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Manifestations of areal convergence in rural Belarusian spoken in the Baltic-Slavic contact zone

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This article combines methods and insights from dialect geography, areal and contact linguistics. It focuses on a specific, yet heavily understudied mixed dialect of Belarusian spoken in the entire Slavic-Baltic contact region. It turns out that on practically all levels (from phonetics to syntax), the variation of features encountered in this dialect is, from all varieties of that region, the most representative for convergence phenomena characteristic of East Slavic, Polish and/or Baltic varieties in contact with each other. This convergence is so far-reaching that, for instance, it seems impossible to distinguish the rural Belarusian vernacular from regional varieties of Polish on the basis of structural properties alone, despite the fact that these varieties are clearly perceived as different by both native speakers and field linguists. Simultaneously, features of the Belarusian dialect – and, thus, of the whole contact region which it most accurately reflects – should be judged under the perspective of larger areal clines (in particular, within the eastern part of the Circum Baltic Area); this view is pursued on the basis of Wiemer (2004) and more recent insights into the areal distribution of structural features crossing family boundaries. Such areal continua, in turn, intersect with inner-Slavic dialect continua and phenomena occurring in various locally restricted “pockets” scattered around in Slavic. On the background of this, we approach answers to the problem of determining the influence of contact (with Baltic and/or Finnic) over “genetic heritage” and the question of which features are more “immune” against influence from genealogically less close contact varieties.


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