ADSTRATUM (adstrate) refers to a language that is in contact with another language equal in prestige. It may also refer to linguistic units (most commonly lexical units) which are not assimilated in language contacts.

An example can be the sociolinguistic situation in Belgium, where the French and Dutch languages have the same status, and could justifiably be called adstrates. In India, where dozens of languages are widespread, many could be said to share an adstratal relationship, although Hindi is certainly dominant in North India. The term is also applicable to particular linguistic features which co-exist and do not assimilate in language contacts. In Maharashtra state in India where there are three different language varieties of Urdu, Marathi (both Indo-European), and Kannada (Dravidian), the sentence structure has developed a common typological profile though the forms of the words are different [Gumperz and Wilson 1971: 155]

Urdu:       pala       jəra         kaṭ         ke         le         ke         aya

Marathi:   pala      jəra         kap         un         ghe       un           alo

Kannada: tapla       jəra         khod         i       təgond     i           bəyn

               greens     a little         cut     having     take   having I+come+PAST

              ‘I cut some greens and brought them’

The term was introduced into linguistics by a Dutch Romanist Marius Valkhoff (in 1932) and an Italian dialectologist Matteo Bartoli (in 1939). As opposed to the linguistic nature of substratum and superstratum in A. there is no influence of a superimposing language. A. appears as a result of individual or common linguistic, sociolinguistic, and cultural cognitive models which stimulate and constrain language assimilation. The constraining factor for assimilation of comparative adjectival forms in Cantonese and Rawang (on the bordering territories of China and Burma) is the existing different cognitive models of comparison in these languages: the active model in Cantonese (A surpasses B) and the static model in Rawang (A is over B) [LaPolla 2009].


Further reading

Ярцева В.Н. Лингвистический энциклопедический словарь. – Москва: Советская энциклопедия, 1990.

Burridge K. Understanding Language Change. – New York: Taylor & Francis, 2016.

Corum M. Substrate and Adstrate: The Origins of Spatial Semantics in West African Pidgincreoles. – Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2015.

Gumpertz, J. J., Wilson R. Convergence and creolization. A case from the Indo-Aryan/Dravidian Border in India // Pidginization and Creolization of Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971. – P. 151–68.

Kishe A. Language Contact. – Paris: DL2A Buluu publishing, 2017. – P. 37-38.

LaPolla R. Causes and Effects of Substratum, Superstratum and Adstratum Influence, with Reference to Tibeto-Burman Languages // Issues in Tibeto-Burman Historical Linguistics: Senri Ethnological Studies 75, 2009. – P. 227–237.

Van der Sijs N. Cookies, Coleslaw, and Stoops: The Influence of Dutch on the North American Languages. – Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. – 2009. – P. 276.

Valkhoff M.S. Studies of Portuguese and Creole: with special reference to South Africa. – Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1966.