Language Isolates

Edited by Stefan Georg

© 2015 – Routledge

1,792 pages | 30 B/W Illus.

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About the Book

This new four-volume collection from Routledge brings together the major works of scholarship concerned with the ‘language isolates’ of the world. ‘Isolated’ languages are languages without any known relatives, languages which are not demonstrably part of any ‘language family’, with Etruscan, Basque, and Ainu being arguably some of the best-known examples of such ‘linguistic orphans’. The language-specific materials collected here are arranged geographically, and each language-chapter is preceded by a short introduction to the linguistic situation of the language(es) involved and, if not given in anthologized works themselves, to the current state of research and past and present scholarly debates. The volumes are preceded by a problem-oriented general introduction, which deals with the basic concepts and methodological principles of language classification, the present state and the nature of ongoing controversies, an epistemiological typology of language families, and, in the light of this, a theoretical justification of the concept of isolates as well as the choice of languages covered in the volumes.

Some of the gathered works are general introductions to their object language (in terms of sociolinguistics, attestation, documentation, history of scholarship, guides to published studies, overviews of linguistic characteristics), others highlight and discuss particularly salient and interesting typological characteristics of an isolate (some of them are breakthrough studies for the understanding of a particular language), and others focus on the very status of the language under discussion as an isolate in the first place. Some isolated languages are still very much alive; at least one of them, Korean, is a major national language. The majority of the languages and small families covered here are endangered, and some will certainly cease to be used during the coming decades. Thus, isolated languages are particularly interesting objects for students of language endangerment, but they are also prime research objects for linguistic descriptionists, for, when they are gone, not only will another of the 6,000 or so human languages have disappeared, but, in those cases, whole linguistic lineages (and their ways of coping with the world) will be gone forever.

Table of Contents

Volume I

Part 1: Isolated Languages of Europe

1.1 Basque

1. R. L. Trask, ‘A Thumbnail Sketch of the Language’, The History of Basque (Routledge, 1997), pp. 82–123.

2. R. L. Trask, ‘Origins and Relatives of the Basque Language: Review of the Evidence’, in J. I. Hualde, J. A. Lakarra, and R. L. Trask (eds.), Towards a History of the Basque Language (John Benjamins, 1995), pp. 65–99.

3. Luis Michelena, ‘The Latin and Romance Element in Basque’, in J. I. Hualde, J. A. Lakarra, and R. L. Trask (eds.), Towards a History of the Basque Language (John Benjamins, 1995), pp. 137–69.

1.2 Etruscan

4. Helmut Rix, ‘Etruscan’, in R. D. Woodard (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 943–66.

Part 2: Isolated Languages of the Ancient Near East

2.1 Sumerian

5. I. M. Diakonoff, ‘Ancient Writing and Ancient Written Language: Pitfalls and Peculiarities in the Study of Sumerian’, in St. J. Lieberman (ed.), Sumerological Studies in Honor of Thorkild Jacobsen on His Seventieth Birthday, June 7, 1974 (University of Chicago Press, 1975), pp. 99–121.

6. Piotr Michalowski, ‘The Lives of the Sumerian Language’, in Seth L. Sanders (ed.), Margins of Writing, Origins of Cultures (University of Chicago Press, 2006), pp. 163–88.

7. Miguel Civil, ‘The Sumerian Writing Systems: Some Problems’, Orientalia Nova Series, 1973, 42, 21–34.

8. Gonzalo Rubio, ‘Sumerian Morphology’, in A. S. Kaye (ed.), Morphologies of Asia and Africa, Vol. 2 (Eisenbrauns, 2007), pp. 1327–79.

9. Piotr Michalowski, ‘Sumerian as an Ergative Language, I’, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 1980, 82, 86–103.

10. Gonzalo Rubio, ‘On the Alleged "Pre-Sumerian Substratum"’, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 1999, 51, 1–16.

2.2 Hattic

11. J. Klinger, ‘Hattisch’, in M. P. Streck (ed.), Sprachen des alten Orients (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2007), pp. 128–34.

