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The Pushkin Symposium

The goals presented in The Pushkin Manifesto were formulated partly in connection with the foundation of ELAMA and partly during the second meeting of ELAMA in June 1999, and finally at the Pushkin Symposium itself in September 1999. From the very beginning, the difference in scope was stressed between the Europe-wide, interdisciplinary goals of Eurolinguistics on the one hand, and the more narrow national-philological or national-structuralist disciplines with their limited European orientation on the other (cf. ”Against a Rephilologization of Linguistics”).

In order to carry out a Europe-wide programme in the sense of the Pushkin Theses, there was and will be a great need for researchers and institutes to co-operate on things European — be it of a linguistic, ethnic or cultural-historical character. Contacts have been established, therefore, between the linguistics and language departments of the local universities (Heidelberg, Mannheim and Tübingen), Scandinavia (Stockholm, Helsinki), East Europe (Vilnius, Lithuania, Olsztyn, Poland and St. Petersburg, Russia), France (Strasbourg) and Italy (Udine). The expertise on language contact and multilingualism found there became the basis for ”The Second Symposium on Eurolinguistics: Contact Typology, Convergence and Divergence and the Rise of New Languages and Nations in Europe”held in Pushkin, Russia in 1999 (September 10 –16).



The Pushkin Symposium on Eurolinguistics, Sept. 9-16, 1999

Unnoticed by the main stream of present-day linguists, a new orientation in European linguistics has established itself in the past few years which introduces a Europe-wide scenario of the European languages in interaction with each other: Eurolinguistics. Since the coinage of this term by Norbert Reiter, Berlin, in 1995, there have been a series of activities to boost this new conception of language research with a human face, stressing the multilingual individual, language contact and interaction between the European languages as the locus of linguistic change which have lead to convergence or divergence in the history of the languages of Europe.

1. Symposia on Eurolinguistics

So far two symposia have already been held: in Glienicke (Potsdam) Eurolinguistik - Ein Schritt in die Zukunft in 1997 and Pushkin Eurolinguistics: Contact Typology, Convergence/Divergence and the Rise of New Languages and Nations in Europe in 1999. A Eurolinguistic Circle has also been founded (Eurolinguistischer Arbeitskreis Mannheim e. V. (ELAMA)) in March 1999. A third symposium is being planned for 2001 in Strasbourg, which is a well-suited city for a European undertaking in linguistics and where the contact with European political and cultural institutions can be established for the future development of Europe-wide plans in linguistics.

2. Organisation and goal of the Pushkin Symposium

The Pushkin Symposium was concentrated on the languages spoken north of the Alps and was attended by 20 scholars from 11 different countries (Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, and Finland). This distribution of topics to north of the Alps was due to an agreement between the ELAMA and the Centro Internazionale sul Plurilinguismo, Udine, Italy, which is organising another symposium in December (9–11), 1999 on a similar topic: Processi di convergenza e differenziazione nelle lingue dell’ Europa medievale e moderna in Udine, Italy, which will deal with European languages south of the Alps.

The Pushkin-Symposium was conjointly organised by the faculty of General Linguistics of the University of St. Petersburg, the Institute of Foreign Languages of the University of Finances of St. Petersburg, the Seminar für Allgemeine Linguistik of the University of Mannheim and the Faculty of the Humanities of the University of Stockholm. The symposium was planned as a meeting place for scholars from East and West European counties. This second symposium on Eurolinguistics was a continuation of the first one held in Glienicke in March 1997 (cf. Reiter (ed.) 1999), to which a similar number of scholars interested in Europe-wide aspects of the European languages were invited. The choice of the two places was not accidental - Potsdam and Pushkin - but a consequence of the European heritage in art and architecture of these two magnificent places so well-known from European history.

