Übergangs- und Mischdialekte – eine unnötige begriffliche Differenzierung?
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This article is devoted to a systematic reconsideration of a differentiation between ‘transitory’ vs. ‘mixed’ dialects (Russ. perexodnye / smešannye govory, Pol. gwary przejściowe / mieszane). It is curious that no attempt at making a similar distinction seems to have ever been undertaken by dialectologists outside (Soviet) Russia and Poland, nor has the distinction between transitory and mixed dialects been applied with ultimate consequence in either of these countries themselves. One might thus wonder whether the distinction of transitory vs. mixed dialects makes any sense at all. Consequently, our reconsideration concerns both the terminological distinction as such as well as the facts and their interpretation by dialectologists on the background of more general approaches (like, fi rst of all, wave theories). The distinction was originally introduced by Durnovo and Sokolov in connection with the fi rst map of the entire territory of East Slavic dialects (Opyt dialektologičeskoj karty russkogo jazyka v Evrope. Moskva 1915). They stressed that transitory dialects were to be considered as a special dialect type, because in a continuum many subareas demonstrated features which could not be described as the mere sum of mixtures of features typical for the dialects immediately bordering on different sides with the dialect in question: among other things, transitory dialects are characterized by original, often exclusive innovations (hybrids), their sound changes apply with great consequence, and they arise on the sociolinguistic background of an asymmetry of prestige among the involved communities of speakers. The descriptive properties of transitory dialects were revised some 20 years later in Poland, mainly by Małecki, who tried to give their rise a slightly different explanation. The relation between a synchronic state of a dialect regarded as transitory and the history of its formation was explorated further by Stieber. After Word War II it was only Smułkowa (in the 1980–90s) who explicitly elaborated on a more distinctive and precise catalogue of heterogeneous (structural and sociolinguistic) properties of transitory dialects. However, some of her criteria (and their application) have remained debatable. Some of them, in fact, even contradict characteristics which had originally been ascribed to transitory dialects by Durnovo, Małecki or Stieber. Another striking observation from the century-long, though interrupted, discussions on transitory dialects is that their participants have practically always implicitly presumed that dialects with traits typical of transitory formations must have arisen from the convergence of features from previously existing different dialects; nobody appeared to have thought possible that their rise could have been due to diversifi cation within a previously more homogeneous dialect area. The only known exception to this assumption was Stieber, who, however, himself denied that there had been such a case in the evolution of Slavic dialect continua. In our review we come to the conclusion that for an adequate treatment of the convergence – divergence dialectics one has fi rst to settle reliable relative chronologies of innovations and their spread within a given dialect continuum. Moreover, in order to judge on the salience of transitory zones one has to investigate them on the background of larger areas (possibly across boundaries of accepted languages). From this angle, dialect geography which claims the existence of transitory dialects (or zones) has much in common with areal linguistics.