12. Petra Goedegebuure, ‘The Alignment of Hattian: An Active Language with an Ergative Base’, Babel und Bibel, 2007–8, 4–5, 949–81.

2.3 Elamite

13. Matthew W. Stolper, ‘Elamite’, in R. D. Woodard (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 60–94.

Volume II

2.4 Hurrian and Urartean

14. Gernot Wilhelm, ‘Hurrian, in R. D. Woodard (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 95–118.

15. Gernot Wilhelm, ‘Urartian’, in R. D. Woodard (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 119–37.

16. Gernot Wilhelm, ‘Suffixaufnahme in Hurrian and Urartian’, in Frans Plank (ed.), Double Case: Agreement by Suffixaufnahme (Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 113–35.

Part 3: Isolated Languages of South Asia

3.1 Burushaski

17. John Biddulph, ‘Boorishki (Nager Dialect)’, in J. Biddulph, Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh (Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1880), pp. ii–xxxix.

18. Philip Lemont Barbour, ‘Buruçaskī: A Language of Northern Kashmir’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1921, 41, 60–72.

19. Peter C. Backstrom, ‘Burushaski’, in P. C. Backstrom and C. F. Radloff (eds.), Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, Vol. 2 (National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan/Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1992), pp. 31–54.

20. Gregory D. S. Anderson, ‘Burushaski Morphology’, in A. S. Kaye (ed.), Morphologies of Asia and Africa, Vol. 2 (Eisenbrauns, 2007), pp. 1233–75.

3.2 Kusunda

21. Johan Reinhard, ‘The Ban Rajas: A Vanishing Himalayan Tribe’, Contributions to Nepalese Studies, 1976, 4/1, 1–22.

22. David E. Watters, ‘Kusunda: A Typological Isolate in South Asia’, in Y. Yadava et al. (eds.), Contemporary Issues in Nepalese Linguistics (Kathmandu: Linguistic Society of Nepal, 2005), pp. 375–96.

23. Madhav P. Pokharel, ‘Strategies of Pronominalization in Kusunda’, in Y. Yadava et al. (eds.), Contemporary Issues in Nepalese Linguistics (Kathmandu: Linguistic Society of Nepal, 2005), pp. 189–92.

3.3 Nihali

24. Robert Shafer, ‘Nahālī. A Linguistic Study in Paleoethnography’, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1940, 5, 346–71.

25. Norman H. Zide, ‘On Nihali’, in Gregory D. S. Anderson (ed.), The Munda Languages (Routledge, 2007), pp. 764–76.

3.4 Andamanese

26. Anvita Abbi, ‘Is Great Andamanese Genealogically and Typologically Distinct from Onge and Jarawa?’, Language Sciences, 2009, 31, 791–812.

27. Yogendra Yadav, ‘Great Andamanese: A Preliminary Study’, in D. Bradley (ed.), Papers in South-East Asian Linguistics (Pacific Linguistics, 1985), pp. 185–214.

Part 4: Isolated Languages of North Asia

4.1 Palaeosiberian

28. Roman Jakobson, ‘The Paleosiberian Languages’, American Anthropologist, New Series, 1942, 44, 4, 1, 602–20.

4.2 Ket and Yeniseian

29. Stefan Georg, ‘The Gradual Disappearance of a Eurasian Language Family: The Case of Yeniseian’, in M. Janse and S. Tol (eds.), Language Death and Language Maintenance: Theoretical, Practical and Descriptive Approaches (John Benjamins, 2003), pp. 89–106.

30. Edward Vajda, ‘The Kets and their Language’, Mother Tongue, 1998, IV, 4–16.

31. James Byrne, ‘Middle Yenisseian and Kottian’, General Principles of the Structure of Language, Vol. I (Trübner, 1885), pp. 466–72.

