The ecotype, one of the most versatile and productive concepts in folklore studies, denotes a local variation in an international type as theorized by the geographical-historical school of folklore studies. C. W. von Sydow (1878–1952) developed the term in the 1930s for describing a process of cultural adaptation of tradition, emphasizing the relationship between tradition and its environment, based on a contextual, interactional, and functional view of its transmission and change. A. Dundes introduced the ecotype in his influential The Study of Folklore (1965); R. Abrahams used it systematically in his analysis of American urban ethnic traditions. L. Honko’s major theoretical follow-up of the ecotype (1981) systematized the process of ecotypification distinguishing “adaptation to the morphology of the environment,” “adaptation to the morphology of the tradition,” “functional adaptation,” occurring as new traditions introduced into a system attached themselves to “milieu dominants” and “tradition dominants.”

Historically linked to emerging collective identities, especially national identities, the ecotype has characteristically been applied by scholars of small peoples striving to construct a separate national identity, such as S. Ó. Duilearga’s Irish, D. Noy’s Jewish, and E. Yassif’s Israeli ecotypes. Partly deconstructing the nationally constructed ecotypes, T. Alexander has worked with smaller ethnic and family ecotypes, and G. Hasan-Rokem has developed the interpretive aspects of the ecotype by discussing its potential to express relationships across groups in cultural “contact zones,” especially in historical, ancient contexts and in long duration. D. Hopkins has introduced the ecotype as the best possible tool to elicit the voices of the otherwise unheard parts of past populations, creating a bridge between cultural history and social history, pointing at further productive interdisciplinary potentials of the concept in folklore studies and beyond.