RESUSCITATING ROMANSH.

John Tagliabue has a New York Times story about the attempt to revive Romansh:

Depending on whom you talk to in the steep, alpine enclaves of Graubünden, otherwise known as Grisons, the easternmost wedge of the country, there is either strong support or bitter resistance to Romansh, the local language. “When people talk about the death of Romansh,” said Elisabeth Maranta, who for the last 18 years has run a Romansh bookshop, Il Palantin, which sells books in Romansh and in German, “then I say that there are days when I only sell books in Romansh.”
Yet Ms. Maranta herself illustrates the fragility of Romansh. A native of Germany, she came to Chur 38 years ago with her husband, but does not speak Romansh herself, which is hardly a liability since virtually all Romansh speakers also speak German. While she is an ardent champion of Romansh, she can be bleak about its future. Asked why most of the books in Romansh she sells are poetry, she muses: “When a patient is dying, he writes only poetry.”
Romansh is the direct descendant of the Latin that was spoken in these mountain valleys at the height of the Roman empire, and shares the same Latin roots as French, Italian or Spanish. So isolated were the people who spoke it in their deep valleys that not one, but five, dialects grew up, though the differences are not substantial. …
Only a few decades ago, Romansh was looked upon as the patois of the poor country yokel; today it is experiencing a tenuous rebirth thanks to grass-roots revival programs and government support. Switzerland declared it an official language in 1996, though with limited status compared with the country’s other official languages — German, French and Italian — and now spends about $4 million a year to promote it.

The article does a good job describing the mixed reactions—basically, as you would expect, practicality vs. romanticism; I, of course, am a romantic in these matters. Incidentally, David, who sent me the story, said he’d been there and found the language “indecipherable aurally” though it wasn’t hard to read—it “sounds not at all like a Romance language.”

Comments

  1. Three points:
    1-Romansh was actually first recognized as one of Switzerland’s NATIONAL languages in 1938 (chiefly as a reaction against Italian territorial claims that were backed by the position that Romansh was merely an Italian dialect). Its recognition as one of four OFFICIAL languages (federally!) took place in 1996.
    2-Romansh may or may not stem directly from the Latin once spoken in Rhaetia: we simply do not know. It shares many isoglosses with French and Gallo-Italian and is a much more typical Romance language than (for example) Sardinian: hence it is at least possible that its spread to its present-day territory postdates the fall of the Roman Empire.
    3-I agree with David: the long-standing German(ic) influence upon Romansh has made it acoustically quite unlike a typical Romance language. I often get the impression that Romansh gives more than a hint of what that other germanicized Romance language, Old French, must have sounded like in the days of Charlemagne.

  2. marie-lucie says:

    Where can we listen to the language? I have seen it written but never heard it.

  3. marie-lucie: scroll to the end of this article.

  4. Amazing. It’s like Italian as spoken by the Swedish Chef.

  5. marie-lucie says:

    I found the article but could not start the playing.

  6. Lyrikline.org also has some poetry in Rhaeto-romanic with audio.

  7. michael farris says:
  8. It sounded to me like a mixed Swiss-German and Italian accent.

  9. “sounds not at all like a Romance language”: I’ve heard that said about Portugese. I concluded that the speaker had a rather narrow view of what Romance languages ought to sound like.

  10. Good point, dearieme. If you had no exposure to Romance languages, would you ever suppose, just by listening, that French and Italian are closely related?

  11. J.W. Brewer says:

    I was flipping channels in a hotel in Lucerne about a dozen years ago when I came across a program where the audio sounded somewhat like someone talking Italian w/ a thick German accent and got excited by the possibility it might be the Romansh channel. But alas, as dearieme might have anticipated, it was merely Portuguese. (Lots of Lusophone Gastarbeiter in Suíça / Svirza, apparently.)

