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Douglas Biow, Director MEZ 3.126, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-3470

Areal linguistic phenomena in the making: Finnish and Swedish dialects in contact

Thu, February 4, 2010 • 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM • BUR 337

According to received genealogical wisdom, the Swedish and Finnish languages are genealogically unrelated: Swedish is a Germanic and, therefore, Indo-European language, whereas Finnish is a Finno-Ugric and, more broadly, Uralic language. Yet, Swedish and Finnish show remarkable similarities, including common vocabulary, phonology, and morphosyntactic phenomena. These similarities are the result of centuries, even millennia, of contacts. Historical linguistic accounts show that there are several major layers of contact phenomena between the Swedish (or, more broadly, Germanic) and Finnish (or Finnic) languages. These layers can be dated e.g. through comparative methods and co-operation with archaeology, genetics, and other relevant disciplines.

            Since close contacts between Swedish and Finnish still exist, there is every reason to believe that loans are still exchanged between the two languages. Thus, by looking closely enough at present-day contact phenomena between dialects of Swedish and Finnish spoken in the same areas, we can witness (potential) areal phenomena—i.e. non-coincidental similarities between genealogically unrelated but areally close languages—in real time.

Sponsored by: Germanic Studies

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