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A history of East Baltic through language contact

On the 6th of July, Anthony Jakob successfully defended a doctoral thesis. The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics congratulates Anthony on this achievement!

A. Jakob
06 July 2023
Leiden University Repository

The East Baltic languages, Lithuanian and Latvian, are well known for their conservative phonology with respect to Proto­Indo­European. This has led to a stereotype that these languages have developed in relative isolation without much contact with other languages.

In this dissertation, I take a deep dive into the East Baltic lexicon, peeling away the layers of prehistoric borrowings in the process. As well as significant contact events with known languages, like the Russian dialect of Novgorod­Pskov, Gothic and the ancestors of modern Finnish, Sámi and Mordvin, the lexicon also reveals evidence of contact with unattested languages from which earlier populations must have shifted upon the arrival oftheBalts in theBaltic region. The fragments obtained not only shed light on the linguistic features of these lost languages, but also provide a new perspective on the sociolinguistic scenario which led the earlier populations of the region to undergo language shift.

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