A Sprachbund (pronounced|ˈʃpraːxbʊnt in German, plural "Sprachbünde" IPA| [ˈʃpraːxˌbʏndə] ), from the German word for “language union”, also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, or diffusion area, is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related. Where genetic affiliations are unclear, the sprachbund characteristics might give a false appearance of relatedness. Areal features are common features of a group of languages in a Sprachbund.

outheast Asia

One clear example is the East Asian Sprachbund, in which many languages of South-East Asia, including Thai and Vietnamese, have taken on the appearance of neighbouring languages like Chinese, with monosyllabic words and distinctive tones. Yet Thai and Vietnamese are not believed to be related to the Sino-Tibetan family or even to each other.

In Europe

In Europe, the so-called Balkan sprachbund comprises Albanian, Romanian, the South Slavic languages of the southern Balkan (Bulgarian with Macedonian and to a lesser degree Serbo-Croatian), Greek, and Romani. All these are Indo-European languages but from very different branches. Yet they have exhibited several signs of grammatical convergence, such as avoidance of the infinitive, future tense formation, and others. The same features are not found in other languages that are otherwise closely related, such as the other Romance languages, in relation to Romanian, and the other Slavic languages, such as Polish in relation to Macedonian.

Likewise, the Romance and Germanic languages of Western Europe (other than English) share many features due to interaction, both with one another and with Classical Latin and Greek. Similarly there are also features common to languages situated in Europe that are not found in Indo-European languages spoken in India and Iran, but are found in the Uralic languages. This is because of the great migrations across Europe.

Indian subcontinent

In a classic 1956 paper titled "India as a Linguistic Area", [ Emeneau, Murray. 1956. India as a Lingusitic Area. "Langauge" 32: 3-16. ] Murray Emeneau laid the groundwork for the general acceptance of the concept of a Sprachbund. In the paper, Emeneau observed that the subcontinent's Dravidian and Indo-Aryan languages shared a number of features that were not inherited from a common source, but were areal features, the result of diffusion during sustained contact.

Northern Asia

Many linguists think the Mongolian, Turkic, and Manchu-Tungus families of northern Asia are genetically related, in a group they call Altaic, but the evidence is equivocal, and their common features such as vowel harmony might instead mean they are part of a sprachbund.

Other sprachbünde

* in the Ethiopian highlands, Ethiopian Language Area
* in the Sepik River basin of New Guinea
* in the Baltics (northeast Europe)
* in the Caucasus
* covering the Australian continent (prior to European settlement) [Dixon R.M.W. "The Australian Linguistic Area". Chapter 4 in Dixon, R.M.W. and Alexandra Aikhenvald, 2001, "Areal Diffusion and Genetic Inheritance: Problems in Comparative Linguistics", Oxford University PRess ISBN 0198299818. [http://books.google.com/books?hl=da&lr=&id=sPGe7aBSkpkC&oi=fnd&pg=PA64&dq=areal+linguistics+australia&ots=YTcMODIX7X&sig=5OmJCz1QfKWmuXFNJZfn8c6eogU] ]
* throughout the Americas: [See also: )]
** Mesoamerican linguistic area
** Pueblo linguistic area


In contrast, a sprachraum (from German, “language area”), also known as a dialect continuum, describes a group of genetically related dialects spoken across a geographical area, differing in their genetic relationship only slightly between areas that are geographically close, and gradually decreasing in mutual intelligibility as distances increase.


ee also

*Language convergence
*Language merger

Further reading

* Campbell, Lyle. (In press). Areal linguistics. In K. Brown (Ed.), "Encyclopedia of language and linguistics" (2nd ed.). Oxford: Elsevier. ( [http://www.linguistics.utah.edu/Faculty/campbell/CampbellArealLingEnc.doc Online] .DOC)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sprachbund — Sprachbund,   Gruppierung räumlich benachbarter, jedoch genetisch nicht oder nicht eng miteinander verwandter Sprachen, bei denen sich infolge gegenseitigen Austauschs Gemeinsamkeiten u. a. in Lautsystem, Formenlehre und Wortschatz herausgebildet …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Sprachbund — Unter einem Sprachbund versteht man eine Gruppe von Sprachen, die in geographischer Nachbarschaft zueinander liegen und Ähnlichkeiten (typologische Konvergenzen) aufweisen, die sie von anderen Sprachen unterscheiden. Der Unterschied zu einer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sprachbund — Un sprachbund ( unión de idiomas en alemán, pronunciado AFI: [ʃpraːx.bʊnt], pl. sprachbünde [ˈʃpraːxˌbyndə]) se define como un grupo de idiomas que han adquirido algunas similitudes en sus sistemas gramaticales o fonéticos por causa de la… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Sprachbund — …   Useful english dictionary

  • Sprachbund balkanique — Union linguistique balkanique Carte des Balkans L union linguistique balkanique ou aire linguistique balkanique est un ensemble de langues en usage dans les Balkans partageant de nombreuses similarités phonétiques, morphologiques, syntaxiques et… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Balkanischer Sprachbund — Der Balkansprachbund ist ein Sprachbund in Südosteuropa, also eine Gruppe genetisch nicht verwandter Sprachen, die dennoch eine Reihe auffälliger struktureller Gemeinsamkeiten aufweisen. Zum „Balkansprachbund“ werden Albanisch (das einen eigenen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Südasiatischer Sprachbund — Die Sprachfamilien Südasiens Der südasiatische Sprachbund ist ein Sprachbund, der den gesamten indischen Subkontinent umfasst. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Balkan sprachbund — The Balkan sprachbund or linguistic area is the ensemble of areal features similarity in grammar, syntax, vocabulary and phonology among languages of the Balkans, which belong to various branches of Indo European, such as Slavic, Greek, Romance… …   Wikipedia

  • Standard Average European — (SAE) is a concept introduced by Benjamin Whorf to distinguish Indo European and especially Western Indo European languages from languages of other grammatical types. According to Whorf, people whose languages have very different systems of… …   Wikipedia

  • Origin of the Romanians — History of Romania This article is part of a series Prehistory …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.