Should "South Slavic" classification be abolished?

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UkrainianPolyglot

Member
Ukrainian native, but English better
There are a lot of problems with the South Slavic classification. It is really hard to believe that Slovene and Bulgarian had a proto-South Slavic ancestor when Slovene is closer to Slovak and Czech while Bulgarian is closer to Russian and Ukrainian than they are to each other. No doubt that there was a proto-Western South Slavic language (Serbo-Croatian, Slovene) and a proto-Eastern South Slavic language (Bulgarian, Macedonian), and no doubt that these languages had a common ancestor. However, their ancestor is NOT proto-South Slavic, but proto-Slavic (or Common Slavic) itself. The relation between Slovene and Bulgarian is no different than that of Slovene and Polish. It appears to me that the whole South Slavic grouping has been influenced by Yugoslav nationalism, but maybe I am wrong? Is there any evidence of a proto-South Slavic language that was distinct from the Eastern and Western proto-Slavic tongues? If there is, please show it to me, because I have seen none.
 
  • iezik

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    There are a lot of problems ...
    Well, you can be more specific with your claims so we can know better your viewpoint. For start, here are some other threads related with the classification of these languages. There are plenty of claims and you can say what you think about them. Different people see the similarities and differences between these languages in their own ways.

    Slovenian as a South Slavic language...
    South Slavic Dialect Continuum - Classifications
    Similarity between South Slavic languages
    All Slavic languages: Slavic dialect continuum
     

    Karel Tahal

    Banned
    Czech
    According to newest researches it's exactly the opposite - South Slavic languages are the only ones which are a genetical unit, West Slavic and East Slavic languages are just geographical terms.

    source: Spanish Wikipedia, see "Lenguas eslavas"
     
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    UkrainianPolyglot

    Member
    Ukrainian native, but English better
    According to newest researches it's exactly the opposite - South Slavic languages are the only ones which are a genetical unit, West Slavic and East Slavic languages are just geographical terms.

    source: Spanish Wikipedia, see "Lenguas eslavas"
    I don't speak Spanish, is there any source in English for this claim? It's quite baffling, especially concerning East Slavic. West Slavic I can understand, there have been theories proposed that Czech, Slovak, and Slovene used to be transitional Central Slavic languages until they separated and got influenced by West and South Slavic languages respectively. But we do have Old East Slavic written. Much of the West Slavic vocabulary in Belarusian and Ukrainian is obviously due to hundreds of years of their inclusion in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Kingdom of Hungary (in the case of Transcarpathia), if we take out all of the Polish loanwords the language becomes strikingly close to Russian except for some few innovations and some phonological differences and of course the lack of the Old Church Slavonic vocabulary.
     

    Karel Tahal

    Banned
    Czech
    There is fylogenetic tree of Slavic languages on that site, I didn't find an English source with this tree. There is stated that this tree is based on automatic algoritm which uses Levenshtein distance of different pairs of cognates.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    I've seen such an automatic system lump Polish into the East Slavic branch among the many other things it got completely wrong, simply because it shares many cognates with Ukrainian and Belarusian. Language grouping cannot be based solely on cognates, because words are borrowed through language contact irrespective of genetic relationship. It's done based primarily on shared grammatical and phonological features, and even those can be regional (cf. Sprachbunds). I'm not sure how anyone could take automatic language grouping based on cognates seriously.
     

    Karel Tahal

    Banned
    Czech
    Back to the original question, in all South Slavic languages the metathesis of liquids happened in the same way. I think it's kind of proof that they form a distinctive group.
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    The problem is that all the three branches have formed in place: none of the characteristic features listed for East, West and South Slavic are very old, at least in phonetics and morphology, and they seem to have arisen not long before the first attestation of each branch. For example, the East Slavic, the most uniform of all, becomes much more diverse as scholars become acquainted with the deeper layers of the dialectal diversity. The oldest isoglosses within Slavic seem to be preserved in prosody (the character and distribution of stress, tones and vowel lengths) and they suggest that not only each branch, but each major language is composed of dialects originating from different earlier Common Slavic subgroupings. I can post links to the relevant literature if anybody is interested.

