press/pv200805-en.html
  9. ^ Heine, Bernd and Tania Kuteva. Language Contact and Grammatical Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  10. ^ In Greek, usually in the mediopassive voice, and applicable not only to fruits but other natural products: Babiniotis, Λεξικό της νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας (1998), gives the example "φέτος ψήθηκαν νωρίς τα καλαμπόκια".
  11. ^ Winford, Donald (2003). An Introduction to Contact Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-21251-5.  

References


The Balkan sprachbund or linguistic area is the ensemble of areal features—similarity in grammar, syntax, vocabulary and phonology—among languages of the Balkans, which belong to various branches of Indo-European, such as Slavic, Greek, Romance and Albanian. While they share little vocabulary, their grammars also have similarities; for example they have similar case systems and have all become more analytic, although to differing degrees.

Contents

History

The earliest scholar to notice the similarities between Balkan languages belonging to different families was the Slovenian scholar Jernej Kopitar in 1829.[1] August Schleicher (1850)[2] more explicitly developed the concept of areal relationships as opposed to genetic ones, and Franc Miklošič (1861)[3] studied the relationships of Balkan Slavic and Romance more extensively.

Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1923),[4] Kristian Sandfeld-Jensen (1930),[5] and Gustav Weigand (1925)[6] developed the theory in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the 1930s, the Romanian linguist Alexandru Graur criticized the notion of “Balkan linguistics,” saying that one can talk about “relationships of borrowings, of influences, but not about Balkan linguistics”.[7]

The term "Balkan linguistic union" was coined by the Romanian linguist Alexandru Rosetti in 1958, when he claimed that the shared features conferred the Balkan languages a special similarity. Theodor Capidan went further, claiming that the structure of Balkan languages could be reduced to a standard language. Many of the earliest reports on this theory were in German, hence the term "Balkansprachbund" is often used as well.

Languages

The languages that share these similarities belong to five distinct branches of the Indo-European languages:

However, not all of these languages have the same number of features shared. That is why they are divided into three groups:

  1. Albanian, Romanian, Macedonian, Aromanian and Bulgarian have the most properties in common
  2. Serbian language (especially transitional Torlak dialect) and Greek share with the others a lower number of properties
  3. Turkish - shares mainly vocabulary and replacement of infinitive with subjunctive.

The Finnish linguist Jouko Lindstedt computed in 2000 a "Balkanization factor" which gives each Balkan language a score proportional with the number of features shared in the Balkan linguistic union.[8] The results were:

Language Score
Macedonian 12
Balkan Slavic 11.5
Albanian 10.5
Greek, Balkan Romance 9.5
Romani (Gypsy) 7.5

Another language that may have been influenced by the Balkan language union is the Judeo-Spanish variant that used to be spoken by Sephardi Jews living in the Balkans. The grammatical features shared (especially regarding the tense system) were most likely borrowed from Greek.

Origins

The source of these features as well as the directions have long been debated, and various theories were suggested.

Thracian, Illyrian or Dacian

Since most of these features cannot be found in languages related to those that belong to the linguistic union (such as other Slavic or Romance languages), early researchers, including Kopitar, believed they must be inherited from the Paleo-Balkan languages (Thracian, Illyrian and Dacian) which formed the substrate for the modern Balkan languages. But since very little is known about any of these languages, it cannot be determined whether the features were present.

Greek

Another theory, advanced by Kristian Sandfeld in 1930, was that these features were an entirely Greek influence, under the presumption that since Greece "always had a superior civilization compared to its neighbours", Greek could not have borrowed its linguistic features from them. However, no ancient dialects of Greek possessed Balkanisms, so that the features shared with other regional languages appear to be post-classical innovations. Also, Greek appears to be only peripheral to the Balkan linguistic union, lacking some important features, such as the postposed article.

Latin and Romance

The Roman Empire ruled all the Balkans, and local variation of Latin may have left its mark on all languages there, which were later the substrate to Slavic newcomers. This was proposed by Georg Solta. The weak point of this theory is that other Romance languages have few of the features, and there is no proof that the Balkan Romans were isolated for enough time to develop them.

An argument for this would be the structural borrowings or "linguistic calques" into Macedonian from Aromanian, which could be explained by Aromanian being a substrate of Macedonian, but this still does not explain the origin of these innovations in Aromanian.

