Celtic-Romance

The Celtic/Romance sub-project looks at the distribution and development of verbal and nominal morphology in Insular Celtic and Romance, two branches of Indo-European. From the viewpoint of geography and geolinguistics, the scope of the sub-project is Europe so that it complements the areas covered in the fellow sub-projects. Insular Celtic and Romance are ideal test-beds for the aims of the current project: a) they look back to a rich documented history, both in terms of language stages and dialect variation and of the peoples, their movements and interactions with linguistic neighbors; b) the comparison of different synchronic historical stages of both language branches reveals that, in the course of history, substantial changes have occurred in the morphological systems.

This makes these linguistic landscapes ideal, in terms of space and time, to bring evidence to bear on the main research question of the overarching project, namely to understand how morphology develops in different genealogical and geographical contexts and to what extent this development is affected by language contact. Relating to this main question, the present sub-project pursues two main goals. The first goal is to substantially increase our understanding of areal patterns of morphological structures in a historical perspective. In particular, we want to investigate to what extent the morphology of current states of the languages studied is a result of inheritance, and thus shows stability, or the result of internally motivated change (drift) or, also, the outcome of local or areal contact pressure, in terms both of contact-induced change and contact-induced stability.

The second, closely related, but more general goal is to provide a test-bed for the development and the testing of methodological toolkits that enable us to estimate the impact of geography (as an anisotropic spatial medium), of phylogeny, and of language contact, on morphological change in particular, and on language change in general. The research questions we address in this sub-project will first be evaluated together with the Methods group and, in a second stage, applied to the South American and Sino-Tibetan languages, for which precise phylogenetic, geographical, and historical information is only partially available or simply lacking.