Thanks to the co-operation between Russian scholars of the two universities mentioned above and the University of Stockholm and the ELAMA the goal to create a Europe-wide framework for the symposium was fulfilled, especially through visits to the imperial palaces of the Tsars and other monuments of art surrounding St. Petersburg. Not only was the contact with these magnificent buildings and the collections of art inspiring for the members of the symposium, it was also the newly gained insight into the significance of East - European and Slavic linguistic, ethnological and historical research of the recent past, especially that of the Petersburg and Moscow Schools and that of the Circle Linguistique de Prague which had motivated the organisers and the participants to travel to Pushkin. The organisation committee was convinced that for the development of a new Eurolinguistic orientation in linguistics, the contribution of East European and Slavic language research must be made better known to a larger linguistic public in Europe: ”Western linguistics meets East European linguistics”. This was also the motto under which the Pushkin-Symposium was held, implying also the contrapuntal aspect that the East Europeans should be given an opportunity to get to know West-European linguistics better, in particular in the field of contact linguistics.

Through the financial support granted by the Volkswagen Stiftung it was possible to invite a number of East European scholars and also to support West European scholars to some extent. The great number of graduate students who attended the lectures can be interpreted as a sign of a positive attitude to things European among the youth of Russia.

3. The political framework and Eurolinguistics

It may sound as a contradiction, however, to have a Europe-wide symposium organised on the languages north of the Alps in a host-country which is confronted at present with a total break-down of its economy and a dramatic change to a new political system and still hope for impulses to a new orientation in linguistics. The organisation committee departed from the conviction that ”There is no Europe without Russia and there is no Russia without Europe”. This was the leading star of the whole enterprise. Considering the results of the Pushkin-Symposium, in spite of the great organisational difficulties, it was nevertheless a worth-while undertaking (cf. e.g. the Theses below formulated in connection with the Pushkin-Symposium).

However, the attempt to unite the best of the linguistic experience and knowledge from east and west is to be seen as a stepping-stone to a better kind of linguistics in the future describing the common characteristics and interdependencies of the European languages, the development of which, if dealt with separately, will hardly be understood. The icy winds of the Cold War with its crippling effect on all human relations have ceased to blow and a slow rejunivation of our science through common Eurolinguistic activities may promote a reorientation to a less nationally-biased and more open-minded approach to European culture research, history and politics. It will deal with European peoples and languages in interaction as an intricate network of interdependencies, which are poorly understood by the laymen and inadequately promoted in today’s educational systems which are mostly nationally oriented, being the product of school politics of the national states of the 19th century. Eurolinguistics, on the other hand, will grow to a new orientation in linguistics and in other branches of the humanities and form a new international discipline when time is ripe for it , i.e. in the up-coming 21st century. The formulation of the concept and goals of Eurolinguistics as articulated in the Pushkin Manifesto was the most important goal of the Pushkin-Symposium (cf. the Theses below).

The danger of over-emphasising the national philological aspects of the languages of Europe at the cost of international perspectives of the common historical core and heritage is well known. Narrow nationalism breeds intolerance, national hysteria and ethnic discrimination.

4. International co-operation

Again the place of the symposium gave a historical background which is indicative of the importance of international co-operation in art and science. With the foundation of St. Petersburg in the early 18th century the international scope was essential for the success. The calling-in of international experts from leading European countries by Tsar Peter and his advisors yielded results of great significance and Russia was to become a new superpower not only militarily but also scientifically. The foundation of the Russian Academy of Sciences  and the the University of St. Petersburg in the 18th century under the auspices of enlightened politicians and academics was to bear fruit for the advancement of research and teaching during the 19th and 20th centuries. The international spirit underlying this development was a significant characteristic in the past, although later tragic political circumstances were to stop temporarily but not permanently a later development to reunification. The ELAMA had taken on its banner to make a contribution to the opening up of Russian linguistics to Europe with a moderate result, as far as the acceptance of its Europe-wide goals is concerned.

Even though the Pushkin-Symposium has so far not got the general public’s attention and even tough the number of participants in Pushkin was limited, the impact of such a symposium should not be underestimated. The first steps to a new orientation in linguistics with the multilingual individual as the locus of linguistic change and his role as an intermediary agent in the language community (cf. Theses 1 and 2) have been taken. The Eurolingusitic Circle of Mannheim calls upon the linguists of the world to support the goals of Eurolinguists as laid down in the  Pushkin Manifesto (see below) by becoming members of the ELAMA (see address and bank affiliation below).

5. Conference activities on Eurolinguistics

A synopsis will be given here of the topics and contact typologies which underlie the three Eurolinguistic events in Glienicke, Pushkin and Udine summarised in Figures 1 - 3.

