Talk:Stratum (linguistics)

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Altaic superstrata[edit]

I removed two paragraphs in their entirety, because they do not seem to benefit this article:

  • "For instance, some linguists contend that Japanese consists of a Altaic superstratum projected onto an Austronesian substratum, or that the Insular Celtic languages resulted from a Celtic superstratum over an Afroasiatic substratum." -- Both of these hypotheses are highly speculative, and only supported by a handful of fringe scholars; it does not seem like a good idea to illustrate a common and general term with speculative examples when numerous well-established cases are known.
  • "When the influence of another language is too remote in the past for its influence on the surviving language to be adequately characterized, 'substrate' is used by default, though the situation might have really been that of an adstratum or even a superstratum. With Japanese, even 'adstrate' is probably too narrow a term to adequately describe the situation." -- This is just incorrect; in reality there is no practice of using 'substrate' as some kind of "default" term.

--AAikio 06:57, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

Sorry to disagree, but I know this practice from Indo-Europeanist usage in particular and can even point to an example: Indo-Iranian substratum, right on page 1, on the bottom. The problem seems to be that there is no neutral term which does not imply a sociolinguistic dominance relation, which, for prehistoric times, is often difficult to reconstruct. Florian Blaschke 19:45, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
I strongly disagree withAltaic superstrata denials and I will restore and source the relevant information. Best, Eklir (talk) 02:25, 17 November 2008 (UTC)
The question of a possible Altaic component in Japanese has its place under Japanese and under Altaic, but not under Stratum. By the way, component could be used as that neutral term. And the notion of cultural prestige is not a part of the definition of substratum or superstratum (neither of adstratum, I think), it is just one factor of the phenomenon. --Zxly (talk) 15:16, 10 March 2012 (UTC)

Merge with Language contact[edit]

Merged discussion: I am opposing the merge with language contact, because this article presents the model of Substratum-Superstratum-Adstratum specifically and not any language contact in general, although any language contact may be classified by this model. But it is worth to keep seperate articles. If you do not want to have seperate articles for each term (sub- super- adstratum) than why not make a general lemma for all the three of them? --El bes (talk) 15:21, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

There is obviously a lot of overlap but not all scholars support this hypothesis therefore its best kept separate. However the discussion is more than just on "substrate" so the title needs changing or a general lemma used. Adresia (talk) 12:49, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Creole references[edit]

I deleted "The boundary case where neither language quite succeeds in displacing the other results in a Creole." There are many competing theories as toward creolgenesis and this describes none of them, at least not at all accurately enough. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:14, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

Name change[edit]

Substratum → Stratum (linguistics)

The page is not only about substrata - it also deals with superstrata and adstrata too. However, the current name of the page seems to suggest that this takes preference over the others. Mingeyqla (talk) 16:00, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

fact check?[edit]

Re: When one language succeeds another, the former is termed the superstratum and the latter the substratum. In the case of French, for example, Vulgar Latin is the superstrate and Gaulic is the substrate.

is it saying that vulgar latin succeeded French? I am not sure I am reading it correctly. Is the meaning that vulgar latin is the superstrate of French? (talk) 22:57, 7 May 2009 (UTC)

It means that Vulgar Latin is the superstrate of French. On the other hand, Gaulish has very little influence on French. Frankish is the substrate. Munci (talk) 08:14, 8 May 2009 (UTC)

This article needs to differentiate between the superstrate and the resulting language. For example, we should say that French contains a Vulgar Latin superstrate and a Gaulish/Frankish substrate. This matters not only because French is different from Vulgar Latin, but also because the resulting language does not have to descend from the superstrate; the result can also be a creole, or a descendant of the substrate (tho I've rarely seen the term "substrate" used in that case). --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 09:46, 29 October 2009 (UTC)
Uhmm, Latin was introduced to Gaul long before Frankish was. Frankish is a classical example of a superstrate: In Northern Gaul, it was the language of the élite from the 6th to the 9th century or so, while Old French (or older stages of it) were spoken by the remaining majority of the population. If Gaulish was still spoken at the time of the Frankish conquest, it was certainly on the brink of extinction at the time. In most of Gaul, Frankish eventually disappeared, but it can hardly be called a substrate because it was never a language of the lower classes (except perhaps for occasional settlements of Frankish peasants which may have existed, but I don't know anything about that). In the northeast, along the Rhine, the development was different, though: Here, French/Romance was the substrate, and eventually disappeared in the course of the Early Middle Ages, being replaced by Franconian dialects. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 01:28, 31 October 2011 (UTC)


