Dr. Sven Grawunder

Gast des GRK im Jahr 2010

Glottalization in the languages of the Caucasus and Transcausus

Towards model of frequency and gradience of a feature in language contact situations


Although grounded in areal typology this project looks at the relation of frequency of occurrence and areal distribution of (phonetic) features, specifically in the languages of the Caucasus. On the one hand, the project aims to explain the motivation for sound change within a defined geographical area, focussing on phenomena which are relatively easy to describe, e.g. the glottalization of obstruent consonants, i.e. glottalic stops or ejectives. On the other hand, the Caucasus and the surrounding region is an area of historical multilingual contact of languages of at least six different families, including Kartvelian, Nakh-Daghestanian, Adyghe-Abkhaz, Semitic, Altaic and two Indo-European genera. In so far this project is also fed by theories about language contact (e.g. Thomason, 2001) and dialectology (e.g. Labov, 2001). Stilo (2006) has described a transitional zone in the Transcaucasus involving a number of morpho-syntactic, phonological and lexical features in his Atlas of the Araxes Area. In the present project, as in the approaches of Stilo (1994; 2004; 2006) and Fallon (2001), though diachronic relations will not be neglected, the primary focus will be on the description of the individual varieties and areal distribution in synchronic terms.

The core questions of this study are: A) Can a sound change be insightfully described in terms of a continuous gradation of phonetic-phonological features on a sub-phonemic (phonetic) level? B) Can an areal distribution of markedness of a feature be described in terms of frequency of occurrence? C) How can the geographical diffusion of specific (phonetic) parameters over an area of genetically different languages be described and modeled? and D) How does the person-to-person transfer of phonological knowledge proceed in a multilingual contact situation, in terms of both production-related and perception-related interference? The project will accordingly be subdivided into four parts: 1) areal typology of particular features, 2) parameter-based analysis of (sound) production, 3) analysis of perception, and 4) modeling of sound variation and distribution on three different levels: the micro-details of the sound change in one individual, the transfer of the change between two individuals, and the spread over the speech community as a whole.

SprachenSouth Caucasian (Georgian, Svan), Northest Caucasian (Tsez, Bezhta, Avar), Turkic (Kumyk) , Indoeuropean (Armenian, Ossetian)
Forschungsrichtunglanguage contact, areal typology, dialectology, phonetics, phonology
Schlüsselbegriffemodeling language contact