    According to newest researches it's exactly the opposite - South Slavic languages are the only ones which are a genetical unit, West Slavic and East Slavic languages are just geographical terms.

    source: Spanish Wikipedia, see "Lenguas eslavas"
    These cladistic studies in linguistics are pseudo-science based on non-critical application of evolutionary biological methodology for languages, especially when similarity is judged from wordlists. For example, English, full or Romance words, will turn out a sister branch to other Germanic languages, and Icelandic — a sister to the modern continental Scandinavian.
     
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    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    As a general illustration of various within-Slavic phonetic developments, I'd recommend Shevelov GY · 1964 · A prehistory of Slavic: the historical phonology of Common Slavichttps://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_7IkEzr9hyJYUZ1ck5vdWE2Q1U&authuser=0 . As I had written elsewhere on this forum, Shelelov belonged to those numerous philologists who believe to know more than the data seem to suggest, so I wouldn't take too seriously his explanations of various phenomena (these explanations are not the only ones possible), but the book presents the most thorough collection of data about the late Common Slavic phonetic processes. The stress chapters are largely outdated, however.

    The best work on the origins of Slavic prosody is probably Дыбо ВА · 2000 · Морфологизированные парадигматические акцентные системы. Типология и генезис. Том Ihttps://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_7IkEzr9hyJVUhZYi1pbFR3ODA&authuser=0

    The distribution of ancient prosodical phenomena by dialects is discussed e. g. in Основы славянской акцентологии · 1990: 109–158 — https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_7IkEzr9hyJT2VCeUhFM1VYOVE/view?usp=sharing . In 1993 (I don't have this publication in pdf) the authors of this work concluded that what they had considered retractions of the accent actually reflected the original common Slavic state of affairs, but the grouping of dialects didn't change from this reinterpretation.

    The heterogeneity of East Slavic is suggested, e. g. by:
    (1) the non-oro/olo reflexation in some north-western dialects: Зализняк АА · 2004 · Древненовгородский диалект: 39–41 — https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_7IkEzr9hyJUEhqQzJXT2p3ZUk&authuser=0

    (2) the non-ьr/ъr/ъl reflexation in these dialects: Зализняк АА · 2004 · Древненовгородский диалект: 49–52 — https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_7IkEzr9hyJUEhqQzJXT2p3ZUk&authuser=0 and Николаев СЛ · 1994 · Раннее диалектное членение и внешние связи восточнославянских диалектов: 31–33 — https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_7IkEzr9hyJVEUtNk5BVF94YkU&authuser=0

    (3) preservation of tl and dl again in the north-west: Николаев СЛ · 1994 · Раннее диалектное членение и внешние связи восточнославянских диалектов: 29–31 — https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_7IkEzr9hyJVEUtNk5BVF94YkU&authuser=0

    (4) preservation of unconditioned (i. e. non-verbal as in standard Ukrainian and Belarusian) *đ> in the Ukrainian west and Russian south with an opposite distribution of ž and reflexes in the Ukrainian and Russian material: Николаев СЛ · 2005 · Карпатоукраинско-паннонская изоглосса (рефлексы праславянских сочетаний *tj и *dj)https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_7IkEzr9hyJbWdKUEl4TFBtRnM&authuser=0 .

    The complicated history of the Slavic colonization of East Europe is also discussed in Хабургаев ГА · 1979 · Этнонимия «Повести временных лет»https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_7IkEzr9hyJSE1nRkIwY3lzdEE&authuser=0 though Khaburgayev's conclusions often seem completely speculative to me. Also, the substrate (Balkanic and Iranic in the East Slavic south, Baltic in the East Slavic center and Finnic in the East Slavic north) may have contributed to the distribution of isoglosses. In particular, akan'ye seems to have developed on the Baltic substrate, cp. the East Slavic dialectological map of 1915 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/Диалектологическая-карта-1915.png where akan'ye (merger of unstressed o and a in an open a-like sound) is confined to the violet, red and hatched red areas (Belarusian, South Russian and Central Russian) and the map of presumably Baltic archeological cultures of the pre-Slavic Eastern Europe Balts - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (lilac). Likewise, tsokan'ye (merger of s, z and ts with š, ž and č in the Russian north) corresponds well to the original Finnic territory (green on the latter map). Likewise, the Slavic g>h is often attributed to the Iranic (Scythian/Sarmatian) influence, though this is harder to prove for Slovak, Czech and Upper Sorbian.

    Sorry, the end of my post has disappeared again. I am copying the last paragraph:

    The complicated history of the Slavic colonization of East Europe is also discussed in Хабургаев ГА · 1979 · Этнонимия «Повести временных лет»https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_7IkEzr9hyJSE1nRkIwY3lzdEE&authuser=0 though Khaburgayev's conclusions often seem completely speculative to me. Also, the substrate (Balkanic and Iranic in the East Slavic south, Baltic in the East Slavic center and Finnic in the East Slavic north) may have contributed to the distribution of isoglosses. In particular, akan'ye seems to have developed on the Baltic substrate, cp. the East Slavic dialectological map of 1915 File:Диалектологическая-карта-1915.png - Wikimedia Commons where akan'ye (merger of unstressed o and a in an open a-like sound) is confined to the violet, red and hatched red areas (Belarusian, South Russian and Central Russian) and the map of presumably Baltic archeological cultures of the pre-Slavic Eastern Europe Balts - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (lilac). Likewise, tsokan'ye (merger of s, z and ts with š, ž and č in the Russian north) corresponds well to the original Finnic territory (green on the latter map). Likewise, the Slavic g>h is often attributed to the Iranic (Scythian/Sarmatian) influence, though this is harder to prove for Slovak, Czech and Upper Sorbian.

    Also, a good paper about the details of the penetration of Slavs to the Balkans in the 6–7th centuries: Шувалов ПВ · 1998 · Проникновение славян на Балканыhttps://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_7IkEzr9hyJLXpnbW9FQ0UxNGs&authuser=0 .
     
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    Daniel.N

    Member
    Croatian
    I think all classification into "branches" for Slavic languages is quite problematic. For me, it seems like one very big continuum broken with Hungarian, Romanian, and German.

    "South Slavic languages" have some features in common, but then Bulgarian and Macedonian have some features common with Eastern Slavic, etc.

    There are remnants of Slavic g > h in western Croatia. For instance, in some dialects Bog is pronounced as Boh. And spelled so in local papers. It's just very complicated.
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    But that's true for all classifications. They are just metaphors, existing first of all for mnemonic purposes. When there are gaps introduced by prolonged absence of contacts between speakers, languages may be separated into groups more reliably, otherwise they keep influencing each other. My feeling is that East Slavic can be compared with a massive island, West Slavic — with two or three (+Kashubian) or four (+Polabian) islands separated by a shallow sea, and South Slavic with an archipelago that during its history rose and sank several times.
     

    Christo Tamarin

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    There are a lot of problems with the South Slavic classification. It is really hard to believe that Slovene and Bulgarian had a proto-South Slavic ancestor
    ..
    Is there any evidence of a proto-South Slavic language that was distinct from the Eastern and Western proto-Slavic tongues? If there is, please show it to me, because I have seen none.
    The classification of Slavic languages into South, West, and East groups is not genealogical. Proto-languages for South-,West-,East-Slavic are not supposed to have ever existed. Anyway, a Proto-East-Slavic is quite probable: they all have originated in Kiev (Киев - мать русских городов).

    Slovene is closer to Slovak and Czech while Bulgarian is closer to Russian and Ukrainian than they are to each other
    I would not agree. If Bulgarian seems to be closer to Russian, the reason is the common orthodox religion. Actually, up to the 19-th century, there was a South Slavic dialect continuum between Ljubljana (Slovene) and Lozengrad (Bulgarian). On the other hand, the dialect continuum between Kiev and Lozengrad was broken a thousand years ago.

    The relation between Slovene and Bulgarian is no different than that of Slovene and Polish.
    No. There is no dialect continuum between Ljubljana and Warsaw. There is dialect continuum between Ljubljana and Sofia.

    It appears to me that the whole South Slavic grouping has been influenced by Yugoslav nationalism, but maybe I am wrong?
    I am afraid you are wrong. We should not admit nationalism in the discussion on the history of languages. Particularly, we should not apply the political case A Language is a dialect with an army and police to the past, it can be apply to the modern times only (and this is not just a quip as Wikipedia supposes).

    The classification of Slavic languages into South, West, and East groups is not genealogical. It is mainly based on isoglosses in a former dialect continuum.
     
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    UkrainianPolyglot

    Member
    Ukrainian native, but English better
    So what if there is a dialect continuum? A language could be closer to a language with which it has no dialect continuum while very far from a language with which it has a dialect continuum, especially if the continuum chain is very long.
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    The existence of a dialect continuum implies that there is no line where a boundary can be drawn. For example, a magnolia and a dandelion are very remote evolutionarily, but they are connected through a chain of intermediate plant groups and therefore they are regarded within a single phylum, the flowering plants. If, however, some of these connecting plant types had become extinct and unknown to the science, the exact same magnolia and dandelion with exactly the same characters would have been placed in two separate phyla. It's the same metaphor with islands I had used above.
     

    thegreathoo

    Senior Member
    Srpski
    I don't know why this classification is important at all. I guess, for technical purposes, as long as there is one valid underlying factor, classification stands.
    As a native speaker, my view is that "south" classification is unnecessary--if a language is closer to Polish than it is to Russian then it is western, otherwise it's eastern--if we set up Polish and Russian as baselines.
     

    Christo Tamarin

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    The existence of a dialect continuum implies that there is no line where a boundary can be drawn.
    Exactly. No borders can be drawn by linguistic reasons in a dialect continuum. The borders in such areas have political or religious reasons.

    So what if there is a dialect continuum? A language could be closer to a language with which it has no dialect continuum while very far from a language with which it has a dialect continuum, especially if the continuum chain is very long.
    If Slovene seems to you closer to Slovak and Czech, this could be because Slovene/Croatian/Czech/Slovak are Viennese Slavic while Bulgarian is a Constantinopolitan Slavic, i.e. there are political reasons.

    Тhe Slavic linguistic community developed from a former linguistic community via three major features: 1st palatalization, open syllables, 2nd palatalization.

    The East Slavic group is defined by an isogloss related to opening syllables: East Slavic dialects add a syllable in the case of former *-tort- (>*-torot-). The rest of Slavic, the "mainstream" Slavic, use swapping (*-tort- > *-trot-, I ignore the length of the vowel here).

    The West Slavic group is defined by an isogloss related to the 2nd palatalization: in West Slavic there is CH => SH (Cyrillic notation: X => Ш) while in the mainstream Slavic there is CH => S (Cyrillic notation: X => С).

    All outside East and West is South. This is the 1st definition of South Slavic - mainstream sides of both isoglosses.

    Consistency of these definitions: Are there Slavic dialects which are both East and West? This could be a problem, a minor problem, actually.

    These definitions use very old language characteristics, before any Viennesity or Constantinopolicy.

    According to these definitions, Slovene is South Slavic, Slovak is West Slavic.

    Let us go deeper into history.

    The Slavophonia developed in the Middle-Danube area (1st palatalization, open syllables, 2nd palatalization). The Slavophonia was the natural language of the settled population of this part of Europe (Middle Danube).

    Before 1000AD, there was one Common Slavic Language with its dialects, as any other spoken language.

    The first political division of the Slavophonia occured about 700-800AD.

    About 700-800AD, the city of Constantinopol was the center of our world, the political, economic, religious, cultural center. Slavophones migrated toward Constantinopol, to the center of civilization at that time. In this way, the Constantinopolitan Slavophonia (царское славяногласие) appeared. We could call the rest of Slavophonia, still on the Middle-Danube, Carolingian (<=click, => королевское славяногласие).

