University of Helsinki, Department of Languages / Kone Foundation
Internal and external relationships of the Samoyed languages
Nyelvtudományi Intézet, Room 110.
17 September 2019
In my presentation I will try to give a brief overview of current issues in the study of the Samoyed languages. The first topic involves the classification of the Samoyed languages, including the place of the Samoyed branch within Uralic on the one hand and the internal taxonomy of Samoyed on the other. In both instances, arguments for previously established binary models of classification have been called into question, and recent studies, notably those by Aikio, have shown that not only the reliable method of shared innovations but also lexicostatistics fails to provide a sound basis for binary subgrouping for Uralic. The etymologies that should be discussed in this context would include those concerning basic verbs such as ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ as well as certain numerals, and furthermore the Samoyed cognates of Finnish kaiho and korpi, which reveal interesting phonological and semantic developments.
Within the Samoyed branch, the distinct position of Nganasan has been highlighted by Janhunen in particular, with reference to lexical and morphological features, to which phonological properties recognized by Helimski may be added. Among the typologically interesting characteristics of the Samoyed languages, I will try to shed light on features such as phonological systems, aspectual classes, destinative declension, and reflexive conjugation, as well as the earlier lingua franca status of Selkup and its consequences. I will also make an attempt to incorporate the effects of language contacts on the Samoyed languages, especially those with Khanty as well as possible substrate influences, into the discussion.