LINGUIST List 6.1454

Wed Oct 18 1995

Disc: Language/Dialect

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  1. Ms Roula Tsokalidou, Re: The linguistic Macedonian question
  2. , Language/Dialect

Message 1: Re: The linguistic Macedonian question

Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 13:47:19 Re: The linguistic Macedonian question
From: Ms Roula Tsokalidou <>
Subject: Re: The linguistic Macedonian question

As a linguist and a Greek I am very interested in getting your feedback
on my "solution" to the linguistic Macedonian question. The way I
have approached this question to my students is to refer to the issue
of linguistic variety (as opposed to language or dialect) and to
support the use of a qualifier in front of Macedonian, that is either
slav Macedonian (for the variety spoken in FYROM) or Greek Macedonian
(for the variety spoken in Greek Macedonia). This way we aknowledge
both varieties, regardless of their status as "languages" or
"dialects", and respect their power and significance in the way people
identify themsleves as members of one group or the other, with
boundaries that are not always as clearcut as portayed in the media. I
find it unjust that slav Macedonian is traditionally recognised as a
linguistic variety (and traditionally referred to as "Macedonian"
without a qualifier), while the Greek variety of Macedonian, with its
set of lexical items and a distinct accent as spoken in the greek
Macedonian villages hasn't been given any attention or recognition.

 It is important, moreover, to acknowledge that linguistics as a
science plays an important political role, since language is power and
the most powerful means of making sense of and clasiffying the world
(Dale Spender and many other feminist linguists have said so before).
Awaiting your comments, Roula
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Message 2: Language/Dialect

Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 11:11:23 Language/Dialect
From: <>
Subject: Language/Dialect

This is mostly in response to a recent posting by Alvarez-Caccamo on
the linguistic status of Galician (or Galizan). If I understand his
arguments correctly, he defends the view that Galician is a Portuguese
dialect, against two other possibilities: (a) Galician is an
independent language and (b) Galician is a Spanish dialect. In my
opinion this brings us back to the original question. From a purely
linguistic point of view, it is not so obvious that Spanish and
Portuguese are two separate languages. Certainly, in their written
form the two codes are mutually intelligible to a very high
degree. The spoken forms are less similar. I am a native speaker of
Spanish and it took me about a week of coursework for spoken Brazilian
Portuguese to become 90% transparent. The difference between the two
codes is thus no greater than that between standard Italian and many
so-called Italian dialects and it also appears to be much smaller than
that between many types of Swiss German and standard German. The way I
see it, if Portuguese and Spanish are considered different languages
but Piedmontese is taken to be an Italian dialect, this is purely
because of extra-linguistic (i.e. political, cultural)
considerations. I would like to be corrected if I am wrong.

Now, what about Galician? Galician and Portuguese were the same
language initially; but for centuries they have been evolving in
separate directions. Unlike Portuguese, Galician has been heavily
influenced by Spanish in its phonology and to some extent in its
lexicon. As Alvarez-Caccamo states, the type of Galician used on
television sounds a lot like Spanish. I would guess that tv-Galician
is equally understandable to Spanish and to Portuguese
speakers. Alvarez-Caccamo is probably right in his belief that for
Galician to survive it must move in the direction of Portuguese. That
is, it must take standard Portuguese as its normative model. At the
present moment, however, tv-Galician (which, I suppose, can be taken
as the current standard) is a speech form that resembles standard
Portuguese much more than Spanish in its syntax, morphology and
lexicon but whose phonology is rather different and contains a number
of Spanish (as opposed to Portuguese) features. Other forms of
Galician are, nevertheless, more different from Spanish. But if we
leave aside all extralinguistic considerations, from a taxonomic point
of view, I don't think it is so obvious that present-day Galician is a
form of Portuguese and not a separate language. A linguist could
justify adopting one or the other position equally well. In fact, I
know linguists who are native speakers of Galician and prefer to
consider Galician as a separate language. Since, to begin with, from a
purely linguistic point of view it is not so obvious that Portuguese
and Spanish must be considered two separate languages any more than
Milanese and Italian or Zurich German and standard German, the status
of Galician is even murkier. If Norwegians, Swedes and Danes want to
have independent standard languages, even though they understand each
other with little problem, that's their business. If all Romance
speakers in Italy want to adopt a single standard and to refer to
their local varieties as dialects of Italian (even though they are not
mutually intelligible), that's also their business. The Galician case
should not be any different (i.e. it should be up to them to
decide). If most Galician speakers shared Alvarez-Caccamo's point of
view, we linguists would have to take Galician as a dialect of
Portuguese. If, on the other hand, most of them think that Galician is
a separate language, we must also accept this. I have no idea how many
Galician-speakers are in each camp. The general point, then, is that
it is rarely the case that linguistic boundaries are so clear that a
linguist has no doubts in deciding how to classify genetically related
neighboring speech forms. Jose Ignacio Hualde Dept. of Spanish,
Italian, and Portuguese 4080 FLB Univ. of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801
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