Much recent research has shown the influence of authoritative religious texts on the development of written traditions and on the vernaculars. In turn, religious texts are often translated and bear a significant footprint of the source language(s). Such studies cover areas as far apart as Europe, Central and South America, or Africa. While these studies, highly innovative in their respective fields, to a large extent remain confined to their disciplinary-areal boundaries, they challenge the mainstream sociolinguistic theories and theories of language contact. They imply a model of language variation induced by language contact in which contact-induced change occurs not in a language as a whole, but in a specific, socially defined domain of language use and then gradually spreads to other domains. In addition, they emphasize the instrumental roles of written codes and of translation, both of which are typically brushed out as something irrelevant to the “natural” evolution of language. The aim of this project is threefold. First, by using data from five different languages, Mano, Bamana (Africa), Maya (Central America), Finnish, Russian (Europe), we aim to provide systematic investigations of various morphosyntactic, lexical and pragmatic phenomena occurring in native oral and written texts and trace their origin from religious documents and, in turn, from linguistic and cultural contact. Second, we aim at developing a theoretical model of differential language change combining insights from contact linguistics and variational sociolinguistics. Finally, we aim at fostering interdisciplinary (linguistic, anthropological and historical) and cross-areal collaboration to reveal common patterns in our different case studies. Our findings will have important consequences for scientific theory (a fine-grained model of diffusion of interference phenomena in contact with a special role of scribal traditions), for the scientific community (a cross-linguistic comparison across disciplinary and areal boundaries), as well as the community at large, as our study blurs the typically assumed boundaries between “native” and “foreign”, “indigenous” and “colonial”, “religious” and “secular”, “Christian” and “Muslim” and contextualizes contemporary standard and
vernacular languages as having a complex history grounded in religion and religious conversion.