A Reworking of German Language Classification

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Bob

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Mar 9, 2009, 12:51:50 PM3/9/09
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http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-language-classification/

German expanded from 20 to 83 separate languages.

Admittedly, it's all a gigantic dialect chain pretty much, but you may
as well draw some lines somewhere.

grammatim

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Mar 9, 2009, 2:40:34 PM3/9/09
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On Mar 9, 12:51 pm, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-l...

>
> German expanded from 20 to 83 separate languages.
>
> Admittedly, it's all a gigantic dialect chain pretty much, but you may
> as well draw some lines somewhere.

Not if such "lines" don't exist.

We all leared about the "Rhenish fan" from Bloomfield's textbook. If
there aren't bundles of isoglosses, what are you dividing?

benl...@ihug.co.nz

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Mar 9, 2009, 4:57:20 PM3/9/09
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> German expanded from 20 to 83 separate languages.
>
> Admittedly, it's all a gigantic dialect chain pretty much, but you may
> as well draw some lines somewhere.

If you like drawing lines, I guess.
I'd like to know what your intelligibility statements are based on.

Ross Clark

Harlan Messinger

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Mar 9, 2009, 5:25:34 PM3/9/09
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Why?

Can you clarify something? In your response to the first comment, your
reply, "This is one of the lies of the sociolinguists," without it being
clear which part of the first comment you were referring to. Your target
seems to be the proposition that "the German dialect chain extent into
the Netherlands and include Dutch". You even say, "It is these languages
that these liars are referring to when they speak of this wonderful
dialect chain between German and Dutch." But then you say, "The truth is
that there *is* a dialect chain starting in Belgium and going to
Austria." So, there is a dialect chain, or it's a lie?

Bob

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Mar 9, 2009, 7:04:48 PM3/9/09
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On Mar 9, 2:25 pm, Harlan Messinger
<hmessinger.removet...@comcast.net> wrote:
> Bob wrote:
> >http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-l...

>
> > German expanded from 20 to 83 separate languages.
>
> > Admittedly, it's all a gigantic dialect chain pretty much, but you may
> > as well draw some lines somewhere.
>
> Why?
>
> Can you clarify something? In your response to the first comment, your
> reply, "This is one of the lies of the sociolinguists," without it being
> clear which part of the first comment you were referring to. Your target
> seems to be the proposition that "the German dialect chain extent into
> the Netherlands and include Dutch". You even say, "It is these languages
> that these liars are referring to when they speak of this wonderful
> dialect chain between German and Dutch." But then you say, "The truth is
> that there *is* a dialect chain starting in Belgium and going to
> Austria." So, there is a dialect chain, or it's a lie?

Hello. It is not true that near the German border, "German" and
"Dutch" speakers can talk to each other. They aren't really speaking
the German or Dutch language. They are speaking separate languages
like Limburgs, Low Dietsch, Southeast Limburgs, Bergish, Ripaurian
languages, etc. Those are separate languages, not "German" or "Dutch".

That's why they are lying.

There is a dialect chain, but if you read Ethnologue, they seem to
have chopped up an awful lot of these dialect chains into separate
languages. I bet 25% of the languages in Ethnologue are dialect
chains. Why do you have to draw the line somewhere? Because you do.
Because we have decided that Czech and Slovak are separate languages.
It doesn't make sense to say that everyone from Belgium to Vienna is
all speaking one language. Forget that.

Bob

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Mar 9, 2009, 7:14:46 PM3/9/09
to

It's a pilot study. The purpose is to stimulate further discussion,
research, analysis and especially criticism.

Some of it was done by analyzing and comparing texts, some was done by
reading which languages speakers say they can hear and which they
cannot. Further, most of the *major* dialect groups of German were
simply split off because most reviews of German linguistics say flat
out that they aren't intelligible with each other or with St German.

I left some intact. I wasn't able to prove Thuringian is
unintelligible with St German, so it stayed. And Central and Northern
Bavarian seem intelligible.

The rest is based on Ethnologue, standard German dialectology and
speaker statements.

For intelligibility to split off a language, I want 90%. Below 90% =
language, above 90% = dialect. Since Afrikaans and Dutch are ~80%
intelligible, it makes sense to split them.

This treatment is actually quite conservative. Speakers of Ripaurian
regularly speak of 100-150 *separate Ripaurian languages*, where
speakers can understand their own town and next one over or so, but
beyond that, not so much. There have been 150 *separate dictionaries*
already made for Ripaurian lects, all of which differ greatly in
lexicon, phonology, etc. But until I get hard evidence for
intelligibility, I won't split those off.

There are many dialects of Limburgs, but speakers say they are all
intelligible, so there's no splits.

