All divisions of Slavic languages based on phonological criteria that I have seen so far are rather minor and/or localized (e.g. spirantization (Czech, Ukrainian) or not (Russian, Polish) of g). Is this indeed the case? Or am I missing a major partition that can be done based on more solid/systematic phonological aspects? (such as the La Spezia-Rimini line.) There is, of course, the retention of tone in parts of South Slavic, but it doesn't seem to be in the same league of relevance as the LSR line.

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    Since the common ancestor of the Slavonic languages is rather further back than the common ancestor of Romance languages, it would be surprising to find this, apart from the major divisions between East, West, and South Slavonic.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 17:59
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    I'm surprised by your remark, as I have always thought that the common ancestor of the Slavonic languages is the most recent of the three major European groups. Didn't the spread of Latin take place during the rise of the Empire, and the spread of Slavic during/after its fall, therefore being more recent? I also can't see how being older would help the non-existence of a fault line as the LSR. Did you mean to say the opposite? Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 18:27
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    yeah, I've usually heard estimates for the end of common slavic unity a bit under 1500-1000 years before present, with the end of common vulgar latin unity around 2000 years before present (about the same as the end of common germanic unity, and around 1000 years after the end of common celtic unity)
    – Tristan
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 9:17

1 Answer 1


The main classification of Slavic divides it into South Slavic, West Slavic and East Slavic.

The most important partition of Slavic languages is the band that separates South Slavic from the rest of Slavdom, cemented by the establishment of the Magyars in Pannonia.

But there are features shared by South Slavic and East Slavic but not West Slavic, and important isoglosses within South Slavic, many involving yat. South Slavic is a dialect continuum but not provably a phylogenetic clade. That is, there were multiple waves from different places in the North.

It's not like the La Spezia-Rimini line, it's more like the break in the continuum between Daco-Romance and the rest, including Italian.

While the La Spezia-Rimini line explains some interesting features, they're a small subset of the total features. Parisian French is non-pro-drop and has extreme phonological innovations, so that Spanish and Italian - based on dialects just southeast of the line - are more similar to each other on many important dimensions, and arguably overall.

The mutual intelligibility between Daco-Romance languages, like Romanian, and the rest of the Romance world - even southeast of the line - is severely affected by a millennium of geographic and cultural separation, substrata and so on.

Concretely, are we really sure that no Roman from southeast of the line ever went to Iberia? In fact, we know they did.

Note that this is a political map, and therefore oversimplified.

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  • Thanks for your answer. But I think it misses the point. The La Spezia-Rimini may have lost in relevance to later local changes, but this does not reduce its (still current) relevance and the fact that it was, phonologically, the most important divide in regional Latin/Romance for centuries. I'm familiar with the South/West/East Slavic division, but this division, for all can I tell, lacks a single line as relevant as the LSR line - finding about one was the purpose of my question. Apparently, there is no such line. Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 22:17

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