Nour Efrat-Kowalsky

PhD project description

The Ancient Near East is a cultural, political, and economical hotspot with over 5000 years of uninterrupted documentation of linguistic history. Up until the mid first millennium CE, various languages belonging to the Afro-Asiatic, Hurro-Urartian, and Indo-European language families are known to have coexisted with at least four language isolates contributing to the mixture.
This unique configuration is an ideal testbed for tracing the distribution and spread of linguistic features within and across families and is of particular interest for estimating the impact language isolates can have on the typological profile of languages from larger families.
The project focuses on the spatiotemporal diffusion of morphological patterns in the Ancient Near East. The main goal is to specify the role of contact in trait diffusion by using extralinguistic information as a proxy, in particular information relating to geopolitical and socio-economical history (economic system, ruling system, migrations, displacements), physical geography (obstacles, affordance, trade routes), and population genetics. It correlates linguistic and extralinguistic data in order to specify their effect on the diffusion of feature specification in space and over time.