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Introduction by Marc L. Greenberg

The remarks below attempt to capture some of the leitmotifs of the past decade, plus a few years, in Slavic linguistics, extending from bibliographical considerations per se to some of the trends that have shaped the field after the first decade following the collapse of socialism in Slavic-speaking countries and the accession of several of them to the European Union.[1] These latter developments have reduced the resources available to scholars living in non-Slavic countries, since the transition to a post-Cold-War era has removed the “critical” aspect of studying Slavic languages in North America and Western Europe and, further, the neoliberal framework of institutional research, not to mention waning student interest, have conspired to shift resources away from humanities in general and towards applied fields. Independently of political, ideological, and economic realignments, technology has had significant effects on how scholarship and science develop, to which the field of Slavic linguistics could not have remained immune. Consequently some observations on the state of Slavic linguistic studies in the context of advances in electronic scholarly communication are warranted. In turn, these observations lead to a discussion of directions in which Slavic linguistics, as a relatively small field of study, has deployed its resources. Small though the field may be, capturing even a decadal slice in the manifold directions in which the field is moving, is a fool’s errand. For this reason, we have chosen to highlight the broader trends by commenting on selected topics that illustrate not only technological advance and its effects, but also the increased ecumenism of the field, driven both by legitimate concerns of content as well as economic circumstances that condition the resources available for research. Despite setbacks that have thrown up challenges to progress in the field, research on both sides of the Atlantic has remained vibrant, researchers have found new and creative ways to engage in scholarly communication, and the field as such remains rich with the possibilities of further discovery and increasing sophistication.

Historical context

If we were to mark the beginning of Slavic linguistics with the fundamental works of Slavic philology, which concerned themselves with defining the internal relationships of the Slavic languages as a genetic family and their relationship to the Indo-European languages, 2015 would mark the bicentennial of the field (let’s take Dobrovský’s Slovanka of 1814–1815 as a point of departure). Observing the bicentenary is hardly a parochial academic concern. European philology—Slavic linguistics being a central subject—not only reflects the Zeitgeist, but also helped to shape the map of Europe through the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century the focus on genetic origins and relationships gave rise to reflections among intellectual elites, ethnic entrepreneurs and political actors among them, on national eschatology. Without a family tree to provide root and branch of the notion of position within the European family, the next step in creating the modern nation state, the signifié whose signifiant—“Polish,” “Croatian,” “Russian,” “Bulgarian”—could not have been conceptualized, let alone constructed, without the historical-comparativists having worked out the Slavic linguistic genotypes. The phenotypes were expressed both as imagined communities (proto-homelands, modern political states) and standard languages, the latter being the closest approximation to a reality matching Saussure’s abstract, fictive notion of a synchronic state of language. Both the lumpers and the splitters have had their day, e.g., the Illyrianist project gave rise to the Yugoslav project, but the latter eventually splintered in the 1990s into a reification of the national language qua nation state (see Greenberg 2010, 2015 for sketches of the intellectual history).

In the aftermath of the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the conclusion of the Great War, national borders were drawn along lines demarcated by Slavic linguists (Kennan 1993 [1914]: 27–30) and reinforced by ethnic entrepreneurs (Judson 2006). As is emerging in historical perspective, the history of Europe’s bloody twentieth century is a product of the interaction of both tyrants and political ideologies, Nazism vs. Stalinism (Snyder 2012). Here again, Slavic linguistics, now with its focus on competing narratives of ethnogenesis, underpins, along with the field of Slavic archaeology, the notional content of conflict (for details see, for example, Curta 2001, Schaller 2002).

Although Slavic linguistics nominally entered the New World concurrently with the early nineteenth-century European Romantic era (Browne 1996), North American Slavic studies rose in importance following the emigration of Roman Jakobson (1896–1982) after the Second World War to the US, where he trained a generation of Slavic structuralists, who through the 1980s held many of the prominent positions in Slavic departments in research universities. Their influence shaped institutional paradigms for the study of Slavic languages, which ran the gamut from the pedagogy of Slavic languages, their structure and history, to the seamless integration of both linguistic and literary approaches to the languages, as well as emphasized the holistic study of the language family, not only Russian. By the end of the 1980s there were some twenty-five PhD-granting programs of Slavic studies in the US and Canada. The post-War period was a heyday for the development of Slavic linguistics in the US, since it came not only with the flourishing of Jakobsonian structuralism, but a relatively steady flow of federal funding—notably, the Sputnik-inspired National Defense Education Act, instituted in 1958 under President Dwight Eisenhower—for the study of what was intended primarily to create a cohort of experts with knowledge of strategically important languages.[2] The picture was further enriched with waves of intellectuals emigrating westward, many of whom attained academic positions.