    Slavo-Balkanic (or Balkano-Slavic, Bulgarian/Macedonian) has its origins in the Constantinopolitan Slavophonia. Actually, until the 19-th century, Slavo-Balkanic has ever been Constantinopolitan.

    The rest of Slavic, or Mainstream-Slavic, or Neo-Slavic, has its origins in the Carolingian Slavophonia.

    That first political division of the Slavophonia caused the drastic difference in grammar between Balkano-Slavic and Neo-Slavic.

    About 800AD, the Carolingian Slavophonia was brought to Kiev and Novgorod. About a century later, the "Kievese" Slavophonia was brought to Moscow.

    Among Constantinopolitan Slavophones, all actually being already Christians and Romans by nationality, there were intellectuals who cared about christening/baptizing of pagan Slavophones. Those translated the Holly Scripture into Slavic (the Constantinopolitan one) thus creating the Old Slavonic Literary language. About 1000AD, that language was brought to Kiev inside the Gospel manuscripts. It later developed into Church-Slavonic.

    The question: Should "South Slavic" classification be abolished?

    No. South Slavic is the mainstream Slavic according to some very old isoglosses.

    Moreover, South Slavic has its own isogloss: soft A-stem noun declension (East and West are mainstream in relation to this isogloss).
     
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    Christo Tamarin

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I don't know why this classification is important at all. I guess, for technical purposes, as long as there is one valid underlying factor, classification stands.
    As a native speaker, my view is that "south" classification is unnecessary--if a language is closer to Polish than it is to Russian then it is western, otherwise it's eastern--if we set up Polish and Russian as baselines.
    It is often very hard to say if a language is closer to Polish than it is to Russian.

    Let us consider Slovene: is it closer to Polish than it is to Russian? Is it West or East?
    Let us consider Slovak: is it closer to Polish than it is to Russian? Is it West or East?

    The South Slavic group stands for three reasons, at least:

    -> A South Slavic dialect continuum existed until recently.
    -> South Slavic appears on the mainstream sides of the isoglosses which define East and West, i.e. South Slavic is neither East nor West.
    -> South Slavic appears on the mainstream-opposite side of an old isogloss: soft A-stem noun declension.
     

    pastet89

    Senior Member
    bulgarian
    As for Slovene I believe it is still more South than West Slavic but with lots of West Slavic words, which are not present in the other South Slavic Languages. For example, me, being a native Bulgarian, I should be able to understand best all South Slavic languages. If I do not take into account that I already know on some good levels Slovene and BCS, I would say that the average Bulgarian will understand best in this order:

    1. Macedonian
    2. BCS
    3. Russian
    4. Bellorussian, Ukraine
    5. Slovene
    6. Czech, Slovak and Polish

    So if we follow the groups we will see that the order for closest languages are South, East, West, but Slovene seems to go irregularly after the East group.
     

    Guldrelokk

    New Member
    Russian

    Christo Tamarin

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    -> South Slavic appears on the mainstream-opposite side of an old isogloss: soft A-stem noun declension.
    Can you elaborate this? I'm think the situation is not that clear-cut, as there are South Slavic dialects that have various noun declensions.
    Here is hard A-stem noun declension excerpt:
    • Nom. Sing. вода, дѣва, ..
    • Gen. Sing. водъı, дѣвъı, ..
    • Nom. Acc. Pl. водъı, дѣвъı, ..
    Please pay attention to Gen.Sing. == Nom. Pl. == Acc. Pl.

    The ending is supposed to come from an older -ās and probably intermediate -ans (or vice versa).

    Let us now go to the soft version. The very old ending is supposed to be -ēs and then -ens. However, that -ens is found in South Slavic only:
    • Nom. Sing. волıа, боурıа, ..
    • Gen. Sing. South воля, боуря, .. East-West волѣ, боурѣ, ..
    • Nom. Acc. Pl. South воля, боуря, .. East-West волѣ, боурѣ, ..
    Note_1: The letter я denotes the front nasal, the little jus.
    Note_2: The literary Russian is heavily influenced by Church Slavonic which is South Slavic.
     
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