“Mountain of Tongues”
The Languages of the Caucasus in Arabic-Islamic Sources
The paper is devoted to the linguistic diversity of the Caucasus as reflected in the writing of Arab-Muslim geographers and historians. Dealing with the locus classicus jabal al-alsun ‘mountain of tongues’ in the output of Arab-Muslim authors, the author juxtaposes the current state of the study of Caucasus polyglossia with the description of the jumble of languages in the works of Ibn al-Faqīh, al-Mas‘ūdī, Abū al-Fidā’, al-Muhallabī and other authors. Outlining some parallels in Graeco-Roman historians, the author concludes that the diversity of languages spoken in the Caucasus as described by Arab-Muslim geographers appears to be in concord with the degree of the linguistic diversity as conceived today in areal-typological studies.
Keywords: Caucasian languages • Jabal al-alsun ‘mountain of tongues’ • Areal-typological studies • Arab-Muslim geographers • Jabal al-alsun ‘mountain of tongues’ • Linguistic diversity