Author Topic: Examples and factors of language assimilation  (Read 4799 times)

Offline Godan

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Examples and factors of language assimilation
« on: May 30, 2017, 02:12:44 PM »
Essentially a discussion on the factors governing whether a conquering culture assimilates the conquered, or is assimilated.

- The Visigoths in Spain, Franks in France and Lombards in Italy constituted a predominately male warrior aristocracy that intermarried with the Latin populace and lost their cultural and linguistic distinctions within a few generations. The same situation existed with Norsemen in Russia, Normandy and the British Isles centuries later.

- In the case of Anglo-Saxons, I believe it is less clear as to how many "families" crossed into England. Is there a chance that there was a greater transience among the Anglo noncombatants? Sure. But I believe the success of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracies depended on two main factors - Britain had a much lower population compared to continental nations, and also the significant division between the Latin Britains and Brittonic nations which caused the Anglos to be invited there in the first place.

- Hungary is another country whose entire cultural identity was established by a conquering nation that may of been outnumbered by the people they conquered. If this were the case, perhaps a good clue is to compare how the peoples of the Pannonian Basin behaved in similar past situations. Their political adaptability and cultural fluidity originated from the political structure established by the Huns. This structure would be utilized by every successor ruling tribe, regardless of whether they were Germanic or Slav, eventually Avar or finally Magyar. After their conversion to Christianity, the Magyars would be at the supreme advantage to institutionalize their cultural hegemony to a degree unobtainable by any previous ruler of Pannonia.

- Language across the Arab evolved much in the same way that Latin did, but slower due to their comparative lack of population at the onset of Islam. The Umayad Caliphate being replaced by the Abbasid Caliphate was very important for the spread of the Arabic language because the Umayyads. segregated their Muslim Arab selves from the rest of the population they ruled, whether they were converts or Dhimmi (Jews and Christians and almost-Jew Noah people from Iraq).
     - Conversion still took time but eventually Arabic replaced Aramaic in the new rural Muslim communities of Syria and Mesopotamia. Greek would remain as a prestige language in the cities of Lebanon and Palestine, particularly among the historically large Christian population of those areas.
    - Due to its large and dense population, Egypt remained significantly Christian for much of the Middle Ages and it took until the fourteenth century for Arabic to replace the Coptic language as the vernacular there.
    - The spread of Arab-Islamic culture in Morocco would lead a culture of "Moroccan Arabs" whose culture and language is influenced by their Berber heritage, but among many Muslim Amazigh communities in North Africa Arabic is regarded as an oppressor language.
    - The desegregation of Arab fort cities in Persia led to significant cultural exchange between Persia an Iraq, a relationship that had existed for much of Persia's pre-Islamic history. At the Caliphate's height most Persians were bilingual, and still today 30-40% of Persian is constituted of Arabic loanwords.

So based on these examples (by all means please be apart of the discussion and give examples of your own!) these are the main factors of assimilation I can gather:

1. Population ratio of cultures
2. Marriage policies between cultures
3. Economic incentive for the conquered
4. Institutional efficiency of the conqueror
x Time

In particular hoping to better understand:
- Turks assimilating Greeks in Anatolia
- What's going on with China in the modern day

Finally, I want to open up the discussion of Colonial languages being spread by a asymmetrical balance of power and maintained using mass-media capabilities.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Examples and factors of language assimilation
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2017, 05:09:11 PM »
From historical observation that list seems reasonable to me.

But is this just from your own observation and intuition, or are you doing research on the topic more generally? There has been a lot written about language contact, including the large-scale societal contact you are talking about and language shift, from one language to another.

Still, while those are all certainly factors to consider, there may be other factors, and they may also interact including in some unpredictable ways. So I'm not sure you could come up with a "formula" to really predict anything specifically, but you could describe what happened in some situations by considering those (and maybe some other) factors.

An interesting fact is that in English the word "husband" comes from Danish (e.g., Old Norse) during the Danelaw period. This ties into the question of intermarriage. Looking at the semantic fields of borrowed words we can see the kind of contact between cultures. Are there words for family involved, or words for religion, or just words for newly introduced foods?

Another current topic is the influence of adult (second language) learners in language change. Essentially the more non-native speakers that are using the language, the more the language changes (in some ways). This is a topic that has been discussed by, among others, McWhorter and Trudgill in some recent books. They have both claimed (in slightly different ways) that 'linguistic complexity' goes down in these situations of intense contact and second language learning.

If you have not done so already I would recommend various books on the subject, such as an introductory textbook to historical linguistics and language contact (there are a few with "language contact" in the title), or maybe one of McWhorter's or Trudgill's books more generally.
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