Balkan sprachbund

Balkan sprachbund

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.


The earliest scholar to notice the similarities between Balkan languages belonging to different families was the Slovenian scholar Jernej Kopitar in 1829.cite journal | last = Kopitar | first = Jernej K. | year = 1829 | title = Albanische, walachische und bulgarische Sprache | journal = Jahrbücher der Literatur (Wien) | volume = 46 | pages = 59–106 | id = ISBN 3-89131-038-2 ] August Schleicher (1850)cite book | last = Schleicher | first = August | title = Die Sprachen Europas | year = 1850] more explicitly developed the concept of areal relationships as opposed to genetic ones, and Franc Miklošič (1861)cite journal | last=Miklosich | first = F. | year = 1861 |title = Die slavischen Elemente im Rumunischen | journal = Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse| volume= 12 | pages = 1–70] studied the relationships of Balkan Slavic and Romance more extensively.

Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1923),cite journal | last = Trubetzkoj | first = N.S. | title= Vavilonskaja bašnja i smešenie jazykov | journal = Evrazijskij vremennik | volume = 3 | pages= 107–24] Kristian Sandfeld-Jensen (1930), [K. Sandfeld, "Linguistique balkanique", 1930 (first published in Danish in 1926),] and Gustav WeigandFact|date=February 2007 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”. [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.]

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.


The languages that share these similarities belong to five distinct branches of the Indo-European languages:
* Albanian
* Greek
* Indo-Aryan (Arli Romany/Gypsy)
* Romance languages (Romanian, Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian and Istro-Romanian)
* Slavic languages (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian — especially the Torlakian dialect which is transitional between Macedonian, Bulgarian and Serbian)

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

# Albanian, Romanian, Macedonian, Aromanian and Bulgarian have the most properties in common
# Serbian language (especially transitional Torlak dialect) and Greek share with the others a lower number of properties
# 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.cite book | last = Lindstedt | first = J. | year = 2000 | chapter = Linguistic Balkanization: Contact-induced change by mutual reinforcement | pages = 231–246 | editor = D. G. Gilbers & al. (eds.) | title = Languages in Contact | location = Amsterdam & Atlanta, GA, 2000 | publisher = Rodopi | edition = (Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics, 28.) | id = ISBN 90-420-1322-2 ] The results were:

(* "Grčka in the Nominative case")

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 and originating with Greek innovation around the 1st century AD. 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.]

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.

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:

Idiomatic expressions for "whether one or not" are formed as "-not-".cite book | last = Winford | first = Donald | year = 2003 | title = An Introduction to Contact Linguistics | publisher = Blackwell Publishing | id = ISBN 0-631-21251-5 ]


The main phonological features consist of:
*the presence of an unrounded central vowel, either a mid-central schwa IPA|/ə/ or a high central vowel phoneme
**"ë" in Albanian; "ъ" in Bulgarian; "ă" in Romanian; "`" in Macedonian; "ã" in Aromanian
**In Romanian and Albanian, the schwa is obtained via centralizing unstressed IPA|/a/
***Example: Latin "camisia" "shirt" > Romanian "cămaşă" IPA|/kə.ma.ʃə/, Albanian "këmishë" IPA|/kə.mi.ʃə/)
**The schwa phoneme occurs in most 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, Macedonian 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 Albanian, Romanian, and some Romani dialects
*the alternation between "n" and "r" in Albanian and Romanian
*change from "l" to "r" in Romanian, Greek, Albanian, and very rarely in Bulgarian
*the raising of "o" to "u" in unstressed syllables in Bulgarian, Romanian, Albanian and Northern Greek dialects.
*change from "ea" to "e" before "i" in Bulgarian and Romanian.

ee also

* Paleo-Balkan languages
* Balkan languages
* Greek grammar
* Bulgarian grammar
* Macedonian grammar



* cite encyclopedia | last = Batzarov | first = Zdravko | url = | title = Balkan Linguistic Union | encyclopedia = Encyclopædia Orbis Latini
* cite web | last = Du Nay | first = André | year = 1977 | url = | title = The Origins of the Rumanians: Balkan Linguistic Union
* Victor A. Friedman, "After 170 years of Balkan Linguistics: Whither the Millennium?", "Mediterranean Language Review" 12:1-15, 2000. [ PDF] -- an excellent survey article
* cite web | last = Grey Thomason | first = Sarah | year = 1999 | url = | title = Linguistic areas and language history | format = PDF
* cite web | last = Joseph | first = Brian D. | year = 1999 | url = | title = Romanian and the Balkans: Some Comparative Perspectives | format = PDF
* cite book | last = Rosetti | first = Alexandru | date = 1965–1969 | title = History of the Romanian language ("Istoria limbii române") | edition = 2 vols. | location = Bucharest
* cite book | last = Russu | first = Ion | year = 1967 | title = The Language of the Thraco-Dacians ("Limba Traco-Dacilor") | publisher = Editura Ştiinţifică | location = Bucharest
* cite book | last = Steinke, Klaus, Vraciu, Ariton | year = 1999 | title = Introducere în lingvistica balcanică ("An Introduction to Balkan Linguistics") | publisher = Editura Universităţii "Alexandru Ioan Cuza" | location = Iaşi
* Thomason, Sarah G. "Language Contact: An Introduction". Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2001, pp. 108-9.
* cite web | last = Tomić | first = Olga Mišeska | year = 2003 | url = | title = The Balkan Sprachbund properties: An introduction to Topics in Balkan Syntax and Semantics | format = PDF
* Andrej N. Sobolev (Ed.) Malyi dialektologiceskii atlas balkanskikh iazykov. Muenchen: Biblion Verlag, 2003-

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