32. Edward Vajda, ‘The Role of Position Class in Ket Verb Morphophonology’, Word, 2001, 52, 3, 369–436.

33. Stefan Georg, ‘Yeniseic Languages and the Siberian Linguistic Area’, in A. Lubotsky, J. Schaeken, and J. Wiedenhof (eds.), Evidence and Counter-Evidence: Essays in Honour of Frederik Kortlandt, Vol. 2 (Rodopi, 2008), pp. 151–68

Volume III

4.3 Yukaghir

34. Nikolai Vakhtin, ‘The Yukaghir Language in Sociolinguistic Perspective’, Linguistic and Oriental Studies from Poznań, 1992, 1, 47–82.

35. Elena Maslova, ‘Yukagir Focus in A Typological Perspective’, Journal of Pragmatics, 1997, 27, 457–75.

36. Mark Schmalz, ‘Towards a Full Description of the Focus System in Tundra Yukaghir’, Linguistic Discovery, 2012, 10, 2, 53–108.

37. Irina Nikolaeva, ‘Chuvan and Omok Languages?’, in A. Lubotsky, J. Schaeken, and J. Wiedenhof (eds.), Evidence and Counter-Evidence: Essays in Honour of Frederik Kortlandt, Vol. 2 (Rodopi, 2008), pp. 313–36.

4.4 Nivkh

38. P. G. von Moellendorff, ‘The Ghilyak Language’, China Review, 1894, XXI, 141–6.

39. Robert Austerlitz, ‘Gilyak Internal Reconstruction, 1: Seven Etyma, Folia Slavica 5/1-3’, Papers from the Second Conference on the Non-Slavic Languages of the USSR, Columbus (Slavica, 1982), pp. 81–8.

40. Robert Austerlitz, ‘Gilyak Internal Reconstruction, 2: Iron and Questions Related to Metallurgy, Folia Slavica 7/1-2’, Papers from the Third Conference on the Non-Slavic Languages of the USSR, Columbus (Slavica, 1984), pp. 39–48.

41. Robert Austerlitz, ‘Gilyak Internal Reconstruction, 3: Ligneous Matter’, in H. I. Aronson (ed.), Non-Slavic Languages of the USSR: Papers from the Fourth Conference (Slavica, 1994), pp. 229–33.

4.5 Ainu

42. Anna Bugaeva, ‘Southern Hokkaido Ainu’, in N. Tranter (ed.), The Languages of Japan and Korea (Routledge, 2012), pp. 461–508.

Part 5: Isolated Languages of Africa

5.1 Jalaa

43. Ulrich Kleinewillinghöfer, ‘Jalaa—An Almost Forgotten Language of Northeastern Nigeria: A Language Isolate?’, in D. Nurse (ed.), Historical Language Contact in Africa (Rüdiger Köppe, 2001), pp. 239–71.

5.2 Shabo

44. Christopher Ehret, ‘Do Krongo and Shabo Belong in Nilo-Saharan?’, in Robert Nicolaï and Franz Rottland, Actes Cinquième Colloque de Linguistique Nilo-Saharienne/Fifth Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium, Nice, 24–29 août 1992, Actes/Proceedings (Köppe, 1993), pp. 169–93.

45. Anbessa Teferra, ‘A Sketch of Shabo Grammar’, in M. Lionel Bender (ed.), Proceedings of the Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium (4th, Bayreuth, West Germany, August 30–September 2, 1989) (Helmut Buske, 1991), pp. 371–87.

5.3 Ongota

46. Graziano Savà, ‘Ongota (Birale), A Moribund Language of Southwest Ethiopia’, in M. Janse and S. Tol, Language Death and Language Maintenance: Theoretical, Historical, and Descriptive Approaches (Benjamins, 2003), pp. 171–87.

5.4 Hadza

47. Bonny Sands, ‘The Linguistic Relationship Between Hadza and Khoisan’, in Mathias Schladt (ed.), Language, Identity, and Conceptualization Among the Khoisan (Köppe, 1998), pp. 265–83.