Multiple sources

The most commonly accepted theory, advanced by Polish scholar Zbigniew Gołąb, is that the innovations came from different sources and the languages influenced each other: some features can be traced from Latin, Slavic or Greek languages, while others, particularly features that are shared only by Romanian, Albanian, Macedonian and Bulgarian, could be explained by the substratum kept after Romanization (in the case of Romanian) or Slavicization (in the case of Bulgarian). Albanian was influenced by both Latin and Slavic, but it kept many of its original characteristics.

Several arguments favour this theory. First, throughout the turbulent history of the Balkans, many groups of people moved to another place, inhabited by people of another ethnicity. These small groups were usually assimilated quickly and sometimes left marks in the new language they acquired. Second, the use of more than one language was common in the Balkans before the modern age, and a drift in one language would quickly spread to other languages. Third, the dialects that have the most "balkanisms" are those in regions where people had contact with people of many other languages.

(Old) Albanian

According to the central hypothesis of a project undertaken by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, Old Albanian had a significant influence on the development of many Balkan languages. Intensive research now aims to confirm this theory. This little-known language is being researched using all available texts before a comparison with other Balkan languages is carried out. The outcome of this work will include the compilation of a lexicon providing an overview of all Old Albanian verbs. As project leader Dr. Schumacher explains, the research is already bearing fruit: "So far, our work has shown that Old Albanian contained numerous modal levels that allowed the speaker to express a particular stance to what was being said. Compared to the existing knowledge and literature, these modal levels are actually more extensive and more nuanced than previously thought. We have also discovered a great many verbal forms that are now obsolete or have been lost through restructuring - until now, these forms have barely even been recognized or, at best, have been classified incorrectly." These verbal forms are crucial to explaining the linguistic history of Albanian and its internal usage. However, they can also shed light on the reciprocal relationship between Albanian and its neighbouring languages. The researchers are following various leads which suggest that Albanian played a key role in the Balkan Sprachbund. For example, it is likely that Albanian is the source of the suffixed definite article in Romanian, Bulgarian and Macedonian, as this has been a feature of Albanian since ancient times.[9]

Timeline of contacts

(under development)

Most likely the earliest contact was between the Proto-Romanians and Proto-Albanians, (1st century - 5th century AD) this theory being supported by the Albanian vocabulary borrowed from Balkan Latin, as well as the Romanian substrate, which has words cognate to Albanian words.

The exact area where contact occurred is under debate, ranging from Northern Albania to Transylvania. For more, see Origin of Romanians and Origin of Albanians. All Romanian varieties (from the Republic of Moldova to the Vlachs of Serbia) are part of the sprachbund, which shows that the contact happened before they diverged.

The invasion of the Slavs led to a period of migrations throughout the Balkans which created multi-ethnic communities and this led to the sprachbund beginning around the 8th century; most features were present by the 12th century, but in some parts it continued until the 17th century.

Features

Grammatical features

Case system

The number of cases is reduced, several cases being replaced with prepositions, the only exception being Serbian. In Bulgarian and Macedonian, on the other hand, this development has actually led to the loss of all cases except the vocative.

A common case system of a Balkan language is:

Syncretism of genitive and dative

In the Balkan languages, the genitive and dative cases (or corresponding prepositional constructions) undergo syncretism.

Example:

Language Dative Genitive
English I gave the book to Maria. It is Maria's book.
Albanian Librin i'a (ja) dhashë Marisë. Libri është i Marisë.
Aromanian U-ded vivliapi Maria. Easte vivlia aliMarie.
Bulgarian Дадох книгата на Мария
[dadoh knigata na Marija]
Книгата е на Мария
[knigata e na Marija]
Romanian I-am dat cartea Mariei.
colloq. for fem. (oblig. for masc.):
I-am dat cartea lui Marian.
Este cartea Mariei.
colloq. for fem. (oblig. for masc.):
Este cartea lui Marian.
Macedonian Ѝ ја дадов книгата на Марија.
[ì ja dadov knigata na Marija]
Книгата е на Марија.
[knigata e na Marija]

