Re: [tied] Check out Origin of Ancient Languages

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 16238
Date: 2002-10-14

----- Original Message -----
From: george knysh
Sent: Monday, October 14, 2002 4:14 AM
Subject: Re: [tied] Check out Origin of Ancient Languages

*****GK: "Balto-Slavic" as breaking up into three lineages: -->Proto-West Baltic, -->Proto-East Baltic, and -->Proto-Slavic [ca. 1300-700 BC]? *****

Let's say, beginning to differentiate into regional groups, while probably remaining a dialectal continuum in some respects. How many different groups there were initially is anyone's guess. The West Baltic/Slavic split may have come later than that; perhaps they parted ways for good in immediately pre-Zarubinetska times: the (Proto-)West Baltic colonisation of the lands between the Niemen and the Vistula (in several waves) is ofted dated to ca. 500-200 BC. Three major lineages of Balto-Slavic survived until historical times, but others may have been absorbed by Proto-Slavic during its rapid expansion or become "pruned out" even earlier.

***GK: I suppose that it took some time for the -->Proto-Slavic lineage to acquire sufficiently distinct characteristics. What would be your informed guess as to the earliest possible time for the emergence of "Proto-Slavic" on  linguistic grounds? On
archaeological grounds it would be very difficult to argue for a period earlier than the Zarubynets'ka culture (200 BC-200 AD). The historical evidence seems to indicate that in Herodotus' time pre-Balts and pre-Slavs were still lumped together under the designation of "Neuri", although the Balto-Slav territory where the "most ancient" Slavic toponyms and hydronyms can be found (thoroughly mixed with Baltisms BTW), viz., the area south of the Pripet r. were under Scythian control. I wonder if that is the time frame for the differentiation of the "god" name as used by "Balts" and "Slavs". The southernmost "Balto-Slavic" territory continued to maintain strong links with post-Scythian political formations in the south.*****

It's difficult to determine the time necessary for a separate lineage to emerge, since "glottochronological" metrics cannot be trusted. However, the Slavic group is very coherent in terms of linguistic features; there are numerous common innovations not shared with Baltic, and of course there are Iranian influences and East Germanic loans that aren't shared either. A language ancestral to Slavic must have been relatively distinct from the rest of Balto-Slavic already before the arrival of the Goths in its vicinity, and my impression based on the degree of coherence we find in Slavic is that one ought to extend its prehistory much further back. I'd estimate, cautiously, that (pre-)Proto-Slavic acquired some of its unique characteristics during the latter half of the first millennium BC and at the very beginning of the common era, perhaps at the same time as Proto-Germanic. Proto-Slavic proper (the latest common ancestor of the known Slavic languages) developed still more common innovations (e.g. vowel changes, the second palatalisation) between AD 200 and 500. This squares quite well with archaeological data, I think, and gives Proto-Slavic a sufficiently long period of separate development.