Arina Ivanickaja


In the period of the 18th and 19th century, the interest in the ethno-cultural identity of various ethnic groups had begun to grow in Germany. For more than forty years a famous researcher of Baltic languages, ethnographer and archaeologist prof. Adalbert Bezzenberger focused his activities on the Curonian Spit by devoting his attention to the history and culture of the settlements and the endangered Kursenieku language. His work “Über die Sprache der preußischen Letten” (1888) became the first professional study of the Kursenieku language. Not only does the work contain a description of the Kursenieku language prepared in accordance with the tradition of comparative linguistics of that time, and is based on a large amount of factual materials accumulated by the investigator himself, but it also includes a number of texts and a glossary. Since the Kursenieku language did not have a written form, every documenter, including Bezzenberger, used one’s own system of spelling. This work is important for the reconstruction of the Kursenieku language of that time, as well as for the overall research of the history of the language in general. The article presents the assessment of Bezzenberger’s contribution to documenting the Kursenieku language in the general context of written sources of the Kursenieku language, it also aims at discerning the tendencies of language development reflected in sources of different chronological periods.

KEY WORDS: Kursenieku language, written monument, endangered language, language documentation, baltistics.


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