Greek

Έδωσα το βιβλίο στην Μαρία.
[édōsa to biblío stīn María]
     or
Έδωσα το βιβλίο της Μαρίας.
[édōsa to biblío tīs Marías]
Είναι το βιβλίο της Μαρίας.
[eínai to biblío tīs Marías]
Της το έδωσα
[tīs to édōsa]
'I gave it to her.'
Είναι το βιβλίο της.
[eínai to biblío tīs]
'It is her book.'
Syncretism of locative and directional expressions
language "in Greece" "into Greece"
Albanian në Greqi në Greqi
Aromania tu Gãrtsia tu Gãrtsia
Bulgarian в Гърция (v Gărcija) в Гърция (v Gărcija)
Greek στην Ελλάδα (stīn Helláda) στην Ελλάδα (stīn Helláda)
Macedonian Во Грција (vo Grcija) Во Грција (vo Grcija)
Romanian în Grecia în Grecia

Verb tenses

Future tense

The future tense is formed in an analytic way using an auxiliary verb or particle with the meaning "will, want", referred to as de-volitive, similar to the way the future is formed in English. This feature is present to varying degrees in each language. Decategoralization is less advanced in Romanian voi and in Serbian ću, ćeš, će, where the future marker is still an inflected auxiliary. In Modern Greek, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian, decategoralization and erosion have given rise to an uninflected tense form, where the frozen 3rd person singular of the verb has turned into an invariable particle followed by the main verb inflected for person.[8]

Language Variant Formation Example: "I'll see"
Albanian Tosk "do" (invariant) + subjunctive Do të shikoj
Gheg "kam" (conjugated) + me + verbal noun Kam me shikue
Aromanian "va" (invariant) + subjunctive Va s-ved
Greek "θα" (invariant) + subjunctive Θα δω / βλέπω (tha dō / blépō); "I'll see / be seeing"
Bulgarian "ще" (invariant) + present tense Ще видя (shte vidya)
Macedonian "ќе" (invariant) + present tense Ќе видам (kje vidam)
Serbian (literary standard) "хтети/hteti" (conjugated) + infinitive Ја ћу видети (видећу) (ja ću videti [videću])
(colloquial) "хтети/hteti" (conjugated) + subjunctive Ја ћу да видим (ja ću da vidim)
Romanian (literary standard) "a voi" (conjugated) + infinitive Voi vedea/vedeare
(colloquial) "o" (invariant) + subjunctive O să văd
(colloquial alternate) "a avea" (conjugated) + subjunctive Am să văd
(archaic) "va" (invariant) + subjunctive Va să văd
Romani (Erli) "ka" (invariant) + subjunctive Ka dikhav
Analytic perfect tense

The analytic perfect tense is formed in the Balkan languages with the verb "to have". The origin of this language feature could be Latin. However, this does not apply to Slavic languages (examples in Bulgarian and Serbian) where the analytic perfect is formed with the verb "to be" and the past active participle: обещал - "who has promised" (past active participle); съм (Bul.); сам (Ser.) - "I am"; обещал съм; обећао сам (Ser.) - "I have promised" (lit. "I am one who has promised"), perfect tense. Constructions using the verb to have are characteristic of Macedonian language (Имам ветено./Imam veteno. = I have promised.).

Avoidance of infinitive

The use of the infinitive (common in other languages related to some of the Balkan languages, such as Romance and Slavic) is generally replaced with subjunctive constructions, following early Greek innovation.

  • in Bulgarian, Macedonian and Tosk Albanian, the loss of the infinitive is complete
  • in demotic Greek, the loss of the infinitive was complete, whereas in literary Greek it was not; the natural fusion of the demotic (vernacular) form with the literary (archaic) one resulted in the creation of the contemporary common Greek (Koine Neohellenic), where the infinitive, when used, is principally used as noun (e.g. λέγειν "speaking, fluency, eloquence", γράφειν "writing", είναι "being", etc.) deriving directly from the ancient Greek infinitive formation. But its substitution by the subjunctive form when the infinitive would be used as a verb is complete. Most of the times, the subjunctive form substitutes the infinitive also in the cases when it would be used as a noon (e.g. το να πας/το να πάει κανείς "to go, the act of going", το να δεις/βλέπεις "to see/be seeing, the act of seeing" instead of the infinitive "βλέπειν", etc.)
  • in Aromanian and Southern Serbian dialects, it is almost complete
  • in Gheg Albanian and Megleno-Romanian, it is used only in a limited number of expressions
  • in standard Romanian and Serbian, the infinitive shares many of its functions with the subjunctive. In these two languages, the infinitive will always be found in dictionaries and language textbooks. In Romanian, the long infinitives, which are identical to the Italian ones (-are, -ere, and -ire) can also be used in both formal and informal conversation.
  • Turkish as spoken in Sliven and Šumen has also almost completely lost the infinitive, clearly due to the influence of the Balkan Sprachbund.