5.1 Gliniecke 1997

A systematic study of the 20 articles edited by Norbert Reiter Eurolinguistik - ein Schritt in die Zukunft gives us a picture of a field which has not reached ist maturity yet and which the editor also considers to be too ”philological” He emphasises in his final commentary to the book ”how much effort it will take to emancipate Eurolinguistics from the philologies” (cf. p.351).In Figure 1 the contributions of the Glienicke Symposium have been characterised under six head lines so that the readers get an idea of the approach to Eurolinguistics in Glienicke.

First, that is Section I in Figure 1, there is a general introductory chapter on Eurolinguistics and its connection with European culture research and ecology (4 papers plus Reiter’s introduction). Second, there are another four papers in Section II on linguistic unions (”Sprachbünde”) in Europe which deal with morphosyntactic, phraseological and semantic characteristics found across the language boundaries in Europe plus the specific balkanisms. Third, in section III, two papers deal with area-linguistic aspects of Europe and typology, whereby the EURO-TYP Project and its results are discussed. Fourth, in Section IV, 22 language contacts are mentioned which are not explicitly enumerated as such by Reiter but implied in the text of the chapters ”Kulturelle und sprachliche Kontakte” (pp. 161 -267) and ”Peripherie und Minderheitensprachen” (pp. 271 - 303). Finally, etymological aspects and the significance of Eurolinguistics for foreign language teaching (Sections V and  VI in Figure 1) are treated. A survey of the contents of the three symposia mentioned above will help us to define what Eurolinguistics is about or what it should not include as its domain of research.

5.2 Pushkin 1999

The programme of the Pushkin-Symposium contains some additional aspects not dealt with at Glienicke. Section A: Historical and political aspects of the linguistic situation in the European Union (1 paper on France).Since France has a great number of minority languages a similar number of language contacts are indirectly implied and therefore enumerated in  Figure 2.

The position of Yiddish as a Europe-wide language is specific and merits to be dealt with in a special (1 paper).

The two overall European area-linguistic projects ATLAS LINGUARUM EUROPAE (Section B) (1 paper)and EUROTYP (1 paper) Section C) deserve in the very strict sense to be called Eurolinguistic, since their goal is of a Europe-wide coverage. However, in Section C the topic of Language and Politics includes the role of political language for the spread of Communism (1 paper) and Natonalsocialism (1 paper), which must also be considered to be two Europe-wide phenomena. After these clearly Europe-oriented approaches some papers at Pushkin deal with the specific contacts between dominating and minority languages: Section E: Penetration of Majority Languages in Minority Languages: English - Irish (1 paper), German - Retoromansh - Italian (1 paper) and Lithuanian - Russian - Polish - White Russian - Ukrainian (1 paper).

In Section F: Convergence as a Factor for the Rise and Change of European Languages: Latin - Middle Dutch (1 paper) and Latin - Scandinavian languages (1 paper). Also under the head line of ”Convergence” the eastern contacts must be mentioned between Middle Low German - East Slavic (Old Russian) (1 paper); East Slavic - West Slavic - Lithuanian (1 paper); Baltic Finnish - North Germanic/Scandinavian (1 paper); Armenian - Russian and Tunguse (Even) - Russian (1 paper). In all more than 20 language contacts were dealt with in Pushkin.

Figure 2: Topics and Contact Typology in Pushkin 1999 (not online)

5.3 Udine 1999

Whereas in Glienicke and to some extent also in Pushkin the organisers also include papers on defining the goal of Eurolinguistics and take pains to define what this new term denotes, the symposium in Udine in 1999 avoids this term altogether and focuses on ”Processes of Convergence and Differentiation in the Languages of Medieval and Modern Europe”, which comes close to the scope of the Glienicke and Pushkin Symposia. In the Udine preliminary programme an implicit list of contact typology is discernible although not explicit, covering language contacts south of the Alps on the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Even though the Italian symposium does not explicitly use the term Eurolinguistics one can consider it as being a symposium of a similar scenario for the description of the language contacts in the south of Europe, so much that one feels motivated to regard all three symposia under the same title: Eurolinguistics.