Cross-pollination also contributed to the growth of Slavic linguistics in Western Europe (e.g., Nikolaj Trubeckoj’s [1890–1938] continuation of Prague-School approaches as well as his theory of Eurasianism; Jakobson’s student Cornelis H. van Schooneveld’s [1921–2003] return to the Netherlands), notably in northern European centers such as Amsterdam, Leiden, Paris, Berlin, and Munich. Slavic linguistics grew in the post-War years also in East European capitals, both national and provincial, for reasons of national importance (language standardization and maintenance of titular Slavic languages) as well as owing to the prominence of Russian as a dominant language among the European socialist countries and in tandem with relative growth of economic resources as Europe recovered from the war. Aside from the migration of individual scholars, exchange of print materials and the International Congress of Slavists (1929–) remained the primary conduits for the flow of ideas between East and West, subject to ideological constraints. The Congresses have been one way of stabilizing the field internationally even as major political shifts have occurred (see Мoldovan 2008).

The disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Bloc, and Yugoslavia in the last decade of the twentieth century is no less bound up with concerns that both emanate from and serve as the object of study for Slavic linguistics. For one thing, these events gave sociolinguists the first opportunities to observe in real time a major shift in language use as a function of cataclysmic political change in multilingual states, attendant language-policy changes, as well as follow-on effects of political and economic realignments. The Russian case has been studied in particular in monographs by Laitin 1998 and the Yugoslav case by R. D. Greenberg (2004), but note also a series of important collections in the International Journal of the Sociology of Language devoted to individual countries’ case-studies: Poland (issue 120, 1996), Slovenia (124, 1997), Macedonia (131, 1998), Croatia (147, 2001), Serbia (151, 2001), Czech Republic (162, 2003), Bulgaria (179, 2006), Slavic languages in general (183, 2007), Ukraine (201, 2010). The shifts have of course affected dramatically even the smallest, non-state Slavic languages, see, for example, Spreng 2013 on internally-driven language loss in Upper Sorbian. In other respects, Slavic linguists working in national frameworks were among the language corpus planners either demanding (e.g., Gjurin 1991, Brodnjak 1992) or charged with disentanglement of languages from their multilingual frameworks. The post-socialist period remains an object of study (e.g., Gorham 2014, Langston and Peti-Stantić 2014) as well one that engenders new debates on direction of language planning (Kapović 2011).

Slavic linguistics in the new millennium

The post-socialist era has brought significant changes to the field. On the one hand, Slavic linguistics as a handmaiden to nation-building has arguably run its course, though, naturally, national research institutes in Slavic countries continue to charge linguists with the production of normative handbooks and other resources, as well as collect and publish descriptive data and studies on national languages, including dialect material, intended to reinforce, even perform, national identity as a reflection of linguistic commonality. On the other hand, multinational collaboration and the diffusion of Slavic linguistic projects over broader fields such as general linguistics, anthropological linguistics, sociolinguistics, have removed from Slavic linguistics much of the ideological freight that was mentioned above for earlier periods.

Opportunities for international cooperation have proliferated, as is evidenced by regular series of cross-Atlantic conferences, e.g., the annual meetings of the Slavic Linguistics Society, which has met alternately in North America and Europe since 2006; Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics (FASL) has met annually in North America since 1992 (the proceedings are published in the Michigan Slavic Publications series of the University of Michigan, a listing of which is available here); the International Workshop on Balto-Slavic Accentology (IWoBA) has met annually in Europe since 2005; the Slavic Cognitive Linguistics Association (SCLA) has met in both North America and Europe since 2000. Among the older conferences, originating at the University of Chicago in the 1980s, is the Biennial Conference on Balkan and Slavic Languages, Linguistics, and Folklore, which, though it meets in North America, regularly draws international participants from Europe and elsewhere.

