If the language of origin of the borrowing is not longer spoken in the distribution area (or in a part of it), there are two possible constellations. 1) In the case of substratum the language of origin (substratum language) had been spoken in the distribution area before its tradition continuity finished and the actual language started to prevail. Romance is a substratum language of the whole German- and Slovenian-speaking Alpine region. Substratum words presuppose language change. Nevertheless, they often are characterised by extraordinary regional or local continuity.
2) In the case of superstratum, the language of origin has been used over a certain period of time in the distribution area without becoming established permanently. So, in parts of the Alpine region where today Romance languages are spoken Germanic superstrata (Gothic, Lombardic) prevailed temporarily after the collapse of the Roman infrastructure. And in Slovenia, German had the same role during the Habsburg period.
Quite different scenarios took place for the three language families. With regard to the importance of language contact for the history of the language area, it is important to consider the sequence of the borrowing: are Romance loanwords in the Germanic and the Slavonic language area substratum words with regional tradition continuity since Antiquity or are they more recent borrowings due to adstratum? The same question has to be asked – mutatis mutandis – for the German loanwords in the Romance-speaking area and the Slavonic loanwords in the German-speaking area.
Borrowings are a reliable indicator of historic acculturation processes. Therefore, a quantitative representation is appropriate which allows depicting the relative frequency of the verified borrowings localised precisely.
Krefeld, Thomas (2003): Methodische Grundlagen der Strataforschung, Berlin/ New York, in Ernst, Gerhard (Hrsg): Romanische Sprachgeschichte, DeGruyter, 555-568
(auct. Thomas Krefeld – trad. Susanne Oberholzer)