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The Influence of Language Contact on Morphonology – Some South Slavonic Examples

Jens-Eberhard Jahn (Meinung und Trend - Sächsisches Zentrum für angewandte Sozialwissenschaften)

There is no doubt that language contact has evident consequences in lexis, semantics and syntax. However, it seems only rarely to affect the morphem itself. In my contribution to the conference I will present the most important morphonological alternations of Slovene and Čakavian. Common features can partly be attributed to common conservations, partly to common new developments. But there is a third group of features showing a seperate development influenced by language contact with Romance varieties.

One example in question are some apparent čakavisms in the south of the Slovenian area, which are probably caused by contact with Romance speakers, rather than with Čakavian speakers. An other example is the loss of intervocalic “l” both in Slavonic and Romance varieties along the Istrian coast. Together with a parallel change in Venetian, this development can be seen as a result of “language mix”: Forms like “san bija” [Sl: “I have been”] and “son divertia” [Rom: “I have had fun”] underline morphological common features. In a contact situation they stabilize each other. Phonetic changes have caused morphonological developments through morphological changes. Parallel developments can be seen at the Serbian-Roumanian linguistic border.

The development of morphonological alternation can provide – to some extent – a non-superficial way to measure the intensity of language contact. There might even be consequences for the classification of language varieties.