I do not agree to the definition "An adstratum (...) refers to a language which is equal in prestige to another." Are French and German adstrates ? Are Dutch and Rumanian adstrates? (it's hard to say which of the two has more prestige). Rather, adstrata are two languages that are spoken "side by side", either in one community, or in a small area (in Western Switzerland, German can be considered as an adstrate of French, though not in France). And it seems a bit speculative to talk of the respective prestige of English and Norse in Medieval Britain. --Zxly (talk) 15:31, 10 March 2012 (UTC)


I wonder if it's accurate to say that stratum with this meaning is the Latin word for "layer". It may as well be an English back-formation like burger. That is: first, the word substratum "underlayer", which already existed in the language, was used metaphorically in a linguistic sense. Then, the word superstratum was created on its model as the opposite of it. Then the word adstratum was coined to refer to a third possible situation. Finally, stratum was extracted from these words as a cover term. I'm not even sure if the creation of the three specific terms took place in English, in French (substrat etc.) or in German (Substrat etc.). In these two languages, on the other hand, the cover term strat, Strat is not or hardly used. --Zxly (talk) 15:49, 10 March 2012 (UTC)

Adstratum (or Adstrat in German, where, as you correctly state, Strat is not in use) can also be used as a cover term, when it is not clear (or of secondary importance) what the relationship between the languages in question was like. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 20:44, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

History of concept[edit]

Should be something about how this was overused in the early 20th century, when many scholars were quick to propose a hypothetical "substratum" to supposedly explain every historical linguistic anomaly or enigma... AnonMoos (talk) 19:24, 24 May 2012 (UTC)

Turning to the real history of the concept: This has originally been developed by Graziadio Isaia Ascoli (1829-1907), hence the Romance touch of the word. I regrettably do not have his studies at hand. HJJHolm (talk) 07:19, 26 May 2014 (UTC)


From all I know Modern English is not a romance language nor is it regarded as creole so is it fair to say that Middle English is substrate language of an Old French superstrate ? I do not think it is valid and I am thinking about deleting it from the list but I wish to hear other counter arguments to why it should be in the list for me it is as stupid to have Middle Persian as substrate language with Arabic superstrate resulting in Modern Persian. — Preceding unsigned comment added by JK flower (talkcontribs) 01:22, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

I recommend that you mark the examples you question with {{citation needed}}. Give editors a reasonable amount of time to come up with a citation that backs up the claim and remove if if no sources are brought to the table. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 02:34, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

Altaic influence on Chinese[edit]

Similarly, some scholars suggest that the Chinese language of Northern China underwent Altaicization to different degrees,

Yep, and "Altaicisation" in this context can mean nothing else than Altaic contacts/substrata in Chinese.

though this has also been attributed to contact, specifically substrate effects.Hashimoto (1986), Janhunen (1996), McWhorter (2007).

Uhm, that's exactly the idea. Where is the contradiction?

However, the existence of Altaic itself as a valid genetic taxon remains debated.Georg, Stefan, Peter A. Michalove, Alexis Manaster Ramer, and Paul J. Sidwell. 1999. "Telling general linguists about Altaic." Journal of Linguistics 35:65–98.

