Authored by: Steven Young

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 Baltic language family is represented by Lithuanian and Latvian; a third major Baltic language, Old Prussian, became extinct by the beginning of the eighteenth century. Lithuanian and Latvian are traditionally grouped together as East Baltic, in contrast to Old Prussian (West Baltic); from a historical perspective, Lithuanian and Latvian may be viewed as representing core dialects within a Baltic (or Balto-Slavic) dialectal continuum, with Old Prussian as peripheral (Toporov 2006: 20–21). The original Baltic-speaking territory was once much larger, extending eastward into the upper Dniepr river basin and beyond. 1 These Baltic populations, among them the Goljadь (Balt. *Galind-) of the eleventh- and twelfth-century Russian chronicles, were eventually assimilated by the eastern Slavs, a process continuing into modern times as former Lithuanian-speaking communities in what is now Belarus have become Slavicized. The paucity of surviving Baltic languages is somewhat compensated by the rich dialectal diversity within these languages; a number of dialectal features are undoubtedly due to the substratum influence of now-extinct Baltic languages – Curonian, Zemgalian, Jatvingian, and Selonian – about which little is known linguistically. An additional source of Baltic linguistic data are the many early (Bronze Age) Baltic borrowings into Baltic Finnic (see especially Kallio 2008) and Volga Finnic.

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