ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

19 – Beyond “linguistic areas” – Recent advances in the study of language contact in South Asia

Work on South Asia as a “language area” or “Sprachbund” dates back at least to Bloch (1934) but it was not until Emeneau (1956) that it reached a larger linguistic audience. Since then, an extensive literature on this topic has appeared, with different suggestions as to which features should be compared throughout the subcontinent and how to define these.

Convenors

John Peterson - Kiel University, Linguistics and Phonetics (ISFAS), Kiel, Germany
Krzysztof Stronski - Adam Mickiewicz University, South Asian Studies, Poznan, Poland

Long Abstract

Work on South Asia as a “language area” or “Sprachbund” dates back at least to Bloch (1934) but it was not until Emeneau (1956) that it reached a larger linguistic audience. Since then, an extensive literature on this topic has appeared, with different suggestions as to which features should be compared throughout the subcontinent and how to define these. However, recent work on language contact is increasingly calling the usefulness of the notion of a “language area” into question, and most studies following Masica’s (1976) landmark work increasingly focus on so-called “micro-areas” of language contact rather than on South Asia as a whole. A general consensus which appears to be emerging is that most of these micro-regions overlap with neighboring micro-regions, so that one region gradually merges into neighboring ones, supporting what Campbell (2017) refers to as a “trait-sprawl area” or “TSA”.

In the past three decades developments in typology have increasingly taken a diachronic direction, and this structural diachronic approach and associated methods are now also being applied to historical aspects of South Asian languages, e.g. Peterson (2017), Stroński and Verbeke (2020), Ivani et al. (2021), Liljegren (2021) and Borin et al. (2021), while other studies such as Peterson (2022) work within the sociolinguistic-typological framework (e.g. Trudgill, 2011) to determine prehistoric settlement patterns.

The purpose of this panel is to foster work on language contact in South Asia by bringing researchers from all theoretical and practical approaches together to discuss their most recent work in this field, creating a forum for the exchange of ideas, methods and results among interested scholars, ranging from traditional historical linguistics and dialectology to computer-based statistical models. Work on all regions of the subcontinent is welcome, as is original documentational work, historically oriented studies, etc.