Further, my understanding is that there are 20-70 major Swiss German
lect, and *many* of them are not mutually intelligible. But I need
more evidence than that.

If you go here:

http://www.lowlands-l.net/anniversary/index.php

You can see many mostly Low Germanic lects. You can pretty much figure
out which ones are dialects and which must be separate languages just
by looking at them.

benl...@ihug.co.nz

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Mar 9, 2009, 10:58:52 PM3/9/09
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I see here:

1) "people say...speaker statements..."

2) "80% ... 90 %..."

3) "just by looking"

So (1) you talk to large numbers of people about dialect differences?
(2) You (or somebody) has applied some standard quantitative test to
many pairs of dialects?
(3) Some of it is just impressions?

Ross Clark

Harlan Messinger

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Mar 10, 2009, 12:02:01 AM3/10/09
to

Uh huh.

So say you have "lects" A, B, C, D, E, F, G, ..., Z, and each one is 90%
intelligible with the one on either side. And say you decide that A, B,
C, D, and E one language with C at the core and F, G, H, I, and J form
another language with H at the core, and you note that C and H aren't,
practically speaking, mutually intelligible. In what way is that
incompatible with observing that speakers of E and F can understand each
other very well? You're talking about these things as though they're
mutually exclusive and as though the lines you're drawing are
particularly meaningful.

Bob

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Mar 10, 2009, 12:47:20 AM3/10/09
to

Exactly, this is how Ethnologue, and others, typically split many
languages. You ask speakers. Hey, can you understand those people over
there? "Sure." Dialects. "Are you kidding?" Separate languages.
Something in between? Much trickier, but often speakers will attempt
to clarify via percentages how much they understand. Once they start
saying, "We find it really hard to understand those people," you're
almost always dealing with 2 languages. At 90%+, people usually say
they can understand them well, more or less, etc. When they say things
like, "We can understand them partly but not fully," you are often
dealing with ~60-70% intelligibility.


>
> 2) "80% ... 90 %..."

If you read through Ethnologue, they seem to be splitting these days
at 90%. And you read all the literature on intelligibility done by SIL
people, this is indeed what they say. They split at 89%.
>
> 3) "just by looking"

Not so difficult! Let us take a look here: Hamburgisch, Ollands and
Oldenburg, 3 Low Saxon lects:

Hamburgs:

http://www.lowlands-l.net/anniversary/hamborgsch.php

Ollands:

http://www.lowlands-l.net/anniversary/ollandsch.php

Oldenburg:

http://www.lowlands-l.net/anniversary/ollenborgsch.php

Quick observation shows us that Hamburgs and Ollands obviously must be
dialects of one tongue. Yet Oldenburg seems so different that it
doesn't seem possible for them to converse with the others at 90%+.

Keep in mind that much of science is simply observational, hunches,
intuition, etc. Sir William Jones famous discovery certainly was.

>
> So (1) you talk to large numbers of people about dialect differences?

> (2) You (or somebody) has applied some standard quantitative test to
> many pairs of dialects?

Yes, tests have been done and the results are that most German
"dialects" are in fact separate languages. Swabish, Bavarian, Swiss
German, Mainfrankisch, Pfalzisch, Luxembourgish, Hessian, Badisch all
have 40% intelligibility with Standard German.

Hutterite has 70% intelligibility with Pennsylvania German and 50%
with St German and Plautdietsch (Mennonite).

Problem is that to do this testing you usually need a funding source
and a team to go out and do it. I'd love to see lots more testing done
in German. In Chinese, too. Lots of places. Hardly anyone does this
for some reason, maybe because it's boring. Linguists are usually off
dabbling in highfalutin theory. Most testing nowadays is being done by
SIL by Bible translation purposes.

> (3) Some of it is just impressions?

Some, not much.

A lot also comes from the linguistic literature.

1X2Willows

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Mar 10, 2009, 3:20:02 AM3/10/09
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"Bob" <lindsay...@gmail.com> wrote

>
> Yes, tests have been done and the results are that most German
> "dialects" are in fact separate languages. Swabish, Bavarian, Swiss
> German, Mainfrankisch, Pfalzisch, Luxembourgish, Hessian, Badisch all
> have 40% intelligibility with Standard German.

Better yet, there is no empiric "Swiss German" but once more, only
a plethora of dialects which may or may not be mutually intelligible.
Rule of thumb: The further apart in distance, the less commonalities.

This is the reason why in the majority of Cantons, St German is being
taught in school as a primary 'foreign language' from first grade on.
The rest teaches Italian and French respectively, because people
speak specific dialects of those in everyday life.

Schwiizertüütsch (Swiss German) is usually not written, except for
completely unregulated phonetic spellings, used by people sometimes
for fun or as an expression of identity; a trend which is most popular
among the younger generation nowadays.

