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The term contact linguistics has been used increasingly over the past thirty years. It describes a multidisciplinary field that, while firmly established in the overall framework of linguistics, relies on numerous sociological, psychological, ethnological, geographic, historical, political, and anthropological methods of examination. What the editors of the Handbook mean by contact linguistics is a mode of research influenced by linguists from all subdisciplines facing the phenomenon of the social contact of two or more single natural languages, and the theoretical and practical results of this mode of research. The editors are, however, fully conscious of the fact that research in contact linguistics is not an innovation of the twentieth century. Rather, it has always been integral component of linguistics and philology since their existence as independent fields of study. However, for organizational, effective and historical reasons it is assumed in the conception of this handbook that in narrow sense contact linguistics should be discussed as a field subsequent to Uriel Weinreich's book Languages in contact (1953).
Two essential factors for the better-grounded autonomy of contact linguistics must be pointed out:
1) the relevant fact of the greatly increased mobility of peoples, cultures, and their values (and also their languages) in recent timesand2) the scientifically relevant necessity of integrating otherwise separatly functioning sciences into a highly all-encompassing scientific analysis of multilingual phenomena.
The two-volume Handbook is directed to everyone, researchers as well as interested laypeople, who deal with the problem of synchronic language contact. In addition to the scientific text, both volumes include a large number of tables and maps to better convey the complex issues.
This Handbook is the first attempt to address issues of growing worldwide importance such as multilingualism, language contact, and language conflict in clear and informative presentations incorporating the most recent research, and to make these data available to a broad academic audience.