Special mention of the Slavic Linguistics Society (SLS) is warranted with regard to its role as a unifier of the field, which is evident in its mission statement declaring the society’s theoretical ecumenism as well as acknowledging its Jakobsonian heritage: “Slavic Linguistics Society (SLS) supports the international community of scholars and students interested in the systematic and scholarly study of the Slavic languages. It aspires to be as open and inclusive as possible; no school, framework, approach, or theory is presupposed. As Roman Jakobson declared (paraphrasing Terence), Linguista sum; linguistici nihil a me alienum puto ‘I am a linguist; I consider nothing linguistic foreign to me’.” The shift in institutional frameworks is also reflected in this society, since it is a result of the decoupling of US-based Slavic linguistics from the study of Slavic literatures, which was a hallmark of the Jakobsonian legacy. Indeed, the membership of the Slavic Linguistics Society emerged from that of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL), which is now focused largely on Slavic cultural and literary studies and is almost exclusively a US-focused organization, fraternal to the Canadian Association of Slavists / Association Canadienne des Slavistes. An invitational conference at the University of Berkeley in February 2010 “Slavic Languages: Time and Contingency,” organized by Johanna Nichols, emphasized the new disciplinary alliances of Slavic linguistics: “[t]he conference brought together scholars of Slavic languages who use a variety of analytic techniques both in investigating the early spread of Slavic: archaeology, genetics, and computer modeling of differences; and in investigating how languages are used: sociolinguistics and contextual approaches that attend to the function of language, whether written or oral” (Kaiser 2010). At the same time, the conference post-session included a lengthy and disheartening discussion of the crisis of Slavic linguistics: job prospects in the field continue to diminish along with student support. Nevertheless, the conference itself demonstrated that the way forward is through seeking creative collaboration on Slavic linguistic topics with a range of other fields and to embrace innovations in technology. As we shall see in the following, this interdisciplinary diffusion is indeed the direction—to use the definite singular with some irony—in which the field of Slavic linguistics is headed.

Interesting developments in Eastern Europe and Russia, in particular, point to reorganizations peculiar to the recent history of the region (see Aasland 2007 for an overview). While research institutes generally continue to be public-funded entities and from many of them emerge the Slavic linguistic research from autochthonous institutes, a notable departure from past practice is the formation of a non-governmental, privately funded organization in Russia to advance linguistic research with a focus on genetic relations among languages of the world. Founded in 2010 by its current director, Kirill Babaev, the Fond fundamental´nych lingvističeskich issledovanij (Foundation for Fundamental Linguistic Research) “allocates grants for various fields of linguistics, including the publication of scientific papers and periodicals, field trips for describing the languages of the world, organising international scientific events and compiling electronic databases and language corpora”. The entrepreneurial approach taken by the founder reflects a significant departure for linguistic research not just in a Russian, post-socialist framework, but for linguistic research in general (see Gurina 2011). Another important product of this entrepreneurial turn is an open-access journal, also founded by Babaev, Journal of Language Relationship / Voprosy jazykovogo rodstva, which has a short embargo period during which a subscription is required. However, nearly the complete run of articles going back to the first issue in 2009, including many contributions by prominent Russian and international linguists, is available freely at the journal’s website. Here the relative freedom to create new publishing entities, unencumbered by the imperative to sustain and grow established publishing entities, has allowed a creative new model of scholarly communication financing to emerge.

Globalization of the field is one of the hallmarks of the new millennium in Slavic linguistics. Slavic linguistics is beginning to grow beyond its European and North-American centers of gravity. For example, departing from its traditional focus on area studies and extending to Slavic linguistic topics, the Surabu Yūrashia Kenkyū Sentā (Slavic-Eurasian Research Center) in Hokkaido (established in 1953) devoted one of its 2011 conferences to “Grammaticalization and Lexicalization in Slavic Languages” and several of its thematic volumes of Slavic-Eurasian Studies since 2010 now include Slavic linguistic topics (e.g., Nomachi 2010a, 2010b; Greenberg and Nomachi 2012; Kaczmarska and Nomachi 2014). Helpfully, these publications are available both in print editions as well as in gold (free) open-access editions at the Center’s website, though it is not clear whether they are curated in an institutional digital repository. Among international collaborations on reference works can now be adduced an international and multilingual handbook on the structure of the Slavic languages, Kempgen et al. 2009, Gutschmidt et al. 2014.

