Authored by: Marc L. Greenberg

The Indo-European Languages

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415730624
eBook ISBN: 9781315678559
Adobe ISBN: 9781317391531


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The Slavic language family constitutes a widely distributed genetic grouping of languages spoken today from Central Europe to the Pacific, represented by standard languages that are traditionally divided into three branches: West – Czech, Slovak; Polish; Upper and Lower Sorbian; South – Slovene; Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Montenegrin; Macedonian, Bulgarian; and East – Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian. The standard languages reflect ethnic and cultural distinctions that largely crystallized in the 19th century and as such are not ideal reflections of the genetic development of Slavic linguistic variation from the proto-language. For example, standard Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, and Montenegrin are based on a single genetic dialect, Štokavian, but now are stylized in their officially valorized forms to fit the national identity projects of four post-Yugoslav states. Russian has a considerable lexical component of South Slavic origin, owing to its diglossic origins in the medieval period. Other Slavic language varieties – sometimes referred to as Slavic micro-languages – that have to a greater or lesser extent become codified but lack robust (or any) institutional support, exemplify further variegation, e.g., Kashubian (a West Slavic language spoken in the environs of Gdańsk), Rusyn (Carpathian variety of East Slavic with some West Slavic features), Silesian (transitional variety of West Slavic between the Czecho-Slovak sub-branch and Polish), Prekmurje Slovene (divergent variety of Slovene), and Kajkavian Croatian (non-standardized variety of Croatian with affinity to Slovene). Attested but extinct Slavic language varieties, for which descriptive information is available, include Polabian († mid-18 c.; westernmost Slavic language, along the Elbe/Laba river in today’s Germany), Pomeranian († medieval period; along the Baltic at the mouths of the Oder and Vistula rivers), and Slovincian († early 20 c.; northwestern Poland, where it was perhaps a variety of Kashubian). Another variety (or varieties) of Slavic existed in today’s Austria and Hungary, which, although unattested, is “Pannonian” Slavic.

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