  12. I often get the impression that Romansh gives more than a hint of what that other germanicized Romance language, Old French, must have sounded like in the days of Charlemagne.
    What a great comment! That sparks my imagination. (Of course, now I have the image of Charlemagne sounding like the Swedish Chef.)

  13. The overall speech rhythm sounds very West Germanic to me.

  14. Ben Zimmer said: marie-lucie: scroll to the end of this article.
    Just to be clear, only one of those sound bites is Romansch (the second, the one from Brugnasco in Graubunden). This may explain why some of the commentators think it sounds a lot like German – they might have been listening to the first clip, which is in fact Walser or Swiss German, similar to that spoken in Sudtirol in Italy. The third is I think Valais franco-provencal, and I have no clue what the fourth is, but it sure looks and sounds like Italian. To my untrained ear, Romansch sounds quite a lot like Italian, with a few Germanic fricatives thrown in.
    Really glad to see this post. I have been fascinated by Romansch and other Alpine minority languages literally since I was a little boy. I went to Lausanne for a month of French immersion when I was 15 and spent the whole time trying to find a Romansch speaker. My urbane, French-speaking hosts thought I was insane – it was like showing up in New York and expecting to see cowboys. The obsession mostly stems from being exposed to lots of ski racing. Many ski racers are from linguistically interesting corners of Europe; Swiss star Didier Defago is a Valois speaker, and the vast majority of good Italian racers, with the notable exception of Alberto Tomba, are German-speaking Tiroleans, such as current star downhillers Peter Fill and Christof Innerhofer.

  15. Whoops, the second clip is from Jura, not Valais. The fourth clip is from a Romansch-speaking area but I’m guessing it is actually Italian. Anyone know for sure?

  16. The fourth clip is Romansh. The second clip is Italian dialect (and sounds very Italian). The third is Swiss French.
    Lyrikline has very good examples if you want to get a feel for the (literary) Romansh language because you can read the text to go with the dialogue, and most of the poems have accompanying German and French translations.

  17. The fourth clip is Romansh. The second clip is Italian dialect (and sounds very Italian). The third is Swiss French.
    Lyrikline has very good examples if you want to get a feel for the (literary) Romansh language because you can read the text to go with the poem, and most of the poems have accompanying German and French translations.

  18. The fourth clip is Romansh. The second clip is Italian dialect (and sounds very Italian). The third is Swiss French.
    Lyrikline has very good examples if you want to get a feel for the (literary) Romansh language because you can read the text to go with the poem, and most of the poems have accompanying German and French translations.

  19. Oi. Excuse the triple post.

  20. michael farris says:

    consider

  21. michael farris says:

    yourself

  22. michael farrsi says:

    excused.
    Meanwhile, back at the topic, I guess it’s right, but Romansh just looks wrong to me and I keep mentally spelling it as Romansch or Rumansch (neither of which seems to be very common).

  23. Posted by: michael farrsi
    Are you the Persian-speaking avatar of michael farris?

  24. “It shares many isoglosses with French and Gallo-Italian and is a much more typical Romance language than (for example) Sardinian: hence it is at least possible that its spread to its present-day territory postdates the fall of the Roman Empire.”
    Is the Gallo part the key to that similarity and that difference? It could have spread during the Empire and come out with Gallic/Gaulish influences, unless it was only spoken by some lost garrison from Lazio.

  25. (Of course, now I have the image of Charlemagne sounding like the Swedish Chef.)
    So I’m now wondering how fast-changing English sounded to the French (and to hinterland speakers of English) in the decades following 1066. In my mind’s ear. Our English has long ago blended and harmonised its Germanic and French strands, but that can’t have happened without much chaotic wringing, and abundance of aural oddity.

  26. Jim: “Gallo-Italian” is pretty much a synonym of “Northern Italian”, and using it as a term does not imply that one believes a Celtic substratum played a major role in their history (I certainly don’t).
    Hat: now you’ve done it. I have this vision of a lost fragment of the CHANSON DE ROLAND being discovered:
    Si dist le rei Rolanz li bons cuens:
    ucirai jo Massile le porc/
    Si dist Carles Rolant le grant:
    sais jo que le feras, bork bork bork!
    Anyone need a translation?

