LSASL 45: Main Language Shifts in the Uralic languages

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Main Language Shifts in the Uralic languages

Ago Künnap
University of Tartu

The aim of this book is to address the issue of some main language shifts in the group of Uralic languages. The motive for supposing the language shifts is based on the newest research results in population genetics. Thus Lapp (Saami) languages have long been supposed to have developed in the manner that the Lapps' ancestors shifted from their earlier language to a Finno-Ugric language form. The author believes that earlier the Lapps spoke some kind of an unfamiliar language or a Finno-Ugric language form that they changed for a Finnic language form.
The data of population genetics make one suppose that the development of Samoyed and Ugric languages took the same course and that the Samoyeds' and Ugrians' ancestors shifted from their ancient, probably a Paleosiberian language form to a Finno-Ugric language form. At this the linguistic data seem to indicate that the Samoyeds obtained a Finnic(-Lapp) language form. A peculiarity of Mordvin languages "in word stock they are close to Finnic languages, in grammar to Ugric and Samoyed languages" makes one also suppose a language shift.
The introductory chapter I of this book addresses the question of the historical development of groups of languages by way of convergence and divergence, gives a short overview of the nature of the innovative treatment of Uralistics as well as the author's aspirations to distinguish between the actual factology of Uralic languages and mythical perceptions emerged in Uralistics. Chapter II is dedicated to mainly three language shifts in the Uralic language group: Samoyed, Lapp and Ugric along with Mordvin. Chapter III is meant to set a background for the language shifts under observation by means of several more recent investigated concrete lexical and morphosyntactical treatments. As related to it, the author observes the substratum toponymic matter of North Russia which is unquestionably partly of the Finnic type and which testifies to the existence of onetime spoken languages of that type considerably farther in the east than the present-day Finnic linguistic area reaches (supposedly the Samoyeds' shift to a Finnic language form took place somewhere in the east).
The linguistic area of the use of the accusative and genitive direct objects as well as the initial component n of personal suffixes in the Uralic language group also speaks for the shift from Samoyed former language(s) to a Finnic language form. In Chapter IV an example of evidentiality in the Uralic language group is given, illustrated by the Samoyed Enets: there is nothing specifically intrinsic to Uralic languages in it.
The book ends with a Conclusions, an appendix with Figures and a References.

ISBN 9783895864544. LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 45. 66pp. 2002.

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