morphological borrowings + language death

Sergey Lyosov sergelyosov at INBOX.RU
Sun Sep 11 12:52:04 UTC 2011

Dear typologists,
could you please share with me your data on borrowing of inflectional affixes (both nominal and verbal) from one language into another?  
I will explain my interest. I am working on a historical grammar of Aramaic. All Eastern Aramaic dialects (first attested with any certainty around 200 B. C.) have the stressed suffix -ee as plural-masculine-definite marker on nouns (both substantives and adjectives). All Western Aramaic dialects use for this purpose -ayyaa (last syllable stressed). [According to my hypothesis, Western Aramaic = what remained when Eastern Aramaic left the Proto-Aramaic fold around 1000 B.C., though Eastern Aramaic was recorded relatively late – as I said, around 200 B. C.]. A phonetic shift  -ayyaa > -ee is not likely in Aramaic. An often-proposed solution is the borrowing hypothesis: -ee may have been borrowed from the Assyrian dialect of Akkadian where this  -ee (unstressed) was plural-masculine suffix of substantives (spoken Akkadian lost nominal cases by 1000 B. C., Aramaic never had them). We know that Aramaic-Akkadian bilingualism was widespread in Assyrian Empire in the early first millennium B.C., and we know that it resulted in the death of Akkadian (the official language of the Assyrian Empire). This is usually called “the Aramaization of Assyria.” Anyway, Akkadian seems to have died out before Achaemenids conquered Mesopotamia in 539 B.C.   
Thus, Eastern Aramaic, being initially the language of underprivileged migrants (former nomads) and deportees, “killed” the prestige language (Akkadian) and, according to one hypothesis, borrowed from the soon-to-die Akkadian a frequent inflectional suffix. Do we know of parallels to this kind of development?  

I will of course produce a summary of your data and suggestions for the LINGTYP list. 

Sergey Loesov
Oriental Institute
Russian State University for the Humanities
6 Miusskaya pl. Moscow 125267, Russia.      
Tel.: (7095) 250-6733, (7095) 250-6994.

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