Two of the conference series mentioned above focus sustained international expertise on topics of perennial interest in Slavic linguistics. In particular, the SCLA conferences have been a forum for the discussion of Slavic verbal aspect, though not exclusively so and, for that matter, verbal aspect papers figure at nearly every Slavic linguistics conference. While the SCLA conferences do not publish their proceedings, their results are traceable in books and articles and many of the same scholars also collaborate with the Tromsø research groups and projects organized by Laura Janda and Tore Nesset, such as Cognitive Linguistics: Empirical Approaches to Russian (CLEAR). The IWoBA conferences bring together heterogeneous approaches to Balto-Slavic accentology, notably from the Moscow, Leiden, and Copenhagen Schools, as well as others, mostly individual scholars, effectively serving as a vehicle for working towards a synthesis of approaches to this central issue of Indo-European and Slavic historical linguistics that proceed from the turning point in Balto-Slavic accentology that began with Stang 1957. IWoBA proceedings volumes have been following on the meetings (published so far are I [Zagreb]: Kapović and Matasović 2007; II [Copenhagen]: Olander and Larsson 2009; III [Leiden]: Pronk and Derksen 2011; IV [Scheibbs]: Stadnik-Holzer 2011; V [Opava]: Sukač 2011; VI [Vilnius]: Rinkevičius 2011). Among the important monographic products of IWoBA participants are Olander’s 2009 book on the problem of mobility in Baltic and Slavic and Kapović’s new synthesis of the field—going by the narrow descriptor of a History of Croatian Accentology—to appear in 2015.

Among the most important new developments in Slavic linguistics in the new millennium are those conditioned by technology, which affects both approaches to the topic itself as well as modes of dissemination. The ability to collect, store, and manipulate data with computers has meant that much of the painstaking work that had been done by hand on paper over the career spans of teams of researchers can now be done often with a single or small group of researchers in a matter of hours or days using a laptop and a connection to a server. As a result, the media through which material is delivered and scales of research products are changing dramatically. While scholarly communication by means of article and monograph persist, albeit through new modes of access, other media are becoming more prevalent. Among these are linguistic corpus projects, which have grown in size and sophistication in recent years. These intrinsically team-designed efforts are organized along national lines or around research projects at well-resourced institutions. Examples of such projects pertaining to Slavic linguistics are national corpora, including the Bǎlgarski nacionalen korpus (Bulgarian National Corpus); Hrvatski narodni korpus (Croatian National Corpus); Český národní korpus (Czech National Corpus) (which has recently been extended with INTERCORP, the first corpus with parallel texts in Slavic languages based on ASPAC, the Amsterdam Slavic Parallel Aligned Corpus compiled by Adrie Barentsen); Narodowy Korpus Języka Polskiego (National Corpus of Polish) (described in Przepiórkowski et al. 2012) and the Korpus Języka Polskiego PWN (maintained by Publisher PWN in Warsaw); Nacional´nyj korpus russkogo jazyka (Russian National Corpus); FidaPlus korpus slovenskega jezik (FidaPlus Corpus of the Slovene Language). Of these national corpora sites, the Bulgarian, Czech, and Polish sites are part of the CLARIN network (Centre for Language Research Infrastructure), which is an EU-based distributed data network. The corpora allow queries of texts and manipulation of data with varying degrees of access, some completely open, others by registration or individual permission. Also part of the CLARIN network is the The Tromsø Repository of Language and Linguistics (TROLLing), which curates linguistic data of different types, with predominantly Slavic deposits, but not excluding material from other languages.