Part 6: Isolated Language in the Americas

6.1 Kutenai

48. Matthew S. Dryer, ‘Grammatical Relations in Ktunaxa (Kutenai)’ (The Belcourt Lecture delivered before the University of Manitoba on 24 February 1995).

6.2 Esselen

49. David Leedom Shaul, ‘The Huelel (Esselen) Language’, IJAL, 1995, 61, 2, 191–239.

Volume IV

6.3 Washo

50. A. L. Kroeber, ‘The Washo Language of East Central California and Nevada’, University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, 1907, 4, 5, 249–317.

6.4 Yuchi

51. James M. Crawford, ‘Timucua and Yuchi: Two Language Isolates of the Southeast’, in L. Campbell and M. Mithun, The Languages of Native America: Historical and Comparative Assessment (University of Texas Press, 1979), pp. 327–54.

6.5 Zuni

52. Willard Walker, ‘What Zuni is Really Like’, in Frederick B. Agard and Gerald Kelley (eds.), Essays in Honor of Charles F. Hockett (E. J. Brill, 1983), pp. 551–62.

6.6 Tonkawa

53. Harry Hoijer, ‘Tonkawa’, in H. Hoijer et al. (eds.), Linguistic Structures of Native America (The Viking Fund, 1946), pp. 289–311.

54. Dell Hymes, ‘Interpretation of a Tonkawa Paradigm’, in D. Hymes (ed.), Studies in Southwestern Ethnolinguistics: Meaning and History in the Languages of the American Southwest (Mouton, 1967), pp. 264–78.

6.7 Chitimacha

55. Morris Swadesh, ‘Chitimacha’, in H. Hoijer et al. (eds.), Linguistic Structures of Native America (The Viking Fund, 1946), pp. 312–36.

6.8 Tunica

56. Mary Haas, ‘A Grammatical Sketch of Tunica’, in H. Hoijer et al. (eds.), Linguistic Structures of Native America (The Viking Fund, 1946), pp. 337–66.

6.9 Coahuilteco

57. Rudolph C. Troike, ‘Sketch of Coahuilteco: A Language Isolate of Texas’, in William C. Sturtevant (ed.), Handbook of North American Indians (Smithsonian Institution, 1996), Vol. 17 (‘Languages’, ed. William C. Sturtevant), pp. 644–65.

6.10 Seri

58. Stephen A. Marlett, ‘A Typological Overview of the Seri Language’, Linguistic Discovery, 2005, 3, 1, 54–73.

6.11 Huave

59. P. H. Matthews, ‘Huave Verb Morphology: Some Comments from a Non-Tagmemic Viewpoint’, IJAL, 1972, 38, 2, 96–118.

Part 7: Isolated Languages of Australia and the Pacific Region

7.1 Isolates of New Guinea

60. Malcolm Ross, ‘Pronouns as a Preliminary Diagnostic for Grouping Papuan Languages’, in A. Pawley et al. (eds.), Papuan Pasts: Cultural, Linguistic and Biological Histories of Papuan-Speaking Peoples (Pacific Linguistics, 2005), pp. 15–65.

7.2 Tasmanian

61. Terry Crowley and R. M. W. Dixon, ‘Tasmanian’, in R. M. W. Dixon and Barry J. Blake, Handbook of Australian Languages, Vol. 2 (Benjamins, 1981), pp. 395–421.

Part 8: Epilogue

62. Larry Trask, ‘Why Should a Language Have Any Relatives?’, in C. Renfrew and D. Nettle (eds.), Nostratic: Examining a Linguistic Macrofamily (The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 1999), pp. 157–76.

About the Series

Critical Concepts in Linguistics

Routledge Critical Concepts in Linguistics series provides authoritative reprints of the discipline's best and most influential scholarship. This series looks at language from the point of view of the user, at the choices made and the constraints encountered when we use language. Edited by experts in the field, each set puts the development of fundamental concepts and themes into their historical context, as well as providing students and researchers with a snapshot of contemporary debates and current thinking.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAN000000
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / General
LAN009000
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General