LINGUIST List 6.1249

Thu Sep 14 1995

Disc: Dialect, Re: 6-1227; Grammar-glamour, Re: 6-1223

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. benji wald , dialect/language
  2. Jerry Larson, Re: 6.1223, Disc: Grammar, glamour, Re: vol-6-1197

Message 1: dialect/language

Date: Wed, 13 Sep 1995 02:27:00 dialect/language
From: benji wald <IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: dialect/language

The Filipino discussion was interesting, but even more interesting to
me was the discussion of the English word "dialect". It is, of course,
true that English speakers generally "read" negative connotations into
the word "dialect". At least, that's how it seems to us literati, since
we flatter ourselves that the "language" we use professionally and
whose admirers surround us is being contrasted with "dialect".

My point is -- and I invite corrections if I'm wrong -- that at least
the downgrading implicit in the term "dialect" as opposed to "language"
started with an opposition between "written" and "unwritten". Unwritten
languages are generally called dialects -- and are historically disparaged
for THAT REASON. They're "illiterate". I don't know if that started
in the age of imperialism or before, but I have always understood
statements that "Africa has over a thousand dialects" to mean "unwritten
languages".So, as soon as a dialect becomes
written -- seriously written, not caricatured (I can't remember how to
spell that word! what's wrong with me?) -- it's a language. It doesn't
have to have an army and navy, pace (<-- Latin) my beloved teacher Uriel
Weinreich -- it just tends to work out that way -- the European "dialects"
that reached languagehood became so mostly before they had navies backing
them up at least.

Now, when a language becomes written it changes, e.g., Tagalog becomes
Filipino. We notice the resemblance, but we pounce on the differences.
They're "literate", "cultivated", "grammatical" and "civilised" (dialects
with suits and ties, fashions which change slower than the vernacular

In most languages of the world, AND HERE'S A TOPIC FOR DISCUSSION, there
is no lexical opposition of the type "language:dialect". There's talk,
tongue, mouth, etc. Everybody speaks something that's similar to
something else, so they can get the idea of what dialect means to a
linguist, and I guess everybody's aware of something else that's so
different that they can get the idea of (another) language. The English
lexical contrast comes from a literate culture, and has spread with
literate cultures and their political purposes.

I suggest that rather than getting indignant about how the "person
in the street" uses OUR words, we consider semantic and lexical change
and how our technical use of terms have evolved from earlier uses,
rather than make the mistake of assuming that nonlinguists speak a
debased form of English when they use the words in ways which are
displeasing to us, because they violate our cherished beliefs about
languages and dialects. Maybe by recognising conventional uses of
terms, how they got to be that way, and working around them, we'll be
able to get our message/s across. We don't when we insist that our uses
are "right" and that the common uses (including by people more influential
than us) are "wrong". (End of today's sermon) Benji
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Message 2: Re: 6.1223, Disc: Grammar, glamour, Re: vol-6-1197

Date: Mon, 11 Sep 1995 14:35:14 Re: 6.1223, Disc: Grammar, glamour, Re: vol-6-1197
From: Jerry Larson <>
Subject: Re: 6.1223, Disc: Grammar, glamour, Re: vol-6-1197

> (Richard Hudson) wrote, citing Jeff Weber:
>>Catholics are invited every year to "renounce the glamour of evil", which
>>at least confirms that GLAMOUR used to have a much more negative meaning.

>Not really, since the wording goes back only to c. 1970. Older forms of the
>baptismal promise, which we renew at Easter every year, had us rejecting
>"Satan and all his works and pomps". So this is simply GLAMOUR in its
>normal meaning: glitzy attractiveness. And some of us find evil pretty
>Leo A. Connolly Foreign Languages & Literatures
> University of Memphis

I haven't cracked a dictionary or other source to look this up, but I have
seen "glamour" used in a different sense, (in fantasy novels) as a magical
spell that gave the wearer a different appearance. So the "glamour of
evil" could be something like the "spell of evil" or the "illusion" of
evil. Not exactly a negative meaning, but not the commonplace modern one

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