  27. This were Orlando Curioso indeed, Istvienne.

  28. marie-lucie says:

    michael farris, thank you for the youtube links. I was surprised to see how many more there are! At first the language sounded totally unrecognizable, but after a while I picked up a few words.
    The following is an audio phrasebook in Rumantsch and English, which I listened to for a few minutes. It clearly shows that Rumantsch is indeed a Romance language, with some unusual sound-spelling correspondences:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtuhgjDOxUY&feature=related

  29. marie-lucie says:

    Jim: “Gallo” anything usually means French, not Gaulish. It refers to the country (Gallia in Latin), not the language. “Gallo-Romance” was the language spoken by the Romanized Gauls, who preserved very little of their original Gaulish language (mostly words dealing with rural topics, such as one for ‘mud’, or a few bird names). It was not what you could describe as a mixed language.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    I often get the impression that Romansh gives more than a hint of what that other germanicized Romance language, Old French, must have sounded like in the days of Charlemagne.
    Technically, the language of that time was not yet Old French, but still Gallo-Romance, a late local version of Latin. The very first attestation in writing on the territory of “Francia” is in the Serments de Strasbourg (Strasburg Oaths), which date from 843. A history of the period written in Latin incorporates verbatim transcriptions of the oaths taken by two grandsons of Charlemagne, and by their respective armies, in the linguistic ancestors of French and German respectively, thus providing linguists with their earliest documentation of the history of French and German.
    Wikipedia says that the Gallo-Romance text is written in Old Occitan, which at that time was also spoken in Northern France. I think that this is an incorrect interpretation: instead, French and Occitan have the same Gallo-Romance ancestor, but the speech of the Northern half of the country was much more considerably influenced by Frankish, since that is where the Frank population (which had by that time adopted the “romanice” of the natives) had settled. Occitan is still a much more typically Romance language than French in phonology and morphology.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    (gall-)
    In the Latin version of Wikipedia, the French language is called Lingua Francogallica or lingua Gallica recentior (the more recent “Gallic” language).

  32. “Jim: “Gallo” anything usually means French, not Gaulish. It refers to the country (Gallia in Latin), not the language. “Gallo-Romance” was the language spoken by the Romanized Gauls, who preserved very little of their original Gaulish language ”
    Thanks, M-L, and Etienne too.
    So presumbaly that language was descended from or a form of Vulgar Latin. Next question – what is the state of consenssu on how much and why why VL differs from Classical Latin? Is it that Classical was mostly artificial?
    And question after that – if VL reflects or is the real Latin, how different was it then from other Italo-Celtic languages? At what point did Italo-Celtic stop being a dialect continuum? So how much of a jump was it realy from Cisalpine Gaulish to VL anyway? Was it much different from Danes in Schleswig-Holstein learning patching over to German?

