Areal feature

In linguistics, an areal feature is shared by languages within the same geographical area as a consequence of diffusion.


Resemblances between two or more languages (whether in typology or in vocabulary) can be due to genetic relation (descent from a common ancestor language), to borrowing between languages, to retention of features when a population adopts a new language, or simply to chance. When little or no direct documentation of ancestor languages is available, determining whether a similarity is genetic or areal can be difficult. Edward Sapir notably used evidence of contact and diffusion as a negative tool for genetic reconstruction, treating it as a subject in its own right only at the end of his career (e.g., for the influence of Tibetan on Tocharian).[1]

Genetic relationships are represented in the family tree model of language change, and areal relationships are represented in the wave model. Labov in 2007 reconciled these models in a general framework based on differences between children and adults in their language learning ability. Adults do not preserve structural features with sufficient regularity to establish a norm in their community, but children do. Linguistic features are diffused across an area by contacts among adults. Languages branch into dialects and thence into related languages through small changes in the course of children's learning processes which accumulate over generations, and when speech communities do not communicate (frequently) with each other, these cumulative changes diverge.[2] Diffusion of areal features for the most part hinges on low-level phonetic shifts, whereas tree-model transmission includes in addition structural factors such as "grammatical conditioning, word boundaries, and the systemic relations that drive chain shifting".[3]

In some areas with high linguistic diversity, a number of areal features have spread across a set of languages to form a sprachbund (also known as a linguistic area, convergence area or diffusion area). Some examples are the Balkan sprachbund, the Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area, and the languages of the Indian subcontinent.


See also


  1. Drechsel, Emanuel J. (1988). "Wilhelm von Humboldt and Edward Sapir: analogies and homologies in their linguistic thoughts", in Shipley, William (ed.) (December 1988). In Honor of Mary Haas: From the Haas Festival Conference on Native American Linguistics. the Hague: de Gruyter Mouton. p. 826. ISBN 978-3-11-011165-1. p. 254.
  2. Labov, William (2007). "Transmission and diffusion" (PDF). Language. Baltimore: LSA. 83: 344–387. doi:10.1353/lan.2007.0082. Retrieved 18 Aug 2010.
  3. Labov 2007:6.
  4. Winfred Philipp Lehmann, Historical Linguistics: An Introduction, Routledge, 1992, p. 170
  5. Berger, H. Die Burushaski-Sprache von Hunza und Nagar. Vols. I-III. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 1988
  6. Tikkanen (2005)
  7. G. Morgenstierne, Irano-Dardica. Wiesbaden 1973
  8. The Munda Languages. Edited by Gregory D. S. Anderson. London and New York: Routledge (Routledge Language Family Series), 2008. ISBN 978-0-415-32890-6


This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/17/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.