Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the Division of the Humanities in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

By Ilya Yakubovich

© 2008 All Rights Reserved
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
University of Chicago
Commitee: Theo van den Hout, H. Craig Melchert, Victor Friedman


The study of linguistic contacts in ancient societies can be described as an inverse sociolinguistic problem. When one is dealing with modern languages, it is frequently easier to gather information about the ecology of their development than to elicit the relevant linguistic data. In the case of extinct languages, we begin our research with a corpus of texts exhibiting foreign influence, but we are frequently unaware of social factors that could trigger this impact. We can, however, use our typological knowledge in order to elucidate contact mechanisms through their results, and then to reconstruct contact stimuli through these mechanisms. This, in turn, can contribute to the better understanding of civilizations whose ethnic history does not yield to direct observations.

My Ph.D. dissertation aims at applying the typology of language contact mechanisms to the analysis of coexistence between the Luvian language and its neighbors in various historical periods. Ancient Anatolia as a region is particularly conducive to inverse sociolinguistic investigation, since the texts excavated in this area provide us with abundant examples of structural interference, lexical borrowing, code-mixing, and code alternation, and also contain some historical information about the status of various ethnic groups against which one’s linguistic conclusions can be checked.

I have tried to demonstrate that the Luvian population groups were close neighbors of the Hittites in the central part of Asia Minor at least from the late third millennium BC onwards. Beginning with Anitta’s conquest in the eighteenth century BC, the Hittites and the Luvians were united in one polity, where the first group exercised social dominance, while the second one was linguistically dominant. The subsequent migrations of the Luvians in southeastward and westward directions were connected with the expansion of the Hittite state. At the same time, the balance between the Hittite and the Luvian speakers in the Hittite capital Hattusa and its surrounding area continued to shift in favor of the second group, till the point when all the Hittite elites, including the king and the members of the royal family, were fully bilingual in Luvian.

Now published as: Ilya Yakubovich. Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language. Studies in Indo-European Languages & Linguistics 2. Leiden: Brill, 2010.

Ilya Yakubovich ©2008
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations