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Substratum
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Substratum

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  • 1. SubstratumA substratum (plural: substrata) or substrate is a language that influences an intrusivelanguage that supplants it. The term is also used of substrate interference, i.e. theinfluence the substratum language exerts on the supplanting language. According to someclassifications, this is one of three main types of linguistic interference: substratuminterference differs from both adstratum, which involves no language replacement butrather mutual borrowing between languages of roughly equal prestige, and superstratum,which refers to the influence a socially dominating language has on another, recedinglanguage that might eventually be relegated to the status of a substratum language.In a typical case of substrate interference, a language A occupies a given territory andanother language B arrives in the same territory (brought, for example, with migrations ofpopulation). Language B then begins to supplant language A: the speakers of language Aabandon their own language in favour of B, generally because they believe that it is intheir best (e.g. economic, political, cultural, social) interests to do so. During thelanguage shift, however, the receding language A still influences language B (forexample, through the transfer of loanwords, place names, or grammatical patterns from Ato B).For example, Gaulish is a substratum of French. The Gauls, a Celtic people, lived in thecurrent French-speaking territory before the arrival of the Romans. Given the cultural,economic and political prestige which Latin enjoyed, the Gauls eventually abandonedtheir language in favor of Latin, which evolved in this region until eventually it took theform of Modern French. The Gaulish speech disappeared, but remnants of its vocabularysurvive in some French words (approximately 150) as well as place-names of Gaulishorigin.Another example is the influence of the now extinct North Germanic Norn language onthe Scots dialects of the Shetland and Orkney islands.In the Arab Middle East and North Africa, colloquial Arabic dialects, mostespecially Levantine, Egyptian, and Maghreb dialects, often exhibit significant subtratafrom other regional Semitic, Iranian, Turkic, and Berber languages as well as colonialEuropean languages due to the regions long histories of indigenous multiculturalism aswell as foreign imperialism.Linguistic substrata may be difficult to detect, especially if the substrate language and itsnearest relatives are extinct. For example, the earliest form of theGermaniclanguages may have been influenced by a non-Indo-European language, purportedly thesource of about one quarter of the most ancient Germanic vocabulary. There are similararguments for a Sanskrit substrate, and a Greek one.Typically, Creole languages have multiple substrata, with the actual influence of suchlanguages being indeterminate.SuperstratumA superstratum (plural: superstrata) or superstrate is the counterpart to a substratum.When one language succeeds another, the former is termed the superstratum and thelatter the substratum. In the case of French, for example, Latin is the superstrateand Gaulish the substrate.A superstrate may also represent an imposed linguistic element akin to what occurredwith English and Norman after the Norman Conquest of 1066 when use of the English
  • 2. language carried low prestige. The international scientific vocabulary coinages fromGreek and Latin roots adopted by European languages (and subsequently by otherlanguages) to describe scientific topics (anatomy, medicine, botany, zoology, all theology words, etc.) can also be termed a superstratum, although for this last case,"adstratum" might be a better designation (despite the prestige of science and of itslanguage).Several theories infer an Altaic superstratum in the phylogenetic make-up of thelanguages of East Asia. For instance, some linguists contend thatJapanese consists of anAltaic superstratum projected onto an Austronesian substratum.[2] Similarly, somescholars suggest that the Chinese language ofNorthern China underwent Altaicization todifferent degrees, though this has also been attributed to substrate effects.[3]

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