  33. Jim (and Marie-Lucie)-
    “Gallo-” today does indeed refer to France, but “Gallia” had a much broader meaning in Roman times, with (much of) Northern Italy being called “Gallia cisalpina”: hence the term “Gallo-Italian” to refer to the “dialect” of Northern Italy today.
    Confusingly, “Gallo-Romance” refers to the Romance dialects spoken in France: the LANGUE D’OIL, the LANGUE D’OC (a.k.a. Provencal or Occitan) and Franco-Provencal (sometimes called “Arpitan” today).
    Even more confusingly, however, Gallo-Romance is not a linguistic label. That is to say, the three varieties of “Gallo-Romance” do not (to my knowledge) share a single linguistic innovation separating them from neighboring non-”Gallo-Romance” varieties. So we shouldn’t say that Old French descends from Gallo-Romance.
    As for Vulgar versus Classical Latin: it is very clear that the former stems from the latter. While some types of Classical Latin literature (epic poetry, for example) exhibited artifical features, by and large Classical Latin was indeed a very real language.
    Finally, the alleged unity of “Italo-Celtic” (which I don’t believe in, not least because I don’t believe there ever existed a unified “Italic” either) had long ceased to be relevant. To a speaker of any Celtic language in the Roman Empire Latin (Vulgar or Classical) and Celtic were wholly separate languages.
    Hope the above helps.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne, I was simplifying somewhat in order to counteract the characterization of the Romance language of the Serments de Strasbourg as “Old Occitan”. At one time (19th century or perhaps earlier), some scholars thought that “Old Provençal” (= an ancient form of Occitan) was the ancestor of French, because the earliest documents look more like Occitan than like Modern French. An Occitan-speaking aunt of my mother insisted that she had read this in a book, and that therefore Occitan speakers were the true French. But this is because French has changed more than the various dialects of Occitan or of Spanish, Italian, etc, especially because French has lost most of the Latin medial consonants which are still largely recognizable (even though often weakened) in the other languages.
    So if the use of “Gallo-Romance” is too sweeping, since it could imply a presumably unified language, what would you suggest? “Gallo-Romance dialects”?

  35. “Gallo-Italian” is a cover term for all the dialects in Italy north of the La Spezia-Rimini Line, which divides (north-)Western Romance from (south-)Eastern, with lots and lots of isoglosses. In practice it tends to be applied only to the most French-like of them.
    Etienne:
    The evidence for Italo-Celtic, though not overwhelming in amount, is now very solid since the Ringe/Warnow studies of 2002-06, which used Classical Latin, Oscan, Umbrian, Old Irish, and modern Welsh. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough pre-Modern Welsh text to provide evidence for the 300-odd phonological, morphological, and lexical changes they investigated.
    The four characters that compel the recognition of an Italo-Celtic subgroup are:
    1) The change from *p…kw to *kw…kw. This cannot be original, because PIE doesn’t allow roots with two stops at the same place of articulation, except in onomatopoetic words.
    2) The partial replacement of the abstract noun suffix *-ti-, found in all other groups except Albanian (where the quality of the evidence is crappy across the board), with *-ti-Hen-.
    3) ‘lake’, which in Latin and Old Irish looks like *loku/lkew, but in Greek is *leymon-, similarly in Tocharian.
    4) *kan- ‘sing’ (vb.), compared to peyH- in Tocharian and Slavonic.
    The following two characters also support the Italo-Celtic grouping, but do not actually compel it, because it’s possible (though very unlikely) that they are shared primitive characters that once existed in other languages, conceivably even PIE itself, but were lost everywhere else.
    5) Thematic optative in .
    6) Superlative in *-ismmo-.
    Indeed, once you have peeled off the outliers of Anatolian and Tocharian, and dealt with the anomalous situation of Germanic (in essence, a satem language that has was thoroughly mugged by a centum one, probably Old Italic), the primary division among the remaining IE languages is between Italo-Celtic and all the rest.

  36. Marie-Lucie:
    I’d simply refrain from using “Gallo-Romance” as a linguistic label: “The Romance dialects of Gaul/France” is the best cover term. As for the Strasburg oaths: as a matter of fact, there are some good reasons to think that the language indeed IS Old Occitan (as opposed to Old French). (Of course, it may also have been some kind of KOINE which cannot be identified with any given group of Romance dialects).
    John Cowan: thanks for the reference. Still, even the stoutest defender of Italo-Celtic would agree that by the time Latin had begun expanding at the expense of Celtic the unity of Italo-Celtic had long been broken.