In addition to corpora, Slavic linguistic projects benefiting from digital-humanities tools and approaches include thematic websites with heterogeneous content that bring hitherto difficult-to-access materials together, notably the Slavic medieval manuscript heritage. A prominent example is the “non-commercial partnership” Rukopisnye pamjatniki drevnej Rusi, an umbrella site founded by institutes within the Russian Academy of Sciences. [September 2022: The site www.lrc-lib.ru seems to have been discontinued. Of the three sites it referred to, two are: http://gramoty.ru/birchbark/; https://rusneb.ru/collections; /520_russkie_letopisi/; The third, Izdanija slavjanskich pamjatnikov, has not been traced.] The site refers currently to three projects, (1) Drevnerusskie berestjanye gramoty, (2) Russkie letopisi, and (3) Izdanija slavjanskich pamjatnikov, which include html texts as well as at least partial photographic reproductions of the original media. These move the medievalist’s field closer to the stage where it will no longer be necessary to take expensive trips to archives to examine manuscripts. Of special interest is the Old Russian Birchbark collection, an international collaboration among institutes in Russia, Netherlands, England, and Finland under the project entitled Birchbark Literacy from Medieval Rus: Contents and Contexts. This site, begun in the early 2000s, contains multifarious materials, including facsimiles of the manuscripts, a searchable database of the texts, open-access editions of the original print versions of fundamental research (books, articles), maps, and bibliography, and its contents continue to grow. Among the earliest Slavic texts, the Freising Folia, are now available in a multimedia site, Brižinski spomeniki / Monumenta Frisingia, which is in turn a part of a larger national project of manuscript presentations for Slovenia, Elektronske znanstvenokritične izdaje slovenskega slovstva (eZISS). In addition to the manuscript collections and secondary, critical editions housed at this site, the project is described thus: “The complex digital encoding of texts with facsimiles, transcriptions, critical apparatus and audiovisual recordings is achieved with the help of open standards of textual markup: Unicode, XML, and the TEI [Text Encoding Initiative] Guidelines. This foundation helps the editions to be better resistant to technological change, software independent and compatible with other standardised digital resources. From the source XML, an HTML version is created with XSLT stylesheets; to read the HTML, only a standard browser is required.” The last decade has also seen not only the maturation of the most ambitious pan-Slavic project, the Obščeslavjanskij lingvističeskij atlas (Slavic Linguistic Atlas), begun in 1958 (and conceived as early as 1929, Мoldovan 2008), but also the availability of the entire published opus freely in electronic formats at the Russian Academy website. Multi-volume reference sets, such as the Ėtimologičeskij slovar´ slavjanskich jazykov and Vasmer’s  Ėtimologičeskij slovar´ russkogo jazyka (alongside many other valuable lexical and etymological references), which not long ago required substantial investments in shelving for the dedicated Slavist, are now happily available in both searchable database formats and open-access PDFs from a single website page (Ėtimologija i istorija slov russkogo), provided as a public service by the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation. Perhaps the latest development worth mentioning in this context is the new site with searchable Slovene dictionaries at http://www.fran.si/, curated by the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences & Arts.

The next stage in the development of monographs is born-digital open access, currently the best exemplum of which for linguistics is the Language Science Press, which was begun with grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and is supported by technical infrastructure and library support from the Freie Universität Berlin. The LangSci mission statement foretells the direction of scholarly monograph publishing: “Language Science Press publishes high quality, peer-reviewed open-access books in linguistics. All publications are free for both authors and readers. […] Our philosophy is that book publishing can be fully under the control of scholars because most of the traditional tasks of commercial publishers can be done more efficiently by scholars, at little or no cost due to the modern technology that is routinely available at universities.” While the project is currently less than a year old and as yet does not feature a monograph on a Slavic linguistic topic (although a forthcoming title by Gabriela Bîlbîie, Grammaire des constructions elliptiques: Une étude comparative des phrases sans verbe en roumain et en français, promises a comparative perspective including Romanian, French, Balkan, Romance, and Slavic languages), it is only a matter of time before Slavic linguistics find this or a similar home for born-digital monograph publication.

The nature of scholarly communication is in a state of rapid change, transforming scholarship in general but also bringing with it particular consequences for small fields in the humanities and social sciences like Slavic linguistics. While the primary unit of communication remains the refereed article, the dissemination of the article is nowadays increasingly born-digital, rather than on paper. Researchers’ discovery of literature is monotonically shifting from specific, library-based databases to general search engines (see Housewright et al. 2012: 20–22). Among the consequences of this pattern is that the context of a particular journal is decreasing in importance and an individual journal’s value increasingly lies in its vetting process, the perceived quality of its editorial board, and its ability to stably and permanently curate content and make it available freely to readers. The latter point is especially relevant to Slavic linguistics, as scholars from eastern European institutions have noted significant difficulties in accessing materials, creating an imbalance in the flow of information between east and west (see Bonaccorso et al. 2014), which constitutes an obvious structural impediment for the development of the field as a whole. Some Slavic linguistics journals have begun to address the imbalance. For example, the journal Slovenski jezik / Slovene Linguistic Studies, founded as a print journal in the 1990s, began offering a parallel “gold” open-access edition in 2003, using an institutional digital repository for stable and permanent curation. The economic model for this consists in the fact that the infrastructure and labor inputs are shared by public institutions—the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovene Academy of Sciences & Arts, Brigham Young University, and the University of Kansas, bypassing third-party publishers. A similar model has been implemented by the journal Slavia Centralis, founded in 2008, with consortial support from the universities in Maribor, Kansas, Budapest, Prague, and Bielsko-Biała. These two journals use the KU ScholarWorks institutional repository at the University of Kansas, among the first such repositories, guaranteeing stable URLs (i.e., DOIs – digital object identifiers) and permanent curation. A similar effort is increasingly evident in Russian institutional practice, albeit still on the level of individual journals, e.g., Voprosy onomastiki, administered consortially by the Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Ural Federal University. Broader scale efforts to provide open access on the national level in some Slavic countries have also emerged, e.g., Hrčak, the Portal of Scientific Journals of Croatia, which contains complete runs of Slavic linguistic journals including Croatica et Slavica Iadertina, Croatica, Čakavska rič, Filologija, Folia onomastica Croatica, Jezik, Kaj, Linguistics, Rasprave: Časopis Instituta za hrvatski jezik i jezikoslovlje, Slovo, and Studies of the Old Church Slavonic Institute, as part of a comprehensive repository of all national scholarly communication. The leading role that eastern European institutions play in this restructuring is a function of the fact that public-funded research never ceased to be treated as a public good and, accordingly, the means of dissemination have remained in public (non-profit) institutions.

