LINGUIST List 6.1334

Sun Oct 1 1995

Disc: English Numerals, Language and Dialect

Editor for this issue: Ljuba Veselinova <>


  1. "Lass, RG, Roger, Prof", 6.1199 English Numerals
  2. benji wald , Re: 6.1321, Disc: Dialect
  3. benji wald , lg/dialect.more

Message 1: 6.1199 English Numerals

Date: Fri, 29 Sep 1995 12:58:49 6.1199 English Numerals
From: "Lass, RG, Roger, Prof" <>
Subject: 6.1199 English Numerals

One shouldn't write after a summary has been posted, I supposed, but
there's one point that either wasn't mentioned in the discussion of
11, 12 or that I missed.

This is that the forms of these numerals are one of the most
important Germanic/Baltic isoglosses: 1, 2 + a reflex of the PIE
root */lVikw-/ 'leave' (as in Gr leipo, L li-n-quo, etc.). All the
older Gmc languages have something relatively tranparent, like the
maximal OE en(d)leofan, but now what's left is mostly the lateral +
labial bit (zwo"-lf, Swedish to-lv, Afrikaans twa-lf ...). This,
along with the dative/instrumental in */-m-/ rather than */-bh-/ is
one of the apparent relics of a Gmc/Baltic Sprachbund somewhere in
the murky proto-past.

Roger Lass
Department of Linguistics
University of Cape Town
Rondebosch 7700/South Africa
Tel +(021) 650 3138 Fax +(021) 650 3726
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Message 2: Re: 6.1321, Disc: Dialect

Date: Wed, 27 Sep 1995 22:15:00 Re: 6.1321, Disc: Dialect
From: benji wald <IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.1321, Disc: Dialect

Just a few notes on afew words we should consider in examining the history
within linguistics and without of the terms "language" and "dialect" (following
Stavros's suggestion). One was brought up in Adams Bodomo's posting. The
term is "vernacular". This term definitely has the connotation of "unwritten".
In linguistics, I follow Labov's usage, referring to a first-learned, thus
necessarily unwritten and usually localised variety. It differs from dialect
in that the dialect can be understand to contain many registers/styles and
the like, some of which are acquired later than the vernacular, but still
with the connotation of "localised", even to include local varieties of the
standard. As I observed to Stavros, some English speakers swear by "between
you and I" as "correct" (standard), even when in contradiction to outside
"experts". In at least some communities (or "dialects"), this may be an
example of a later acquired non-vernacular construction, the essence of which
linguistically is that "compound" pronouns do not have case and are invariant
in all contexts. The principle is quite old in English, maybe 300 years.

In popular language, "vernacular" generally means an informal way of speaking,
and may include any "dirty words" and SLANG (the next term to be discussed).
It does always seem to refer to a native variety of the language, something
it has in common with all linguistic usages of "vernacular" that I'm aware of.
In this way it seems to differ from "dialect", which refers ,
both to linguists and laymen, to any SOCIALLY MARKED variety of language
(where the limiting case of "socially marked" among theoretical syntacticians
is what social group they belong to as far as espousing a particular theory,
as in "well, in MY dialect.. so MY/OUR theory is CORRECT")
The difference is that for linguists even the standard
is socially marked. Well, it really is for laymen too but has
the same kind of unmarking as "class" instead of "upper class",
"culture" instead of "elite culture", etc. Even more than "dialects",
historical studies refer to "vernaculars" as struggling for written status,
esp. during the Renaissance, where what came to be French, Italian, etc.
changed from "vernaculars" (as opposed to Latin) to "languages", as they
were cultivated to replace Latin as the written language. Written English,
of course, developed historically in a different way, but eventually the
same understanding was applied to it. I think, if I remember, Caxton
simply uses words like "variety" in his famous discussion, not dialect or

OK, "slang" is the last term. In popular speech a rather clearcut usage
in England (at least Northern) seems to be equivalent to the linguistic
understanding of "dialect", but with the connotation of "illegitimacy"
(in terms of the standard reference form of English) that characterises
the popular use of "dialect" as well. In the US, it is not so clear.
Multiple negation might be considered "slang" by some, "vernacular" by
others -- and "dialect" is usually not applied to such nonstandard
features of English because they are not localised (socially marked in
that way). In linguistic studies it seems that all investigators of
slang start off by saying they can't define it. Then they go on to give
mainly lexical items, which have "legitimate" alternatives. I have my
own ideas about how to define slang, because I have thought about it
in the context of my planned book on the Black English controversies, and
how to differentiate it from the vernacular for the reader, who may be a
non-linguist. However, I would like to invite other opinions on how this
word is used both within linguistics and without, because I am open to
suggestion and because I am interested in the various ways this word is
understood, and why experts in it have such a difficult time defining it.

