July 03, 2008

Linguistic diversity in the Caucasus

Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 37 (Volume publication date October 2008)

Linguistic Diversity in the Caucasus

Bernard Comrie­

The Caucasus is characterized by a relatively high level of linguistic diversity, whether measured in terms of number of languages, number of language families, or structural properties. This is in stark contrast to low levels of linguistic diversity in neighboring areas (Europe, the Middle East), although the Caucasus does not reach such high levels of linguistic diversity as are found in New Guinea. There is even a variation between greater diversity in the North Caucasus and less diversity in the South Caucasus. Illustrative structural properties show not only idiosyncratic properties of individual languages and families but also features that have spread across the boundaries separating languages and families, sometimes with variation across languages with regard to finer points of detail, although few features characterize the Caucasus as a single linguistic area. Social factors have probably played at least as important a role as has geography in the development of linguistic diversity in the Caucasus.



UncleTomRuckusInGoodWhiteWorld said...

This is news? The Caucasus are in a central region of major language families, not far from a very very central and early travel route for ancient man, and heavily mountainous.

That's not shocking.

If the land was flat most of those languages would not exist today.

Unknown said...

Isolation, diversity, and contribution.
Mountain Geography contributes to isolation. multiple isolated societies can look like lot of diversity.

Their contribution or adaptation is also isolated cases.

They can be good preserves.

Varg said...

In Daghestan from local Caucasian languages by the most developed it is recognized Avarian. About it wrote to imperial time of Russia. From all Daghestan languages only Avarian had the standard literary form. It referred to as "Bol-mats" so called "army language". However till now, the part of Avars, speaking on dialects. And it is a question not of subethnoses inside Avars, namely about original Avars with Avarian language. The same phenomenon can be met among Darghinians. It certainly promotes a policy of artificial russification in Daghestan. The children of those parents that clinged to dialects, now at all do not know the native language.