LINGUIST List 6.1307

Sun Sep 24 1995

Disc: Dialect

Editor for this issue: Annemarie Valdez <>


  1. "Anthea F Gupta", Dialect
  2. Alexis Manaster Ramer, Re: 6.1295, Disc: Dialect
  3. Hartmut Haberland, Re: 6.1295, Disc: Dialect
  4. David Prager Branner, Dialect

Message 1: Dialect

Date: Sat, 23 Sep 1995 09:54:45 Dialect
From: "Anthea F Gupta" <>
Subject: Dialect

Benji Wald discussed further the popular vs technical use of "dialect".
> language, but there cannot only be ONE "dialect". It's only a dialect when
> it can be compared to another one (whether the other one is considered a
> "language", e.g., Danish, or a "dialect" e.g., Swiss-German -- which of
> course Moulton has informed us has many dialects itself -- but that's what
> we expect.) Anthea did not seem to take into account that the discussion
> intended to create links between our technical use of the dichotomy and the
> popular distinction, which is different.

[useful analogy of history / prehistory]

I had the impression that there were TWO competing technical definitions:

1) LANGUAGE + DIALECTS (ie. the (standard) language contrasts with
non-standard dialects)

2) LANGUAGE = DIALECTS (the language is composed of several dialects)

The original Philippines problems was an extension of definition (1),
where an assumption had been made in a text that if there was no standard
language, the thing was a dialect. This is what led (and leads) to 19C
(and modern) writers talking about "European languages" vs. "Indian and
African dialects". I've always agreed with the view that this is racist
in essence. And this is what the (technical???) definition (1) leads to.

Anthea Fraser GUPTA

English Language & Literature
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge e-mail:
Singapore 0511 telephone: (65) 772 3933
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Message 2: Re: 6.1295, Disc: Dialect

Date: Sat, 23 Sep 1995 09:15:09 Re: 6.1295, Disc: Dialect
From: Alexis Manaster Ramer <amrCS.Wayne.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.1295, Disc: Dialect

In response to Benji Wald's query, the OED is actively collecting
neologisms in linguistic terminology for the next edition.
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Message 3: Re: 6.1295, Disc: Dialect

Date: Sat, 23 Sep 1995 16:01:35 Re: 6.1295, Disc: Dialect
From: Hartmut Haberland <>
Subject: Re: 6.1295, Disc: Dialect

Ole Ravnholt makes an interesting point in his posting, viz.

| I suspect that while the northern German dialect and the Swiss one may be
| mutually unintelligible, Standard High German is intelligible to speakers
| of both. Danish and German are not mutually intelligible, even though some
| of us have learnt German in school, and on both sides of the border many
| people understand and even speak the other language.

But why? I'd say that the reason why Northern German dialect speakers as
well as Swiss German speakers understand Standard German is exactly the same
as the reason why quite a lot of Danes understand Standard High German: they
have been exposed to it in school. (After all, most Standard German speakers
do neither understand Low German nor Swiss German.) So there is no real
difference in these terms anyway. And Ole should not underestimate the
difference between Swiss and Standard German: it is greater than the
difference between Danish a, say, _any_ kind of Norwegian. (I'm speaking
from experience here.)

And (:-)), why should it be disturbing for a Dane that Danish is claimed to
be equidistant from German compared to another language (Swiss German) which
is spoken in a sovereign state as well? Would be be disturbing to a Faroese
if somebody said that Faroese and Icelandic (very roughly mutually
intelligible, at least among consenting adults) are closer than Faroese and

Hartmut Haberland
(native speaker of (Northern) Standard German and somewhat fluent in Danish
after 21 years of residence)
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Message 4: Dialect

Date: Sun, 24 Sep 1995 16:39:46 Dialect
From: David Prager Branner <>
Subject: Dialect

On the subject of the term "dialect", there is an interesting paper by
Victor H. Mair, entitled

	"What is a Chinese 'Dialect/Topolect'? Reflections on Some Key
Sino-English Linguistic Terms." Sino-Platonic Papers 29(September, 1991).

This paper treats the question in rather fine detail, with reference to
Chinese terminology and some typological issues.

David Prager Branner, Yuen Ren Society
Asian L&L, University of Washington, Box 353521
Seattle, WA 98195-3521 USA			<>
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