Visibility and impact of Slavic journals remains a problem for the field, especially in light of the measurement imperative (see discussion below). Most Slavic linguistics journals have too small a readership to warrant attention by the big private publishers and, consequently, they stand largely outside of the journal impact factor and citation indexing game. So, for example, in the Thomson-Reuters Arts & Humanities Citation Index Language & Linguistics Journal List, of 195 journals listed, the only one pertaining to Slavic linguistics is Russian Linguistics (published by Springer) (https://www.thomsonreuters.com retrieved 25 May 2015). The list of journals consists predominantly of West European and North American anglophone literature published by for-profit publishers. A veritable “iron curtain” persists between the rating systems of this universe of journals and major Russian journals, which have their own rating system (see Ėkspertnaja ocenka 2015). To the extent that researchers will be increasingly asked to demonstrate their impact, it means that there are institutionalized barriers to scholarly communication. Drawing the logical conclusion from the journal impact game as it is currently configured, Slavic linguists in Western Europe and North America should only publish in Russian Linguistics and never in any prestigious journals in Russia. It is obvious that following such a practice would very much harm the advancement of the field.

Impact factors for both journals and individuals can hardly be ignored, however. Researchers in Slavic linguistics, just as all employed scholars, are increasingly subject to the imperative of impact measurement, i.e., since their work and citations of it can in principle be electronically read and discovered, citations to a scholar’s work are used as data points to gauge the relative influence of the individual scholar on the field. Since the mid-2000s the Hirsch index (h-index) has become a standard, if as yet poorly understood, measurement of a scholar’s impact on a field: the index measures the number of items of scholarly communication (books, articles) h that are cited h times. The index may have validity in broader fields of science, where tens, if not hundreds of thousands of readers may be reading and a subset of them citing a given work, but in smaller humanistic and social scientific fields such as Slavic linguistics, this is not the case. Institutional administrations that gather and make decisions on resource apportionment on the basis of such impact factors may make the case for excising smaller fields. For this reason, Slavic linguistic researchers would do well to inform themselves about bibliometrics in general and article-level metrics in particular and use the data to stake a claim for the real impact of their research. A resource guide to bibliometrics and research visibility, written in part with Slavic linguists in mind by the author of this chapter, co-authored by Ada Emmett, is available at http://guides.lib.ku.edu/impact (University of Kansas Libraries).

Along with ephemeral fora, such as Academia.edu (which features feedback sessions on works in progress), the blog genre has also emerged as a factor in the scholarly communication. Among those that have included considerable and linguistically sophisticated Indo-European and Slavic linguistic content are GeoCurrents, currently authored by Martin Lewis, and Languages of the World, authored by Asya Pereltsvaig, who had been a frequent contributor to the first blog until April 2014. For example, a series of articles dealt with a controversial approach to the determination of Indo-European phylogenetics and geolinguistic spread in the article Bouckaert, Lemey, Dunn et al. 2012 (Lewis 2012a, 2012b, 2012c); Pereltsvaig 2015 offers a timely survey of the ethnolinguistic landscape of Ukraine, written by a Slavic linguist, with obvious application to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. While these articles cannot be considered scholarly communication in the traditional sense, they bring scholarly expertise on Slavic linguistic (and related) topics to a broader reading public than a journal article would normally reach and in so doing help to connect publicly-funded research with the public. This fills an important gap that would otherwise be occupied by non-linguist journalists who, though they may be well-intentioned, are not in a position to comment in an informed manner on specialist topics (see, for example, Tharoor 2014).

To complete the circle, communication on the Internet itself has become the object of study in Slavic discourse study, viz. recent work on Russian communication in the blogosphere by Perelmutter (2012).

Trending topics

The following highlights some of the topics, aside from those discussed above, that have been of concern to the field over the most recent decade, with no attempt, for reasons of space, to achieve comprehensive coverage. Nevertheless, the review should give a sense of the dynamism of the field and its connection to other fields as well as a sense of the trajectory of research interests pertaining to the field.

Historical topics on Slavic languages have proceeded apace in recent years, including the addition to the literature of monographs and reference works that sharpen our understanding of both the inherited Slavic material and the effects of language contact, which has seen a resurgence in its program at least since Thomason and Kaufman 1988 that included a programmatic section with an excursus on Slavic-Uralic contact (238–251) and conceivably also motivated by the disaggregation of Slavic multilingual states, triggering fresh impetus to explore national origins (with regard to language contact, see, for example, Newerkla 2011, Pronk-Tiethoff 2013). Most intriguing is the renewed dialogue between archaeology and linguistics and, in light of rapid advances in genomics, between studies of gene distribution and Slavic diachronic geolinguistics. Works on the early history of the Slavic languages have seen in the most recent decade an important updating of the relationship between Indo-European and Slavic, including more consistent representation of the mapping of Slavic material onto its currently reconstructed shape with three widely-accepted laryngeal segments. A considerable component of understanding this relationship from the point of view of phonological and morphological shape has come from continued progress in Balto-Slavic accentology, which was mentioned above. Important recent contributions that have incorporated this progress include Snoj 2003, Derksen 2008, Matasović 2008, Kapović 2015, and a particularly elaborate view, emphasizing the author’s fundamental review of the reconstruction of Proto-Slavic, is found in Holzer 2007. Dybo 2013 synthesizes the results of Indo-European accentology with archaeological research on Indo-European cultural assemblages and delineates a split between an archaic northern (Baltic, Slavic, Albanian, Germanic, Celto-Italic) and innovative southern group (Greek, Indo-Aryan, and possibly other Indo-European), where the inherited “complex” paradigmatic system broke down. This fact is thought to have been conditioned by the originally nomadic character of the southern group, which was subject to rapid spread and which colonized the Balkans in a “secondary Indo-European homeland.” Brackney 2007 elaborates a theory of Slavic linguogenesis proceeding from Colin Renfrew’s proposal to locate the Proto-Indo-European homeland in Anatolia as a consequence of the spread of language and agriculture, with the follow-on implication that the considerable spread of Slavic owes to language shift rather than migration. This comports with DNA analysis presented in Rębała, Mikulich, Tsybovsky, et al. 2007, which defines two subgroups of Slavic speakers, combining in one group the West and East Slavic speakers plus Slovene and Croatian and a second group encompassing remaining South Slavic speakers, where the internal diversity of Y-chromosome contributions are a consequence of admixture with substrate populations. This work also points out that there is no genomic support for Balto-Slavic in contradistinction to a hypothetical Balto-Slavic linguistic unity (412). A similar scenario for the Central European Slavic populations emerges from the later study by Mielnik-Sikorska, Daca, Malyarchuk, et al. 2013, which finds both substrate maternal and paternal lineages in Poland and Ukraine as well as accession of Siberian, East Asian and, later, Ashkenazic genetic components. These interdisciplinary discussions add informed arguments to a general debate about the nature of the spread of Slavic, i.e., whether it owes to migration or to language shift. The latter view has gained proponents who envision a scenario whereby Slavic served as a lingua franca for non-Slavic populations that became integrated into the Slavic ethnolinguistic community (the discussion originates in Lunt 1984–1985), and the view has been joined also by archaeologists, notably Curta (2007) and medieval historians (e.g., Štih 2011). Snoj and Greenberg 2012 have argued that the linguistic evidence points not to a blithe homogenization of Slavic, an assumption that attends debate around its status as a lingua franca. Rather, linguistic approaches, including geolinguistics, dialectology, and etymology can be used to give more precise shape to the processes of ethnolinguistic formation of the Slavic speech community. Schallert and Greenberg 2007 have demonstrated a Proto-Slavic dialectal innovation (the parallel semantic innovation in the pair *gъlčěti : *mьlčěti) that traces a migration route from central Russia to western Bulgaria to north-eastern Slovenia, which, while not obviating the framework of Slavic as a lingua franca, demonstrates that migrations also played a role in the spread of Slavic. A recent monograph by Holub (2014) adds further evidence to substantiate medieval-period migrations. In other words, with regard to the matter of migration vs. language-shift (lingua franca), it is not a question of either-or, but of both-and. Consequently, the topic remains open to further research to clarify both the processes and chronology of Slavic linguo‑ and ethnogenesis. Finally, a recent monograph by Boček (2014) reviews the competing theories and considers the question of language contact, as well, presenting the current state of the art. The fields of linguistics, archaeology, and genomics will do well to integrate their approaches with heightened appreciation of what each of the other’s approaches can and cannot say about the matter.

Diachronic approaches to Slavic languages naturally relate to the study of the Slavic family as a typological class. The second decade of the new millennium continues to see considerable attention given to the study of Slavic verbal aspect, which has now moved to a phase where aspect in Slavic is no longer viewed as a projection of the Russian system, but, rather, as something like a diasystem with significant sub-types. Much work has followed on from the work of Barentsen 1995, 1998, 2008 and Dickey 2000, whose similar conceptualization of Slavic aspect divisions are now referred to as the “East-West Theory” of Slavic aspect (Fortuin and Kamphuis 2015). This theory defines two distinct Slavic areals, an eastern group comprised of Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bulgarian and a western group comprised of Czech, Slovak, Slovene, and Sorbian. A third transitional group is comprised of Serbo-Croatian and Polish. The western model focuses on totality and the eastern focuses on temporal definiteness. Already the west-east contrasts with both the diachronic linguistic and genetic pictures outlined above, implying that the aspectual division owes to developments post-dating inherited dialect differences and at least hinting at the possibility of contact-induced change (see, for example Dickey 2005: fn. 51; Dickey 2011, which attribute prefixal form and function changes to contact with German). Nevertheless, inherited features of the aspectual system, such as the rise of indeterminate verbs of motion, arose in an early Slavic stage (see, for example, recent articles by Nichols, Dickey, and Greenberg in Hasko and Perelmutter 2010).


If it were viewed only in terms of the constriction of funding and student interest in Slavic linguistics as a field, largely in line with that of the humanities and social sciences in general (both in Europe and North America), the most recent period in the field would be disheartening. However, technological advances have contributed considerably to fundamental changes in the infrastructure of research affecting the field. This has meant a heavier emphasis on team-driven corpus projects, multi-media presentations in the digital humanities mode, databases open to mining, and scholarly communication increasingly amenable to free and open access (though much remains to be done to create a truly equitable system). The collapse of older institutional structures have also triggered entrepreneurial experimentation, notably in the Russian context. These advances, as well as greater mobility of researchers than in eras past, has meant an increase in international collaboration with positive effects for the field.

While the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe has had an indirect effect on the range of support available to Slavic studies in North America and Western Europe, these same political developments have affected the socio-political landscape and elicited fresh energy to pursue questions both of a sociolinguistic as well as a diachronic nature.

Furthermore, as traditional disciplinary boundaries fade or become unsustainable for reasons peculiar to institutions and the public funding structures in the nations in which they are situated, research on Slavic linguistic topics finds new purchase through engagement with other disciplines, notably history, archaeology, and genomics, as well as, more traditionally, general linguistics. The interdisciplinary engagements have helped to keep the field vibrant and deepened our understanding of questions pertaining to both the historical and typological dimensions of the study of Slavic languages and bode well for the future of the field, despite considerable challenges to institutions and employment disruptions affecting those engaged in or aspiring to research work.

Marc L. Greenberg, University of Kansas


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[1] Gratitude goes to colleagues Rebecca Stakun (University of Kansas), Elena L. Berezovi (Ural Federal University), Mikhail V. Oslon (Institute of Slavic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences) for assistance in gathering material and for valuable advice on this introduction. Any lacunae or errors remain the responsibility of the author. back

[2] The author of this chapter owes much of his graduate education (1983–1990) to support from NDEA fellowships as well as the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Abroad fellowship program. back