True, but irrelevant. "Altaic" in this context refers to the areal group. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 20:40, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

Ah, OK. The section is talking about Altaic superstrates. I have now tried to clarify the matter. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 21:00, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

Portuguese Substatum?[edit]

Portuguese (Superstrate) and Lusitanian (Substrate) should be included in the Notable Examples list. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:14, 9 June 2013 (UTC)

Substratum versus superstratum[edit]

Some editors seem to confuse the meaning of "substratum" and "superstratum". A language that contributes to another by invading and ruling over its speakers is a superstratum, not a substratum, so this message left about Arabic being a substratum in Italian (Sicily) and France is nonsensical. One could make an argument for the case of Spanish because the Arabic-influenced Mozarabic speakers were conquered by speakers of Castilian, but this is not a direct substratum, it's a substratum of a substratum, and its influence is for the most part regional (most influence of Arabic on Spanish is described as superstratum, not substratum, at least in what I've read). So please do not readd these things as they are factually incorrect and based on a misunderstanding of the terminology. --Yalens (talk) 21:36, 5 October 2014 (UTC)

It's been my understanding that a superstrate is a language that has replaced another; this often has to do with invasions and power, but that's not a necessary-and-proper attribute. If, for example, a group of Arabic speakers shifted to speaking Spanish over the course of several generations (you know, to be more cultured), then Spanish would be the superstrate language (because it is replacing another language) and Arabic would be the substrate language (with its influence on the Spanish language coming through interference from the language-learning process). Typically, in the formation of creoles, superstrate languages provide most of the vocabulary and, according to some theories, the substrates provide the grammar. The bit about superstrate influence without replacement is new to me and unsourced, so if you've found sources that say as much, providing a citation might be a good idea.
If Italian or French as they are spoken today by native speakers has any Arabic influence, it could simply be from contact. I don't know the nature of this contact, but if someone wants to add the claim that there's an Arabic substratum influence in these languages, they should provide a source. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 20:22, 6 October 2014 (UTC)
A superstratum is a language that influences another through its prestige, either because its speakers rule over hte speakers of the given language we are talking about, or some other source of prestige. You speak of a Latin superstratum in languages like English where Latin was given prestige as a clerical (and eventually scientific) language, while Turkish is a superstratum in languages like Bulgarian and Albanian because of the long Turkish rule of the Balkans. From the definition used in the lede of the page itself: a superstratum or superstrate is the language that has higher power or prestige. (this says nothing about replacing the other language, note). In some cases, it is the speakers of the superstrate that are the ones who lose their language, not always the other way around as you- for example, pulled from Hickey's Handbook of Language Contact: "If the shifting group is a superstrate rather than a substrate population, there may be a large number of transferred lexical terms" (he then goes on to discuss the "famous" example of superstrate Norman French speakers adopting English c1200, and whether it fits properly in the category as the population that shifted was bilingual...).
A language that replaces another is not the superstrate, it is just the core language we are talking about itself (at least this is the usage I'm familiar for with every case except where we are actually talking about a proper creole language, like Haitian Creole, where there is only a substratum and superstratum that have come together to form a language, but cases like Spanish, French and Italian are not considered to be replicates of this situation).
As for Spanish, we have to remember that the standard dialect is the one originating in the far north of Spain, in the originally small lands of the Kingdom of Castile. In this northern region, there were few if any at all Arabic speakers. Even in the south, however, the Arabic speakers were heavily diluted by Berbers as well as the widespread Mozarabic language (a Romance language). Mozarabic, by the way, is largely the result of a Romance language influenced by an Arabic superstratum, and it's hard to imagine there's any debate about the role of Arabic here- Mozarabs adopted Arabic, not the other way around, and Arabic influences in Mozarabic come from being ruled over by Arab speakers. Those Arabic speakers who weren't forced to flee and adopted Castilian did influence the local Andalusian dialect in Southern regions where Arabic speakers actually lived in considerable proportions (but possibly not even a majority here, as they are diluted by Berbers and Mozarabic speakers), this is known, and perhaps there is a slight influence from Andalusian Castilian~Spanish on the northern based Standard Castilian~Spanish dialect, but to this day they remain quite distinct in many ways. --Yalens (talk) 05:22, 7 October 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I understand what you're saying. But right now that's not cited in the article and, like I said, it's novel to me. It would be nice if there were citations on that meaning. You seem to be in a position to provide them. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 23:44, 10 October 2014 (UTC)
The same problem exists for other languages in the section. For example, Chinese [Sinitic] languages of Northern China are described to have been under Altaic superstrata by 'some linguists,' but *no linguist* believes the northern Sinitic languages are Altaic languages, so the definition given earlier in the section is simply wrong. The case is *not* at all similar to Japanese, which is included in Macro-Altaic by those who believe in the theory. Lathdrinor (talk) 18:47, 26 October 2014 (UTC)