  37. marie-lucie says:

    I have taught an undergraduate course on the history of French several times – not in great depth of technical detail but emphasizing the link between socio-historical and linguistic developments. I start with Gaul in the Roman Empire: why did the Gauls become so thoroughly Romanized in speech in a relatively short time? Apart from the societal factors, looking at Gaulish in the available sources it seems to me that Gaulish was not so widely different from Latin that the Gauls would have major difficulties learning it (not like the Ionian Greeks learning Turkish, for instance). I would be glad to see the Ringe-Warnow evidence for Italo-Celtic. JC, do you know the full title, etc?
    Etienne: can you point me to a reference about the Old Occitan theory in the Serments? A koine-type version of Late Latin would seem more likely than actual (Old) Old Occitan, unless the troops of Charles le Chauve were originally from the South (but there the Frankish presence which influenced the development of French was not terribly strong). Again, the language of the Serments cannot be called “Old French” since that label is normally used for a much later version (the Chanson de Roland, one of the characteristic Old French texts, was written long after the time of Charlemagne).

  38. Marie-Lucie:
    I too have taught undergraduate courses on the history of Latin/Romance: while Gaulish certainly was similar to Latin, I suspect social and geographical factors were more important than linguistic ones: after all, Celtic survived in the British isles, whereas neither Iberian nor Etruscan (both rather unlike Latin) survived. More importantly, there is little about the later evolution of Latin in Gaul that suggests that any of the differences between Latin and Gaulish affected the Latin that came to replace Gaulish.
    I have no reference at hand on the Old Occitan origin of the Strasburg Oaths to give you (not least because my books/articles are all in boxes right now), but I do have one piece of evidence in support of this view (which is original with me, although I would not be surprised if some scholar had hit upon it earlier):
    In the Oaths we find fluctuation in spelling with the word for brother (spelled FRADRE, FRADRA) and the name “Charles” (spelled KARLA, KARLO). Now, we know that in Old French and Old Provencal (but not in Franco-Provencal, which keeps the final vowels of FRATRE(M) and CAROLU(M) distinct right down to the present) both words ended in schwa, and it has been argued that the fluctuation in spelling indicates that the same is true in the language of the Oaths: in the absence of a fixed spelling the scribe couldn’t decide which letter to use. So far so good?
    However, when it comes to words which in Old French also ended in schwa but which go back to Latin final -A, we find that the Oaths consistently represent these with the letter -A: COSA, AIUDHA, CADHUNA…significantly, this is true even of words (such as the last two) whose graphic form makes them too un-Latin-like for us to assume this -A could be a scribal latinism.
    Now, as it turns out, Old Provencal keeps this final -A as /a/ (subsequently changed to /o/ in most modern varieties) whereas the earliest Old French text (SEQUENCE DE SAINTE EULALIE), which was composed at about the same time as the oaths, shows a language which clearly had merged final Latin -A with schwa.
    Thus, of the three dialect groups in France (oil, oc, franco-provencal) the Oaths do appear to belong to the LANGUE D’OC. QED.
    (Bows) Thank you. I hope you enjoyed the above more than the fellow undergrads I inflicted this upon in my first Romance philology class, long ago in a classroom far away, some of whom stayed awake only with great effort…but I did get an A.

  39. While traveling in eastern Switzerland a few years ago I was given a copy of “Il Chalender Ladin, pvblicha tras L’vnivn dals Grischs”. It is the yearbook (in this case 2000) of the Romansh speaking community.
    I wrote “Romansh” above with trepidation, as the subtitle on the first page says: “Cudesch Per La Famiglia Rumantscha”.
    Underneath that is a crest, within which is printed “UNION DALS GRISCHS” and “RUMAUNTSCHS VULAINS RESTER”.
    It seems the spelling “Romantsch” or “Romansch” is more appropriate in English.
    I’ll be pleased to send a PDF of the cover, inside title page and a few interior pages to any LH reader who requests it.

