Language and Dialect: the Real and the Ideal

Handout for ANTH 464/LING 433
Language Policy and Cultural Identity

H. Schiffman, Instructor

The Ideal Observable Practice
1. Languages are clearly bounded Languages shade off into one another
2. Dialects are unstandardized and full of regional and social variation Dialects can exhibit uniformity and may be quite `standardized'
3. Languages have `literature;' Dialects don't Dialects may have strictly coded oral tradition, and even written epics, poetry, etc.
4. Languages are `older, better' and are best for education and logical thinking Dialects may have ancient histories and capable of expressing clarity of thought
5. Languages are collections of mutually intelligible, genetically related local or social dialects Dialects may closely resemble more than one `language' in a chain of mutual intelligiblity
6. Speech forms with different writing systems are different languages Writing may have no effect on mutual oral intelligibility, but certainly can affect mutual legibility
7. Religion should have nothing to do with anyone's perception of what is a language Religion has everything to do with many people's perception of language; e.g. Hindi and Urdu, Serbian and Croation
8. Languages have existed from time immemorial and represent something unchanging and fixed Languages are social constructs and change through time
9. Language planners can make changes in both morphology and lexicon Languages can be quite resistant to the tinkering of cultural critics and lg. planners
10. Standard languages emerge because they have certain admirable qualities that make them suited to be official and national vehicles Standard languages emerge because they are the dialects of powerful rulers or important centers of power at crucial moments in history, last modified 9/16/98