That's it. "Slang" suggests the additional term "jargon", but I don't
really see that word as problematic. In popular language it refers to
"unintelligiblity". In linguistics it refers to terms used in technical
ways by specialised groups, usually work or professional groups. Benji
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Message 3: lg/dialect.more

Date: Thu, 28 Sep 1995 16:35:00 lg/dialect.more
From: benji wald <IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: lg/dialect.more

I want to join the following to the list discussion on "dialect" and
"language" because it adds to the discussion with some more concrete
examples, and also contains some questions to which various list members
might want to respond. I am particularly interested in corrections and
additions to what I say about "Spanish", "castellano" and "Gallego" below.

The following comes from personal correspondence stimulated by the list
discussion. Although I don't think the author of the following would not
mind being identified, I have not ask "their" permission, so I follow
my policy of not publicising the source of a quote without their per-
mission (in personal correspondence).

The author made the following point (I'm reproducing it here):

> Well, in some ways, I think many modern linguists have missed
the boat on one of the intuitions behind language vs. dialect,
namely the sense of a diachronic and geographically distributed
unity. When we speak (popularly) of the English language, we
include Shakespearean plays and Swedish businessmen talking to
Japanese businessmen. As the introduction to the OED says,
English has a well-defined center but poorly defined edges. The
intuition of "dialect" is that it is temporally and
geographically specific.

To this I responded as follows:

The reason they do that came up in this list discussion.
Languages like the terms "language" and "dialect" are
not HISTORICALLY discrete. Good examples, known to dialect
geographers, are such dialect continua as German (actually Low
German) - Dutch, Spanish-Portuguese, French - Franco-Provencal -
Provencal - Catalan . And there are many others. It only
depends on what side of the border they are to determine which
"language" claims them. Here "language" is defined socio-
linguistically -- one understanding I gave in my last message to
you. Similarly, Serbian and Croatian are historically obviously
dialects of the same language, but Serbian is written in Cyrillic
and Croatian is written in Roman -- and politically they have
long been considered different languages, and have different
geographic bases. In language engineering the problem comes up
in the guise of decision whether to create another standard for
a previously unwritten "language", or to teach children to read
a previously established standard which was created from other
speech varieties which are very close to the problem variety.
On the one hand, there is the practical matter that the texts
already exist in the historically closely related standard, but
on the other hand, it may be that the speakers of this problem
language do not want to acknowledge any political association
with the varieties which they perceive in the standard, and have
pride in their own variety -- even though it may be a matter of
a few common words that make the difference. I'm corresponding
with an expert on Zapatec who is informing /me/ of problems of
this nature in standardising and teaching Zapatec in different
dialect areas. I'm also familiar with this problem in the
history of the creation of standard Swahili.

A final thought on the above problem is that some people will
argue on the basis of the standard that, say, there is no
continuum between Spanish and Portuguese because "Spanish" means
standard Spanish, also known by the "dialectal" name castellano,
and Gallego, the Galician transition between Northern "Spanish"
and Northern "Portuguese" is a separate language, not Spanish.
In Latin America, where they have their own individual standards,
castellano is often used to refer to Iberian standard Spanish,
so that they do not accept the Iberian "definition" of "Spanish".
Some dialects in Spain do likewise, so we have a case where a
"language" (linguistically) has a "language" name and perception
to some, and something closer to a more localised "dialect" name
to others.

That's the end of my reply. For the most part I'm not worried about
what I wrote. However, I have never been able to sort out the various
uses of "castellano" in Latin America and Spain. My impression is that
for some speakers it refers to the standard of their own country, as
opposed to the popular idiom, but for others it is only the Iberian
standard. Since Latin American Spanish reflects Southern Spanish, esp
Andaluz, more than Castille, the localisation historically implicit in
the term "castellano" may have come to some areas of Latin America
from Southern Spain, although some other areas of Spain seem to insist
on "castellano", as if to insist that their local variety is also "espanol"
even if it is not the language of centralised power. Thus, there are
interesting issues in the specific case of various uses of "castellano"
and "espanol" for both Spanish and English technical uses of terms like
"dialect" and "language". Benji
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