  40. Marie-Lucie:
    For some reason the links I put in my previous comment disappeared; let’s hope they survive here. They were to the home page of the project, the specific paper I was paraphrasing. The proper citation for the latter is D. Ringe, Tandy Warnow, and A. Taylor, “Indo-European and Computational Cladistics.” Transactions of the Philological Society, 100(1):59-129, 2002. Italo-Celtic is discussed specifically on pp. 100-102 and p. 105.
    There is also a followup paper: L. Nakhleh, D. Ringe, and T. Warnow, “Perfect Phylogenetic Networks: A New Methodology for Reconstructing the Evolutionary History of Natural Languages.” LANGUAGE, Journal of the Linguistic Society of America, 81(2):382-420, 2005. This second paper shows on pp. 403-04 that we can generate a perfect Stammbaum for the IE families if we assume three cases of hitherto unsuspected lexical borrowing after the breakup: between Proto-Italic and proto-Germanic, between Proto-Baltic and proto-Germanic, and between proto-Italic and proto-Greco-Armenian. The direction of the borrowing is not detectable by the method.
    Lastly there is a graphical Stammbaum which is very nice and deserves to be propagated.
    Etienne:
    Certainly the breakup of Proto-Italo-Celtic long predates the conquest of Gaul, but the point about the easy and comprehensive shift from Gaulish to Latin on the Continent is a strong one, perhaps comparable to the fact that the countries conquered by Arab-speaking Muslims generally became Muslim, but went on to adopt Arabic as their spoken language only if they spoke an Afroasiatic language (even one from a different family, like Egyptian or Berber) already. Gaulish is a “normal” sort of IE language, as Latin and Primitive Irish (i.e. the Irish of the ogham inscriptions) are, and as (manuscript) Old Irish definitely is not; I doubt if the Irish would have shifted to Latin in a short time even if the Romans had conquered them, and the Irish-to-English shift took at least five centuries.
    Can we perhaps speak of “oil, oc, and arp”?

  41. Arrgh. Link to the second paper.

  42. John Cowan: since the Gaulish to Latin shift also took some five centuries or thereabouts, i.e. about as long as the shift from Irish to English, you seem to have unwittingly strengthened my original point: social and geographical factors are more important (in determining whether or not language shift will take place) than the similarity/dissimilarity of the languages in question.
    The spread of Arabic at the expense of Coptic isn’t much of an example either: considering how heavily hellenized Coptic was, and how different it had become from Arabic (nouns uninflected for case, gender and number, when Arabic inflects nouns for all three, for example), I don’t think the fact that both languages are Afroasiatic had much practical value to a speaker of Coptic learning Arabic.
    And looking a bit further North and East, the expansion of Turkic seems to belie any claim that typological similarities are required for shift to take place: Turkic languages expanded and replaced a number of languages (Greek, Iranian languages, Tocharian, various Yeniseic, North Caucasian and Uralic languages) which are typologically quite diverse, and all but the last of which are quite unlike Turkic.

  43. I don’t actually disagree with your points: social and cultural factors are of course much more important. But what do you think explains the non-spread of Arabic into non-Afroasiatic-speaking populations? I find it hard to believe it’s just chance.

  44. To John Cowan (hoping we haven’t scared other hatters away):
    First, I don’t wholly accept your premise: Arabic did expand at the expense of North African Romance.
    Second, I agree that the fact that Arabic *mostly* replaced related languages is unlikely to be coincidental. But it can be explained without appealing to the alleged similarity between Arabic and the languages it replaced (which is doubtful in the case of Coptic compared to Arabic, as I observed in my earlier post).
    Rather, the fertile crescent + Egypt + North Africa might simply be assumed to be a “spread zone” (in the sense of Johanna Nichols’ 1992 book), with the spread of Arabic simply mirroring earlier spreads by related languages. Similar such phenomena can be observed elsewhere: again, Johanna Nichols once observed that the expansion of Slavic was very similar to that of Indo-European, and indeed Slavic mostly replaced other Indo-European languages.
    In short, it’s no coincidence that individual languages more often than not spread at the expense of genetically related languages: but considering how limited the practical value of genetic relationship can be (English and German are Germanic, unlike French, but English speakers find German and French [roughly] equally difficult to learn), I don’t think this is because speakers of the language being replaced actually find the expanding language to be easy to learn/akin to theirs or the like.
    As further proof of my claim, I’d like to point to the paucity of substrate influence upon the conquering language: Coptic, for example, was a language whose nouns were uninflected for number (with some exceptions). We’d expect a Coptic speaker to find Arabic, with its bewildering complexity when it comes to marking number in nouns, quite difficult. Strange, then, than the complexities of Arabic plural marking in nouns are alive and kicking in Egyptian Arabic today…

