LINGUIST List 2.404

Wednesday, 14 August 1991

Disc: Babbling, Standard language

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  1. , babbling IN X
  2. , Re: Responses: Standard Languages, Trees

Message 1: babbling IN X

Date: Sun, 11 Aug 91 13:17:30 MDT
From: <>
Subject: babbling IN X
In the specific (Stampe's) sense, rather than the general
(Coleman's, Fischer's) sense of X, would it make more sense
to talk about babbling TOWARD X?
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Message 2: Re: Responses: Standard Languages, Trees

Date: Tue, 13 Aug 91 12:59 MST
From: <>
Subject: Re: Responses: Standard Languages, Trees
In reply to Ron Hofmann's comment about the notion of a standard language as a
classical stereotype combining broad(est): (1) comprehensibility, (2)
acceptance as superior, (3) compatibility with written language, (4) use in
broadcast media & in cross-dialectal situations, (5) a definition &/or an
academy, and that any of these, but not all of them, can be lacking, and
 everyone of them has problems if you take it as criterial.
If I remember correctly, I think I am the one who in May made this comment on
the possibility of a Standard Flemish without some overt defining grammar or
dictionary. I suggested that one needed something like this, at least in the
Belgian situation. I like Ron Hoffman's approach to the problem, and want to
comment on how these five criteria would define standard Flemish.
1. Comprehensibility. Maybe. There is indeed an extent to which Flemish
speakers from any area of Belgium can understand each other, with a little more
ease than they would understand a speaker from the Netherlands. Then again,
there are speakers from the east of Belgium, who, when thinking they speak
something fairly standard, still would not be understood by a standard speaker
from the far west, and vice versa, of course.
2. Acceptance as superior. For all the fun Flemings make of certain
distinguishably northern accents and patterns of speech, I don't know many who
want to claim that a standard Flemish would be superior to a standard Dutch.
Rather, those who have something against standard Dutch are just as likely to
prefer a particular prestigious Flemish dialect, such as the Antwerp dialect,
for example.
3. Compatibility with written language. Ezcept for certain types of legal,
administrative, or military jargon, it is real hard to distinguish Dutch
written by an educated Belgian from Dutch written by an educated Dutchman.
When a Dutchman can identify a Belgian, it is mostly because of his accent,
not because of his/her writing.
4. Use in broadcast media & in cross-dialectal situations. These are two
different cases. Belgian T.V. journalist (at least the last time I watched
Belgian T.V., are alot stiffer than Dutch T.V. journalists, but they try very
hard to rid their language of anything perceived as Flemish or regional. They
certainly sound a lot more like Dutchman than the average Belgian, without
becoming indistinguishable from them. So they don't have the strong uvular
voiceless fricative for <g>, or a labiodental <w>, things the average educated
Fleming feels are "overdoing" it. These things are not considered important
enough to justify the existence of a separate Standard Dutch. Cross-
dialectal situations. Most Flemings control a contimuum from something very
close to a basilectal dialect to something very close to Standrad Dutch. Is
that something very close to Standard Dutch used in cross-dialectal situations?
Not consistently, only when talking to a job interviewer, a university
professor, or when talking to a Dutch person, or a Belgian from an area real
far away. If a Belgian talks with the average person from an area not so far
away, but still with a different dialect, (dialects differ from one another
markedly every to or three miles in the area, west of Brussels. where I am
from), he/she will adapt to the dialect of the speaker to some extent, in
order to avoid sounding stuck-up. So in the majority of cross-dialectal
situations (if the dialects are not too far apart), something that could be
construed as Standard Flemish is not used.
5. A definition &/or academy. There has never been to my knowledge, any
attempt, by either Flemings or Dutch, to formally define a Standard Flemish
opposed to a Standard Dutch. There has never been an academy or political
body trying to rule what Standard Flemish should be like. When decision as
to the gender of certain nouns or the spelling of words have to be made,
they are made by a Dutch-Belgian commission who compromises on places where
Dutch and Belgian usages vary somewhat. The prescription of that commission
are laid out in a little green dictionary, called by insiders 'het groene
boekje' (the little green book).
Warning. Most of these comments are derived from my own personal experience,
so other Flemings or Dutch people might disagree on some details, but I've
tried to be as objective about it as possible.
Willem J. de Reuse
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
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