Volume 9 Issue 2 (2011)
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Introduction to the Special Issue on Caucasian
The six articles collected in this special issue are a
selection of talks given at the “Workshop for young linguists –
Caucasian languages” organized by the editors in Lyons, France, April 8-9,
2009. The workshop was supported by funding from the “Collegium de
Lyon” and the Laboratoire “Dynamique du Langage” – CNRS,
Université Lyon 2.
Our main goal in organizing the workshop and in editing the current
issue is to bring together young linguists working on the relatively less
studied Caucasian languages, and to offer them a forum for the exchange of
ideas, for comparison of data and of different methods of analysis, as well as
for potential future collaborations. Unlike many other linguistic areas or
language families, the linguistic study of the Caucasus seems to proceed with
interruptions, alternating between periods of higher and lower activity,
determined by a complex interaction of factors. To name just a few: the
unsettled political situation in the area, the variable depth of linguistic
tradition and formal study of language in different countries of the Caucasus,
the status of a given language as a majority or minority language, the presence
or absence of orthography, of literacy, of written vs. oral cultural tradition.
A gap is noticeable even in the current issue. Of the three existing Caucasian
language families, the Northeast (Nakh-Daghestanian) and the South (Kartvelian)
families are well represented, with three articles each, but the Northwest
family happens to be missing.
We hope that the current issue will contribute to increase interest in
the study of Caucasian languages, whose linguistic systems present many aspects
that are typologically rare and theoretically challenging. Most experts
currently agree (Tuite 2007) that the three Caucasian language families are not
genetically related, and thus are also interesting from the perspective of areal
linguistics. As Comrie (2008) points out, few features characterize the Caucasus
as a single linguistic area.
Caucasian languages do not currently have a dedicated conference series,
or a journal that meets the international standards of serving as a forum for
the exchange of ideas among linguists working on this linguistic area, or on a
Caucasian language family. Therefore, the current issue is also meant to remind
the linguistic community of this existing gap, and to help increase the
visibility of Caucasian languages in linguistic research, both for the purposes
of language documentation and for testing hypotheses about theoretical
The following six articles are presented in this volume, listed here in
alphabetical order of the authors:
- Diana Forker “Finiteness in
- Zaira Khalilova
“Evidentiality in Tsezic
- Silvia Kutscher “On the
Expression of Spatial Relations in
Lacroix “Ditransitive Constructions in
- Zarina Molochieva “Aspect in
- Manana Topadze-Gäumann
“The Expression of Evidentiality in
The articles deal with topics of syntax and semantics that
are currently at the forefront of research in linguistic typology: TAM and
evidentiality, clause-combining, ditransitive constructions, expression of
spatial relations. In keeping with the editorial statement of Linguistic
Discovery, all the articles presented here are based on the description and
analysis of primary linguistic data.
Comrie, Bernard. 2008. Linguistic diversity in the Caucasus.
Annual Review of Anthropology 37. 131-143 doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.35.081705.123248
Tuite, Kevin. 2007. The rise and fall and revival of the
Historiographia Linguistica 35 #1.