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On Thu, 25 May 2000 11:56:12 +0300, Dan Sulani <[log in to unmask]>
wrote:
<...>
>As someone once said:
>"A language is a dialect with an army and a navy."

- Who, BTW? I really like this definition!

But, speaking more accurately, it needs some reservations to be
included. To lump dialects into one 'language', one typically needs
some linguistic kinship clearly felt by the speakers. So, Welsh
will be always considered a separate language, no matter how long
Wales and England have had common army and navy. But otherwise there
may be no significant correlations between 'languages' and dialect
groupings.

It seems that I have some vision (not really mine, indeed) of this
problem, and can try to put it in words. So, please imagine an IMHO
pefore each sentence, and tell me what you think of the following:

If you make abstraction from sensible issues of politics and
self-/group- identification, you'll see, roughly, three sets of
phenomena:

1) grouping idiolects on 'purely linguistic' grounds, you'll mainly
deal with dialectal continua. If you wish, you can call them
languages. You may also invent some special term for situations
when some distant members of a continuum are not mutualy
intelligible.

2) if you take into account sociolinguistic factors, you'll notice
that some dialects are known and imitated in a large area outside
their 'native' territory. Typically, these are dialects of big cities
or other prominent centers. _Koines_ (or _koinai_?) will be perhaps
the proper term for them. Analyzing their interrelations, you can
single out the most widespread or prestigeous one in a group of
mutually intelligible _koines_, and claim that the term 'language'
should be preferably applied to it, and, in broader sense, to the
whole group of mutually intelligible _koines_.

Quite often the _koines_ in such a group are less differentiated than
the 'dialects proper' spoken in the same territory. Then the
subordinated _koines_ can be named semi-dialects (Halbmundärte, in
German tradition), and the term 'dialect' will implicitly reflect
the measure of difference from the most widespread _koine_
(representing this specific 'language' par excellence). This usage
will be probably closest to the 'naive' understanding.

3) Finally, you can take into account the trends in the conscious
normalization and codification, and then mainly deal with _standards_.
It seems that the political controversies about 'languages' chiefly
involve this type of entities. British/American English,
Serbian/Croatian, Hindi/Urdu are typical examples. But difference
between two standards can be still less pronounced (and/or politically
loaded) - for example, an orthographical reform produces a new standard.
Many standards can concur in nearly the same group of speakers, and be
opposed to another group of standards (e. g. Bokmål/Landsmål in Norway
are in fact, or at least were formerly, *groups* of standards).

Does the above miss anything important?


Basilius