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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A glottochronological analysis of Latvian and Russian Staume, Guido


Glattochronology is a branch of linguistics which attempts to provide dates for a historical relationship between languages, as well as to establish degrees of lexical relationship. In much the same way as carbon 14 dating provides dates for archaeological finds, glottochronological analysis is a technique utilized to estimate linguistic prehistory. The hypothesis that a proto Balto-Slavonic language has existed in prehistoric times is tested in this paper. This test is based on the cognate count, which reflects the cognation, in percentages, of corresponding lexical forms in both languages. The validity of the results obtained in the cognate count is dependent on the method of determination of cognation. Therefore, only an extremely rigorous approach, in the comparison of corresponding farms in Latvian and Russian, can be accepted as a reasonably valid method of determining true cognation. The corpus of the cognate count consists of 207 items in either language. Each item is formed by corresponding free morphemes in both Latvian and Russian, and is designated as either a positive, or a negative item, depending on the cognation of the corresponding forms. The results of the cognate count are then processed according to the accepted glottochronological methods. According to the results obtained, it was concluded that the hypothesis, claiming a prate Balto-Slavonic language, had to be rejected due to insufficient evidence for such a language. It also appeared that a substantial increase in sample size could furnish this type of investigation with mare reliable results. The conclusions reached indicate that the determination of a genetic relationship between languages, with the aid of the glattochronological technique, tends to be inconclusive. It appears that glattochronological analysis is a valuable method for use in the determination of degrees, of relationship between languages. The results obtained from this type of analysis should be utilized in correlation to results obtained by other disciplines in an endeavour to reconstruct prehistory, as dates obtained via this technique should be viewed as not absolute but rather as relative measurements.

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