How to study multilingualism of the past: Investigating traditional contact situations in Daghestan
Reconstructing contact situations for an unwritten language is a challenging task, as the sociolinguistic past of such speech communities is very rarely documented. The paper describes research in which a method of retrospective family interviews is applied, where respondents’ recollections about recent multilingual past and, in particular, about the language repertoires of their elder relatives, are converted into quantitative data. It is a case study of three neighboring villages in the mountains of Daghestan, each of which has its own first language. It is shown that the multilingual pattern in the cluster is now shifting from the knowledge of neighbor languages towards Russian – an external lingua franca which is not native to any of the communicants.