LINGUIST List 6.1532

Tue Oct 31 1995

Disc: Language and Dialect

Editor for this issue: Annemarie Valdez <>


  1. , language/dialect

Message 1: language/dialect

Date: Tue, 31 Oct 1995 22:26:36 language/dialect
From: <>
Subject: language/dialect

[Editor's Note: This message was previously posted as vol-6-1516.
Due to several editorial errors in the original issue, Ilija Casule
has graciously submitted the message a second time.]

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 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, especially if 'Greek Macedonian'is understood as a
variety of Greek (as is done by the contributor in 6.1454) 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. Thus,in 6.1454 we have a misleading
use of the term 'Greek variety of Macedonian'(this could only mean a
variety, possibly supralectal of the Macedonian language spoken in

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.

The statement 'language is power'is also invoked in 6.1454. This maxim
has been used in the mistreatment and denial of the linguistic human
rights throughout this century for the Macedonian and other
minorities in Greece. It would be interesting to read further
discussion on this topic.
 Ilija Casule
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