For example, "I want to write" in several Balkan languages:

Language Example Notes
Albanian "Dua të shkruaj" as opposed to Gheg me fjet "to sleep" or me hangër "to eat"
Aromanian "Voi sã-ngrapsescu"
Macedonian "Сакам да пишувам"
Bulgarian "Искам да пиша"
Modern Greek "Θέλω να γράψω" as opposed to Ancient Greek "βούλομαι γράψαι"
Romanian "Vreau să scriu" as opposed to "Vreau a scrie/scriere", which is also correct, but rarely used.
Serbian "Želim da pišem"/"Желим да пишем as opposed to the literary, more correct form: "Želim pisati"/"Желим пиcaти, where pisati/пиcaти is the infinitive. Both phrases are correct and do not create misunderstandings, although the colloquial one is more commonly used in daily conversation.
Bulgarian Turkish "isterim yazayım" In Standard Turkish in Turkey this is "yazmak istiyorum" where "yazmak" is the infinitive.

But here is an example of a relict form, preserved in Bulgarian:

Language Without infinitive With relict "infinitive" Translation Notes
Bulgarian "Недей да пишеш." "Недей писа." Don't write. The first part of the first three examples is the prohibitative element недей ("don't", composed of не, "not", and дей, "do" in the imperative). The second part of the examples, писа, я, зна and да, are relicts of what used to be an infinitive form (писати, ясти, знати and дати respectively). This second syntactic construction is colloquial and more common in the eastern dialects. The forms usually coincide with the past aorist tense of the verb in the third person singular, as in the case of писа; those that don't coincide (as in the last three examples) are highly unusual today, but do occur, above all in older literature.
"Недей да ядеш." "Недей я." Don't eat.
"Недей да знаеш." "Недей зна." Don't know.
"Можете ли да ми дадете?" "Можете ли ми да?" Can you give me?

Bare subjunctive constructions

Sentences which include only a subjunctive construction can be used to express a wish, a mild command, an intention or a suggestion.

This example translates in the Balkan languages the phrase "You should go!", using the subjunctive constructions.

Language Example Notes
Macedonian Да си одиш!
Bulgarian Да си ходиш!
Serbian Да идеш!
Albanian Të shkosh!
Modern Greek Να πας!
Romany (Gypsy) Te dža!
Romanian Să te duci! in Romanian, the "a se duce" (to go) requires a reflexive construction, literally "take yourself (to)"
Megleno-Romanian S-ti duţ!
Aromanian S-ti duts!

Morphology

Postposed article

With the exception of Greek and Romani, all languages in the union have their definite article attached to the end of the noun, instead of before it. None of the related languages (like other Romance languages or Slavic languages) shares this feature and it is thought to be either an innovation or Albanian borrowing spread in the Balkans.

However, each language created its own internal articles, so the Romanian articles are related to the articles (and demonstrative pronouns) in Italian, French, etc., while the Bulgarian articles are related to demonstrative pronouns in other Slavic languages.

Language Feminine Masculine
without

article

with

article

without

article

with

article

English woman the woman man the man
Albanian shtëpi shtëpia qiell qielli
Aromanian muljare muljarea bãrbat bãrbatlu
Bulgarian жена жената мъж мъжът
Macedonian жена жената маж мажот
Romanian femeie

muiere

femeia

muierea

bărbat bărbatul
Serbian Torlak жена жената муж мужът
Number formation

The Slavic way of composing the numbers between 10 and 20, e.g. "one + on + ten" for eleven, called superessive, is widespread.
Greek does not follow this.

