LINGUIST List 6.1516

Fri Oct 27 1995

Disc: Language and Dialect

Editor for this issue: Annemarie Valdez <>


  1. , language/dialect

Message 1: language/dialect

Date: Tue, 24 Oct 1995 16:53:36 language/dialect
From: <>
Subject: language/dialect

It is necessary to point out that different to the situation in
English terminology, in many languages there is a very clear
distinction between the two terms - in essence it amounts to 'dialect'
being understood as a variety of a language (of a diasystem), and
language both as a standard language and as the unity of all dialects
on a particular territory, which are bound either by the
self-identification of the speakers or by other sociolinguistic and
cultural factors in addition to their linguistic traits (This is the
case in the terminology in the Slavic languages, with a further
distinction between 'dialect' as a specialised term and 'speech'
('govor'). Implicitly such a distinction is made in English itself.

In response to the discussion on Macedonian (6.1454) some
clarification is needed. A linguistic variety (the term used in
6.1454, as opposed to language or dialect) can only be of one
particular language (thus we could have a British, American,
Australian variety/variant of English, but not 'Slav Macedonian' and
'Greek Macedonian' at the same time as in the latter case they would
have to derive as varieties of a common language, which they obviously
don't, 'Greek Macedonian' is a variety of Greek, and not a variety of
Macedonian. Under Greek Macedonian dialects or Macedonian dialects in
Greece we could only understand the 'variety' of the Macedonian
diasystem spoken in Southern Macedonia, in Greece.

The Macedonian language in all scholarship outside Greece and Bulgaria
is referred to as a standard language with its diasystem and dialects
just as any other language, following all the criteria needed for such
a qualification.

To my knowledge in the classification of Greek dialects and dialect
groups there has never been a distinct Macedonian group.In regard to
this I will quote from Newton, B. (1972) The Generative
Interpretation of Dialect, Cambridge:University Press, p. 15):
Characteristically 'northern' dialects are spoken not only throughout
the mainland north of Attica and in northern Euboea, but on the
islands of the Northern Aegean; these latter include Thasos,
Samothraki, Limnos, and Lesbos...In spite of the vast geographical
extension of the northern dialects, the relatively recent inclusion
of northern Greece within the national boundaries of the modern state
has prevented them from making any significant contribution to the
standard language. It may be added that where the various minority
languages such as Arumanian, Macedonian and Turkish have yielded to
Greek, it has in general been to the standard form. The dialect of
Saloniki differs hardly at all from that of Athens..."(The reference
of 'Macedonian' is quite clear here.)

 However, should such a particular Greek dialectal group develop in
the future (which is unlikely, given the decline of the dialects) it
could only be a Macedonian Greek variety (as for example in the term
sometimes used for Aroumanian - Macedoroumanian). (The head of the
noun-phrase always meaning the language in question,
and the modifier the geographic area.) In essence this is a non-
issue, and I am sure most of the subscribers to this list will agree
with me that the 'linguistic Macedonian question' has been solved at
least 50 years ago.

Ilija Casule
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