Theoretical and experimental approaches to dialectal variation and contact-induced change: a case study of Tundra Nenets
The project Theoretical and experimental approaches to dialectal variation and contact-induced change: a case study of Tundra Nenets is a 4-year linguistic research started in 2018. The research is funded by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office of Hungary (Project ID: FK_129235), and undertaken at the Department of Theoretical Linguistics of the MTA Research Institute for Linguistics.
The general aim of our project is twofold. First, we seek traces of a contact-induced typological restructuring (i.e. a syntactic change from an Object-Verb dominant word order to a Verb-Object one) in two Tundra Nenets (Northern Samoyedic, Uralic) dialect(al group)s having different sociolinguistic backgrounds. Second, we document, describe, and analyse the syntax and prosody of various types of questions in the two Tundra Nenets dialect(al group)s. In our research, we integrate theoretical approaches and experimental methods.
The central question of our research concerns the comparative examination of two dialectal variations of the Tundra Nenets language spoken in two administrative districts of the Russian Federation: in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug and in the Taymyrsky Dolgano-Nenetsky District (see the Map below). We focus on two speech communities in these districts: one is spoken on the Yamal Peninsula by traditional reindeer herders, while the other is spoken in the capital of the Taymyr Peninsula in Dudinka by people who settled down in the city and live a more or less urban life. The two varieties used in these communities are exposed to different external and internal influences.
Due to an intense Russian contact of languages spoken in Northern Siberia an ongoing Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) > Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) - or rather a Subject-Verb-X phrase(*) (SVX(*)) - syntactic change is reported (i.e. the phrases change from head-final to head-initial syntactic configurations). We examine the syntax of genuine questions that serves as a good basis of investigating contact-induced language change, since various marking strategies of interrogative clauses employed by languages show correlations – to a certain extent – with the basic/dominant word order of the languages.
In addition, Tundra Nenets is an interesting example with respect to syntactic and prosodic headedness (that are not necessarily interdependent in languages). We will test whether the hypothesized syntactic right-headedness goes along with a parallel prosodic structure. Another question is how prosodic headedness on the sentence level (in terms of pitch accent prominence) is connected to word-level prosody in terms of lexical stress (if present in the language).
By undertaking this research, we provide the following outcomes: