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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Areal Convergence in Eastern Central European Languages and Beyond

Workshop Humboldt University in Berlin | Wed, 27th – Friday, 29nd September 2017

CENTRAL-Project 2017 Cluster-12
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Invited speakers:
Jerzy Gaszewski (Wroclaw)
Thomas Stolz (Bremen)
František Martínek (Prague)
Tamás Tölgyesi (Vienna)


Languages of Eastern Central Europe show many remarkable similarities. Not only do they use a considerable amount of common vocabulary, which is certainly due to the transfer of loanwords during a long period of cultural contact. But, perhaps less obviously, they also share several interesting and distinct grammatical features. For example, they distinguish long and short vowels, have by and large a fixed position for word accent, form participial passives and a periphrastic future tense, possess or develop a resultative with the auxiliary "have" rather than "be", possess or develop a prenominal definite article etc. Common properties like these have sometimes been noted in the literature, but their historical development, their exact regional distribution and, most importantly, the details of their actual current usage, still await documentation and analysis. The mere fact of grammatical convergence among these languages is stunning and unexpected, given that they belong to rather remotely related branches of Indo-European (Germanic vs. Slavic) or even to completely unrelated language families (Indo-European vs. Finno-Ugric). The central reason must be linguistic borrowing, based on intense and complex cultural contact in bi- or multilingual societies. Compared to other instances of areal convergence (like, e.g., the Balkan or the Circumbaltic Sprachbund), Eastern Central Europe has appeared on the agenda of language typologists relatively recently (cf. Haspelmath 2001) and is still clearly under-researched. The project aims at creating a forum for research of language contact and areal convergence in Eastern Central Europe, across the borders of languages and disciplines. Its goal is to foster areal and comparative view in contemporary linguistics. The workshop aims at bringing together researchers interested in language contact and areal linguistics with a special focus on the Eastern Central European region (but not restricted to it).