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What do a language and a dialect consist of?

Posted: 06 Oct 2018 23:33
by ThatAnalysisGuy
Hello guys. I just felt like I needed to share my opinions about the distinction between a language and a dialect. A dialect is a unique form, but not necessarily a variant, of a language. A language is any separate system of communication that is known to mankind. However, I have my own opinions on what is a dialect and a separate language.

For a variant of a language to be separate one, there are several possibly ways this could occur. First of all, the language must have diverged significantly or had a separate history from another modern descendant of a common ancestral language, as with the different High German varieties or the Indo-Aryan languages. Second, the language must be a certain standardized variety of a language, as with Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian. Third, the language must have developed without any lack of prestige. In my case, Scots would be considered a separate language and Semigallian would be considered a dialect of Lithuanian.

Anyone want to share their thoughts?

Re: What do a language and a dialect consist of?

Posted: 07 Oct 2018 01:44
by Salmoneus
There is no useful distinction between a language and a dialect - they are two terms for the same thing. At least, there is no distinction that is useful for all purposes, although specific fields of activity may find it useful to devise a distinction for their own purposes. For instance, for the purposes of cultural funding legislation, a 'language' may be any dialect with more than a certain number of speakers. For a historian, by contrast, a 'language' may be a dialect that has a distinct written record in a given period. For a diplomat, a 'language' may be a dialect given special recognition by one or more nation states. And so on.


I wouldn't worry about it.

Re: What do a language and a dialect consist of?

Posted: 08 Oct 2018 03:07
by elemtilas
ThatAnalysisGuy wrote:
06 Oct 2018 23:33
Hello guys. I just felt like I needed to share my opinions about the distinction between a language and a dialect. A dialect is a unique form, but not necessarily a variant, of a language. A language is any separate system of communication that is known to mankind. However, I have my own opinions on what is a dialect and a separate language.

For a variant of a language to be separate one, there are several possibly ways this could occur. First of all, the language must have diverged significantly or had a separate history from another modern descendant of a common ancestral language, as with the different High German varieties or the Indo-Aryan languages. Second, the language must be a certain standardized variety of a language, as with Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian. Third, the language must have developed without any lack of prestige. In my case, Scots would be considered a separate language and Semigallian would be considered a dialect of Lithuanian.

Anyone want to share their thoughts?
Generally speaking, I concur with Salmoneus: no useful scientific distinction to be made. Such distinctions as are made are all matters of history, culture, politics and the like.

As for the content of your post, there are many things you say that I don't understand:

What do you mean by a dialect being a "form" but not a "variant". They're pretty close to synonymous here as far as I can tell.

Same for "system of communication". Do you mean to distinguish semaphore signals from speech signals or signed signals?

Are there variants of a language that are not "separate ones"? I.e., two variants that are the same variant? Or a variant that is the same as that which is not a variant?

Why must a language be a "standardized variety"? Surely there are distinct languages that have no standardised form or that do not constitute a prestigious variant?

As for me, I don't actually have any particular insights on the matter. That is, when I think of "language" & "dialect" as terms, their meaning & application are fluid enough as to be all but useless. For example, I consider "English" to be a language. But I also consider "English" to be a dialect. Or rather a continuum of more or less mutually understandable dialects. Including Scots. But I also consider that to be a language. See, pretty useless distinction! When push comes to shove, I'll refer to any relatively significantly divergent variant form to be a "language". Even if its entirely mutually comprehensible with another form or dialect.

Re: What do a language and a dialect consist of?

Posted: 08 Oct 2018 20:26
by Ahzoh
Maybe a language is just a dialect with an army and a navy.

Re: What do a language and a dialect consist of?

Posted: 09 Oct 2018 02:31
by Lambuzhao
I'm in the boat w/ Sal and Elem:

A language is the prestige dialect of a group of related dialects in a continuum.

I also concur with Ahzoh: the prestige dialect (especially in historical contexts) was the dialect with the most lawyers, guns and money when the linguistic shite (i.e. contact w/ other languages, external cultures or other forces) hit the fan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP5Xv7QqXiM

I think that's a part of Zevon's Law of Linguistic Variation and Stability. :wat: