WiP: Do ‘Caucasian’ languages really exist? Tbilisi, Georgia, October 10 – Dr. Thomas Wier (ENG)

CRRC , American Councils and ARISC are proud to present the 4th talk of the Works-in-Progress Series for the Fall 2012 Season!
Dr. Thomas Wier, Free University

“Do ‘Caucasian’ languages really exist? Areal features (orthe lack thereof) in the languages of the Caucasus”
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 6:15pm

ISET/CRRC Georgia, Zandukeli St. 16, Tbilisi, GEORGIA
Since the Middle Ages, when Arab geographers would call it the ‘Mountain of Languages’, the Caucasus has always stood out for its linguistic peculiarities, but almost always in a negative sense: for what they were not, rather than for what they were for. In this talk, I would like to lay out the state of the art in area studies of the Caucasus and challenge the notion that any such thing as a ‘Caucasian language’ exists. We will frame the talk by juxtaposing two ends of the debate: Klimov (1965) and Chirikba (2008) on the one hand, who argue that as many as four dozen features identify the Caucasus as a linguistic area or Sprachbund; and Tuite (1999) on the other, who argues that the only feature that properly identifies the Caucasus as a Sprachbund is glottalized consonants.
Of course, both cannot be true. I will argue that, while the truth lies somewhere in between, in a larger sense, treating the Caucasus as a single, coherent unit reflects outdated 19th- and early 20th-century Orientalist attitudes towards the Caucasian languages and peoples, and prevents us from fully understanding the linguistic complexity of the region.Thomas Wier has a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago and is Assistant Professor at the Free University in Tbilisi.
W-i-P is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the International School of Economics (ISET) building (16 Zandukeli Street). It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.The purpose of the W-i-P series is to provide support and productive criticism to those researching and developing academic projects pertaining the Caucasus region.
Would you like to present at one of the W-i-P sessions? Send an e-mail to nana@crrccenters.org.