Anatolian languages as a substratum of Turkish[edit]

This is a hard claim to believe, considering that Byzantine Greek had already replaced Anatolian languages centuries prior to the arrival of the Turks. Ungoliant MMDCCLXIV (talk) 14:38, 28 September 2017 (UTC)

I charitably suspect Anatolian dialects of Greek were originally intended (but this may have gone through a broken telephone of some sort). --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 14:44, 28 September 2017 (UTC)
It was tendentious and unsourced. I have removed it. Even a Greek substrate in Turkish is a thing I've never heard of in the literature -- more commonly, the Persian and Arabic superstrates are discussed. This page seems to have a lot of cases where people with no knowledge of linguistics simply assume that because one population descends from another, they're must be a linguistic substrate in addition to the genetic one. Obviously that's ridiculous to claim without linguistic evidence. It should be kept to the actually attested and written about cases (even these are controversial but at least many sources discuss them) : Gaulish in French, Italian in Argentine Spanish etc. This problem is also evident with a lot of the claims about Latin American Spanish or Brazilian Portuguese dialects coming from Native American langauges-- with the list some languages of people who were uncontacted until recently! --Yalens (talk) 17:01, 28 September 2017 (UTC) On Turkish and Greek I stand corrected -- Pontic Turkish has been postulated to have a Greek substrate and this has been discussed, see here if anyone is interested -- [[1]] --Yalens (talk) 22:44, 28 September 2017 (UTC)
As was brought up in the previous discussion, this page needs cites. I will be slowly adding them for languages and hopefully incorporating some sources on the details and history of Ascoli's theory. Anyone who wants to help and needs access to those sources, don't hesitate to give me a ping! --Yalens (talk) 22:10, 28 September 2017 (UTC)

Attested vs unattested substrata[edit]

@Yalens seems to have recently gone on a clean-up of some more dubious cases of substrate influence from the main table of examples. I've added a section briefly covering the topic of unattested substrates and the methods to study these cases of "evanescent weirdness" (this could be expanded quite a bit if necessary; we might also need a general methodology section).

Should we keep examples of this kind entirely out of the main table, however? The question of e.g. a Paleo-European substrate in Sami is well established as a theory (will be adding some citations shortly), and if we don't want to include this, for consistency we should maybe also remove e.g. Dacian-on-Romanian, Guanche-on-Canarian-Spanish, Paleo-Hispanic-on-Spanish. --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 13:57, 29 September 2017 (UTC)

Hey @Tropylium:, thanks a bunch for taking the time to write that section, it was a great addition to the page! I may have been a bit hasty on Sami-- I looked in the literature, and it does get plenty of discussion including much criticism (ex: [[2]]). I've changed my mind-- I think the best thing to do is to separate the examples where we know the substrate and the superstrate very well (i.e. classic Ascoli stuff like Gaulish-Latin-French, and other obvious stuff) from the ones where the substrate or (more rarely) the superstrate are guessed about when all we have for data is the attested/modern result language. So we can list Sami and the like there. I think cases like Guanche 0under Canarian Spanish and Dacian under Romanian belong more with Gaulish>French and friends, as they although they are more disputed, they are cases where we do know a fair amount about the substrate in question : Guanche is linked to Berber, and Dacian is Indo-European and we think we know many of it's sound laws. What do you think?--Yalens (talk) 16:29, 29 September 2017 (UTC)
On a side note, I'm about to remove Spanish. This one is posited by a fair number of people but the problem for me is that it's a complicated and confusing example and really isn't helpful for people who are just learning about this for the first time -- i.e. the "Paleohispanic" in Spanish has also been explained as a Basque adstrate, etc. I think the table should be best populated with more clear-cut examples as it's quite long (and was much longer before I started trimming the junk like Sumerian influencing Iraqi Arabic...). --Yalens (talk) 16:29, 29 September 2017 (UTC)
By the way if anyone has a good source for any of the things I removed, I will happily restore!--Yalens (talk) 16:45, 29 September 2017 (UTC)