By referring to Trubetzkoy’s well-formulated ”Law of National and Cultural Fragmentation” in his famous essay of 1923 ”The Tower of Babel and Confusion of Tongues”, one feels strongly motivated to develop a Europe-wide scenario in dealing with the languages of Europe and their historical genesis in terms of contact typology. This contact typological view underlines the very conception of the three symposia mentioned here although this view is not explicitly stated excepting here the Pushkin Symposium. The starting point for the Pushkin Symposium was that language contacts via bilingual or multilingual individuals lead in the course of time to linguistic and cultural convergence, or with the lack of such contacts, to divergence, both processes causing the rise of new languages and nations in Europe. That this fragmentation of languages and peoples cannot be described without considering ethnic, political and cultural aspects is explicitly stated in the programmes of the Glienicke and Pushkin symposia.

In Figure 3 the contact typology implied in the Udine  Symposium is sketched according to the printed programme sent out in July 1999.Being concentrated on the Mediterranean Area and the southern European languages there are six clearly discernible blocks of contact: Block I: Latin in contact with languages in the north and south of the Roman Empire (2 papers) besides 4 papers on general aspects of the significance of Latin for the cultural development. Block II: Greek in contact with Romanian (1 paper) and Armenian (1 paper); Block III: Turkish - European languages (4 papers) which contradicts the general bias that Turkish is not a European language; Blocks V and VI deal with the language contacts between the languages of the Republics of Venice and Genoa and the languages under their dominance on the Adriatic and the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages (2 papers). The linguistic influence of these two trading languages (Venetian and Genuese) is to be regarded as corresponding to that of the language of the Hanseatic League - Middle Low German - in the North and Baltic Sea Areas during the Middle Ages. In Block VII the influence of Italian on South Slavic is treated (4 papers); in Block VI Hungarian language contacts with German (2 papers), Slavic (2 papers), Latin (1 paper), Ukrainian (1 paper) and Italian (1 paper) are also discussed. Furthermore, there are some less spectacular contacts such as German - Slovenian (1 paper) in Block IV and Albanian - ? (1 paper) in Block V; the EURO-TYP programme is also represented (1 paper) in Block VIII as is Yiddish (1 paper).

Figure 3: Contact Typology in Udine 1999 (not online available)

6. The significance of Eurolinguistics for future linguistic research

We are witnessing a new and strong re-orientation in the humanities in these days toward a global view of the languages and peoples of Europe which has to do with the economic and political unification of Europe and in which the East European countries are about to take part in. In this respect the Pushkin Symposium was an attempt to awaken the short-sighted views of the languages of Europe as only national languages instead of emphasising their status as also international means of communication. Especially the view of the European languages as products of contact throughout history via bilingual or multilingual individuals  has promoted the global Europe-based view of the genesis of the European languages. The naive tenet of the genetic origin of the European national languages in the 19th century tradition of the Grimm Brothers does not hold. There is more to linguistic genesis than merely genetic relationship.

The three symposia described above are to be seen as contributions to a modernisation of linguistic research in Europe, whereby linguists of a Eurolinguistic profile will profit from participating in the process of Europeanisation and globalisation which has already taken place in economics and politics on a big scale. It is time also for linguistics to participate in these three processes which are now changing the future of the European peoples. Even though the attempt to change the general nationalistic mind and the narrow view of the European languages will be a difficult task in the next few years, the first steps to building a new linguistic discipline in its own right have been taken.


Therefore we call upon the Europe-oriented scholars to support and join our Eurolinguistic association, ELAMA, by writing to us and asking for membership. The Third Eurolinguistic Symposium planned to be held in Strasbourg in 2001 will become a meeting place, where new initiatives to Eurolinguistic activities will be taken and a wide net-work for new contacts and plans will be built, that is, Europe-wide projects across national borders and foundation of other Eurolinguistic associations in East and West Europe. Also the financial possibilities within the framework of the European Union as well as private sponsoring for supporting Europe-wide projects will be discussed.

The Eurolinguistic Association of Mannheim invites especially the youth of the world to participation via internet in creating a modern and global approach to a science of language with a human face. We need a Europe-wide acclamation for action.

On behalf of the Eurolinguistic Association of Mannheim (ELAMA e. V.)

Mannheim, Nov. 1999

Sture Ureland, Chairman


Greetings from the mausoleum!
Best wishes
Yours V. Uleanov/Lenin