  45. Etienne:
    (hoping we haven’t scared other hatters away)
    No no, we’re all still here. Just waiting for the opportune moment. Just off the top of my head:
    … I don’t wholly accept your [John Cowan's] premise: Arabic did expand at the expense of North African Romance.
    Must we read John Cowan as making such a presumption? His wording:

    … the fact that the countries conquered by Arab-speaking Muslims generally became Muslim, but went on to adopt Arabic as their spoken language only if they spoke an Afroasiatic language (even one from a different family, like Egyptian or Berber) already.

    But what do you think explains the non-spread of Arabic into non-Afroasiatic-speaking populations?

    Speakers of North African Romance might have had some competence in Afroasiatic also, or have been interspersed with speakers of Afroasiatic. Then the term “non-Afroasiatic-speaking populations” would not apply.
    I wonder also about the role of militant religious recruitment in all of this. That posture would surely make a difference to adoption of Arabic by the invaded locals. I also wonder about the role of written language in such superventions, given its status in Islamic culture and religion. So comparisons with migrations involving less literate cultures may not be so, um, germane.

  46. befuggled says:

    My admittedly somewhat hazy recollection is that generally the Arabs were not big on “militant religious recruitment” in the areas they conquered. The Arabs themselves didn’t encourage it, since it reduced their tax revenues. Egyptian Christians had been persecuted by Constantinople, which stopped after the Arab conquest. Most of the population in Egypt did eventually convert, but it took centuries and had more to do with status and taxes than it did with recruitment.

  47. Per contra, in Persia where the locals spoke an IE language, the conversion to Islam was fairly quick (two centuries) and near total, but the local language remains strongly IE to this day, with plenty of Arabic borrowings, but mostly in the Muslimized domains of religion, law, and such matters.
    I note that there was much discussion on some of the same points in Hat’s 2007 posting Latino-Punic, with many of the same participants.

  48. aqilluqqaaq says:

    Turkic languages expanded and replaced a number of languages (Greek, Iranian languages, Tocharian, various Yeniseic, North Caucasian and Uralic languages) which are typologically quite diverse, and all but the last of which are quite unlike Turkic.
    Ket – the only surviving Yeniseian language – shares a range of phonological and grammatical features with South Siberian Turkic: agglutinative nominal inflections, postpositions, postpositions that case-mark subordinate clauses, the absence of syllable-initial consonant clusters. Also, their marginalization seems to have been under the pressure of Evenki (a Tungusic, not Turkic language). On the other hand, there are the Yukaghir languages, which are considerably more threatened by Turkic Yakut, though also by Tungusic Even and Evenki, but even they have certain affinities with Uralic.

