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Shaping modern Indo-Aryan isoglosses

  • Krzysztof Stroński EMAIL logo and Saartje Verbeke


Since the pioneering paper by Emenau (1956) there have been many attempts (cf. Masica 1976, 2001; Ebert 2001; among many others) to select areal features which are shared among languages spoken in South Asia. However, there has been little consent on the number of such features and the possible direction of their spread.

In this paper we are focusing on two selected isoglosses, namely alignment and constituent order. Both of them have been used to define the Indo-Aryan linguistic area: alignment is one of the key elements to distinguish western from eastern Indo-Aryan (Peterson 2017) and word order is one of the innovations which differentiates some of the “Outer” languages from “Inner” Indo-Aryan languages (Zoller 2017: 15).

This article focuses on two languages which are said to determine these isoglosses: Awadhi and Kashmiri. Our study of Awadhi shows that the isogloss delineating ergative or accusative case marking zones is situated in the area where the so-called Eastern Hindi dialects (among them Awadhi) are spoken. As we will demonstrate, this specific isogloss is substantially supported by diachronic evidence. The second language under consideration, namely Kashmiri, is an example of an “Outer” language with a quite stable V2 feature. Both Awadhi and Kashmiri are compared with Pahari, a language branch which functions as a link between the two of them. Our comparison of Kashmiri with certain Western Pahari Himachali languages shows that there is no clear borderline between two language groups supported by word order. We conclude from these case studies that the study of isoglosses is by definition a study of fluid boundaries, and qualitative, historical studies of one language can prove or disprove hypotheses based on synchronic similarities between languages.

Krzysztof Stroński Department of Oriental Studies Faculty of Modern Languages Adam Mickiewicz University Collegium Heliodori Święcicki Grunwaldzka 6 60-780 Poznań Poland


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Published Online: 2020-09-18
Published in Print: 2020-09-25

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