Language The word "Eleven" compounds
Albanian "njëmbëdhjetë" një + mbë + dhjetë
Aromanian "unãsprã" unã + sprã
Bulgarian "единадесет" един + (н)а(д) + десет
Macedonian "единаесет" еде(и)н + (н)а(д) + (д)есет
Romanian "unsprezece" or, more commonly, "unşpe" un + spre + zece < *unu + supre + dece; unu + spre; the latter is more commonly used, even in formal speech.
Serbian "jedanaest/једанаест" jedan+ (n)a+ (d)es(e)t/један + (н)а + (д)ес(е)т
Clitic pronouns

Direct and indirect objects are cross-referenced, or doubled, in the verb phrase by a clitic (weak) pronoun, agreeing with the object in gender, number, and case or case function. This can be found in Romanian, Greek, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian. In Albanian and Macedonian, this feature shows fully grammaticalized structures and is obligatory with indirect objects and to some extent with definite direct objects; in Bulgarian, however, it is optional and therefore based on discourse. In Greek, the construction contrasts with the clitic-less construction and marks the cross-referenced object as a topic. Southwest Macedonia appears to be the location of innovation.

For example, "I see George" in Balkan languages:

Language Example
Albanian "E shikoj Gjergjin"
Aromanian "U- ved Yioryi"
Bulgarian "Виждам го Георги." (colloquial form; see note)
Macedonian "Гo гледам Ѓорѓи."
Greek "Τον βλέπω τον Γιώργο"
Romanian "Îl văd pe Gheorghe."

Note: The neutral case in normal (SVO) word order is without a clitic: "Виждам Георги." However, the form with an additional clitic pronoun is also possible in colloquial speech: "Виждам го Георги." And the clitic is obligatory in the case of a topicalized object (with OVS-word order), which serves also as the common colloquial equivalent of a passive construction. "Георги го виждам."

Adjectives

The replacement of synthetic adjectival comparative forms with analytic ones by means of preposed markers is common. These markers are:

  • Bulgarian and Macedonian: по-
  • Albanian:
  • Romanian: mai
  • Modern Greek: πιο (pió); though Greek has retained some of the earlier synthetic forms.
  • Aromanian: (ca)ma
Suffixes

Also, some common suffixes can be found in the linguistic area, such as the diminutive suffix of the Slavic languages (Srb. Bul. Mac.) "-ovo" "-ica" that can be found in Albanian, Greek and Romanian.

Vocabulary

Loan words

Several hundred words are common to the Balkan union languages; the origin of most of them is either Greek or Turkish, as the Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire directly controlled the territory throughout most of its history, strongly influencing its culture and economics.

Albanian, Aromanian, Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Serbian and Macedonian also share a large number of words of various origins:

Source Source word Meaning Albanian Aromanian Bulgarian Greek Romanian Macedonian Serbian Turkish
Latin mensa table menca (tavolinë) masã маса (masa) - masă маса (masa) маса (col.) masa
Thracian rompea spear rrufë roféja - ρομφαία (rhomphaía) - стрела (strela) - -
Byzantine Greek λιβάδιον (libádion) meadow livadh livadã ливада (livada) λιβάδι livadă ливада (livada) livada
ливада (livada)
-
Byzantine Greek διδάσκαλος (didáskalos) teacher mësues dascal даскал (daskal) (colloquial) δάσκαλος dascăl даскал (daskal) (colloquial) даскал (daskal) (colloquial) -
Byzantine Greek κουτίον (koutíon) box kuti cutii кутия (kutiya) κουτί cutie кутија (kutija) kutija
кутија (kutija)
kutu
Turkish boya paint, color bojë (but also ngjyrë) boi боя (boya) μπογιά (boyá) boia боја (boja) boja
боја (boja)
boya

Calques

Apart from the direct loans, there are also many calques that were passed from one Balkan languages to another, most of them between Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Greek, Aromanian and Romanian.