  49. Befuggled:
    My admittedly somewhat hazy recollection is that generally the Arabs were not big on “militant religious recruitment” in the areas they conquered.
    And John Cowan:
    Per contra, in Persia where the locals spoke an IE language, the conversion to Islam was fairly quick (two centuries) and near total, but the local language remains strongly IE to this day, …
    I had thought that invasion by Islamic forces was sometimes accompanied by zealous efforts at conversion, and sometimes not. Isn’t it partly determined by the religious makeup of the conquered? Surely west of the conquerors’ homeland Christianity was far more prominent than it was to the east. The state religion of the conquered Sassanid Empire was Zoroastrianism, wasn’t it? Unlike Christianity, Zoroastrianism is genetically unconnected with Islam – more like a traditional enemy, no? Whatever their status later, were Zoroastrians deemed dhimmi at the time of that conquest? This sort of thing seems to have mattered. On the face of it, such a difference by itself is a candidate to explain asymmetry in the pace of religious change, east and west.
    Might not the asymmetry in linguistic change be accounted for by a kind of converse dynamics? If there was greater previous exposure to Afroasiatic languages in north Africa, Arabic might “take” for that reason; but if the dominance of Middle Persian in Iran was sufficient, this might account for the circumscribed role of Arabic there, even down to our own time.
    Compare the region of present-day Pakistan, and Urdu.
    I am not an expert in these languages, religions, or regions. If I have relevant expertise it is in the analysis of reasoning that tends to exclude multiple and interwoven (even countervailing) causes. That’s why I comment as I do, seeking tentatively to explore unintentionally suppressed complexity.

  50. Africa
    In the days of Ibn Battuta, Arabs and Moslems in Africa were traders with wealth and prestige, and much sought after for marriage by local women. Ibn Battuta in his travels often made a living as a judge, as he was literate and versed in Moslem law. The Arabs were great sailors in those days and traded all over the coastal areas of Africa.
    militant religious recruitment
    From Sir John Glubb’s Short History of the Arab Peoples: the Prophet had forbidden persecutions of Jews and Christians, but ordered them to pay a poll tax in exchange for protection. This was a substantial portion of the revenue but if they were converted to Islam the revenue was lost.
    Scarcely anyone among the Arab soldiers could read or write, nonetheless tax lists would have had to have been prepared. The Arabs had no civil service but relied on Byzantine or Persian officials to collect the taxes. Money within the army was distributed by tribal leaders, as the soldiers fought in their tribal groups. Often the soldiers were garrisoned apart from the local populace, as their numbers were relatively small.
    Seventy-five years after the conquest, increasing numbers in Syria, Egypt and Persia had converted to Islam, but if they had been excused from paying the poll tax the treasury would have been bankrupt, so in practice they continued to pay. Exemptions were only allowed to Arabs as a privileged race. One caliph abolished poll tax for all Muslims, which caused great numbers of persons of other religions to become converted, but the financial system became hopeless and it was reestablished, with resulting rebellions among Khurasans in central Asia and Berbers in Ifriqiya.
    Pasha Glubb was a military man and although his maps are fun, and he makes detailed lists of personalities, unfortunately he didn’t spend much energy writing about language or organizing finance or language information into his index. But here is one language comment he makes regarding the Ottomans:

    …in cities which had large garrisons, officers and men mixed socially with the citizens, and being of the same religion, frequently intermarried with them. For political reasons, state schools taught in Turkish, not in Arabic, with the result that educated “Arabs” often spoke and wrote Turkish more easily than their own language.

    Zoroastrians’ status
    Says Pasha Glubb, “Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians were each allowed to govern themselves by their own laws, while Muslims alone were obliged to obey the Qoran.”

  51. Pasha Glubb was a military man
    …and not a historian, and although I enjoy reading him myself, he should be about the very last author you consult about the history of the region (aside from the bit of it he personally had a part in).

  52. Well if you’re going to be a purist, I can dig out a copy of Hourani’s A History of the Arab Peoples, but history doesn’t necessarily have to come from primary sources. Glubb was fluent in Arabic, and even better, was trusted by my hero Abdullah I and is still remembered with great fondness by Jordanians for “going bedouin”, plus I’ve spent many pleasant hours in his old residence which is now a space for artists, lectures, traveling exhibitions, and has a great library (complete with sunlight streaming in and eccentric Circassian librarians who can tell stories about dungeons and scorpions). I would listen to Glubb before some other western Arabists, say, T.E. Lawrence.
    Is there a map or list of languages replaced/not replaced by Arabic?

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