For example, the word "ripen" (as in fruit) is constructed in Albanian, Romanian and (rarely) in Greek (piqem, a (se) coace, ψήνομαι), in Turkish pişmek by a derivation from the word "to bake" (pjek, a coace, ψήνω).[10]

Another example is the wish "(∅/to/for) many years":

Language Expression Transliteration
Greek (medieval) εις έτη πολλά is eti polla
(modern) χρόνια πολλά khronia polla
Latin ad multos annos
Aromanian ti multsã-anj
Romanian la mulţi ani
Albanian për shumë vjet
Bulgarian за много години za mnogo godini
Macedonian за многу години za mnogu godini
Serbian за многo годинa za mnogo godina

Idiomatic expressions for "whether one or not" are formed as "-not-".[11]

Language expression meaning
Bulgarian ще - не ще "whether one wants or not"
Greek θέλει δε θέλει "whether one wants or not"
Romanian vrea nu vrea "whether one wants or not"
Turkish ister istemez "whether one wants or not"
Serbian Hteo- ne hteo/хтео - не хтео "whether one wants or not"
Albanian deshti - nuk deshti "whether one wants or not"
Macedonian сакал - не сакал / нејќел "whether one wants or not"
Aromanian i vrei - i nu vrei "whether one wants or not"

Phonetics

The main phonological features consist of:

  • the presence of an unrounded central vowel, either a mid-central schwa /ə/ or a high central vowel phoneme
    • ë in Albanian; ъ in Bulgarian; ă in Romanian; ã in Aromanian
    • In Romanian and Albanian, the schwa is obtained via centralizing unstressed /a/
      • Example: Latin camisia "shirt" > Romanian cămaşă /kə.ma.ʃə/, Albanian këmishë /kə.mi.ʃə/)
    • The schwa phoneme occurs in some dialects of the Macedonian language, even in some cases in the western-central dialects, on which the standard is based (сл`нце, к`лбас, к`смет etc.)
  • some kind of vowel harmony in stressed syllables with differing patterns depending on the language.
    • Romanian: a mid-back vowel ends in a low glide before a nonhigh vowel in the following syllable
    • Albanian and Bulgarian: back vowels are fronted before i in the following syllable.

This feature also occurs in Greek, but it is lacking in some of the other Balkan languages; the central vowel is found in Romanian, Bulgarian, some dialects of Albanian, and Serbian, but not in Greek or Standard Macedonian.

Less widespread features are confined largely to either Romanian or Albanian, or both:

  • frequent loss of l before i in Romanian and some Romani dialects
  • the alternation between n and r in Albanian and Romanian.
  • change from l to r in Romanian, Greek and very rarely in Bulgarian and Albanian.
  • the raising of o to u in unstressed syllables in Bulgarian, Romanian and Northern Greek dialects.
  • change from ea to e before i in Bulgarian and Romanian.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Kopitar, Jernej K. (1829). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Albanische, walachische und bulgarische Sprache"]. Jahrbücher der Literatur (Wien) 46: 59–106. ISBN 3-89131-038-2. 
  2. ^ Schleicher, August (1850). Die Sprachen Europas. 
  3. ^ Miklosich, F. (1861). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Die slavischen Elemente im Rumunischen"]. Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse 12: 1–70. 
  4. ^ Trubetzkoj, N.S.. [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Vavilonskaja bašnja i smešenie jazykov"]. Evrazijskij vremennik 3: 107–24. 
  5. ^ K. Sandfeld, Linguistique balkanique, 1930 (first published in Danish in 1926),
  6. ^ Weigand, Gustav (1925). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Vorwort, zugleich Programm des Balkan-Archivs"]. Balkan-Archiv. 1: V–XV. 
  7. ^ Chase Faucheux, Language Classification and Manipulation in Romania and Moldova, M.A. thesis, Louisiana State University, 2006 quoting André Du Nay, The Origins of the Rumanians: The Early History of the Rumanian Language, 1996.
  8. ^ a b Lindstedt, J. (2000). "Linguistic Balkanization: Contact-induced change by mutual reinforcement". In D. G. Gilbers & al. (eds.). Languages in Contact ((Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics, 28.) ed.). Amsterdam & Atlanta, GA, 2000: Rodopi. pp. 231–246. ISBN 90-420-1322-2. 
  9. ^ http://www.fwf.ac.at/en/public_relations/press/pv200805-en.html
  10. ^ In Greek, usually in the mediopassive voice, and applicable not only to fruits but other natural products: Babiniotis, Λεξικό της νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας (1998), gives the example "φέτος ψήθηκαν νωρίς τα καλαμπόκια".
  11. ^ Winford, Donald (2003). An Introduction to Contact Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-21251-5. 

References


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