If you have any further questions about SG, please ask away.


PaulJK

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Mar 10, 2009, 4:46:57 AM3/10/09
to
Bob wrote:
> On Mar 9, 7:58 pm, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
>> On Mar 10, 12:14 pm, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> On Mar 9, 1:57 pm, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
>>>> On Mar 10, 5:51 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>> http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-l...

[...]

>> I see here:
>> 1) "people say...speaker statements..."
>
> Exactly, this is how Ethnologue, and others, typically split many
> languages. You ask speakers. Hey, can you understand those people over
> there? "Sure." Dialects. "Are you kidding?" Separate languages.
> Something in between? Much trickier, but often speakers will attempt
> to clarify via percentages how much they understand.

It's laughably unrealistic to base that on such provably flimsy
value judgments.

You'd need "standard" (whatever that means) speakers
with IQ=100, all with the same understanding of what
"understand those people" mean, and with no prior exposure
to "those peoples'" language.

No prior exposure is needed since most people are
demonstrably unable to gauge how much exposure they
have had and to what extent it influences their value
judgments.

Take a well documented example of Czech and Slovak.
Around the world, thousands of Czechs and Slovaks meet
socially in private and in their various emigree clubs. They
speak in their respective national languages and dialects.
The first generation emigrees understand each other perfectly.
During the conversation they are often not even aware of
how different their languages really are. They all grew up
in a bilingual society. From early childhood they were
passively exposed to radio and television broadcasts in both
languages. Offical business was carried out in either language
throughout the whole federal republic. Typically the news
items were read by two presenters alternating between the
languages, one item in Cz, next in Sk, and so on. Bilingual
texts in both languages were often not used. For example,
money was printed in both languages but each denomination
was entirely printed either in Czech or Slovak.

When children of the emigrees were old enough to join
mixed groups of adults in conversation the parents realized
they had a problem. The kids didn't quite understand people
speaking other dialects a didn't understand at all the other
language. The same problem affecting young people exists
more recently in Czech Republic and Slovakia where a new
young generation has grown up since the split of the old federal
republic.

So, if you ask people over 40, "do you understand those
people", they'd swear blind there's nothing to it. But, if you
ask under 25s, they'll tell you they often have no idea
what the conversation in the other language is about, let
alone understand what exactly is being said.

Standard Czech and Slovak are quite clearly different languages.
These days, because the native speakers live in separate
countries, it's not difficult to find speakers of each who have
not been exposed much to the other language and the languages
prove to be indeed sufficiently different for the lack of
understanding to be noticeable.

But, how do you use this method to gauge objectively a mutual
level of understanding between people living in geographical
or social proximity to each other, in the same administrative
unit, and being exposed to the others' language without even
realizing the extent and effects of the exposure?


> Once they start
> saying, "We find it really hard to understand those people," you're
> almost always dealing with 2 languages. At 90%+, people usually say
> they can understand them well, more or less, etc. When they say things
> like, "We can understand them partly but not fully," you are often
> dealing with ~60-70% intelligibility.

That's like conducting an IQ test, where you don't make
people solve the puzzles and give you objective answers,
instead just tell you how easy they think each question is
on the scale of 0 to 100%. :-)))

pjk

benl...@ihug.co.nz

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Mar 10, 2009, 5:13:40 AM3/10/09
to

Statements of this kind are notoriously influenced by attitudes to
other speakers and other kinds of extraneous factor. Since you seem to
be using Dutch-Afrikaans as a benchmark, I might mention that a native
Dutch speaker of my acquaintance told me not long ago that he could
understand hardly anything of Afrikaans.
If you could show consistency of such judgments across a sample of
speakers, you might have something. Correlation of such a consistent
judgment with a quantitative measure (such as you seem to be assuming
above) would be worth publishing.
Anyhow, if you have been getting these judgments from internet
contacts, rather than trudging through the potato fields of rural
Germany, then presumably your judgments are coming from people who
know the national standard, and are therefore less likely to be good
indicators of direct dialect-to-dialect intelligibility.

> > 2) "80% ... 90 %..."
>
> If you read through Ethnologue, they seem to be splitting these days
> at 90%. And you read all the literature on intelligibility done by SIL
> people, this is indeed what they say. They split at 89%.

I'm aware that SIL people have such tests. What I wanted to know was
whether your figures were derived from such tests, and whether done by
yourself or others.

> > 3) "just by looking"
>
> Not so difficult! Let us take a look here: Hamburgisch, Ollands and
> Oldenburg, 3 Low Saxon lects:
>
> Hamburgs:
>
> http://www.lowlands-l.net/anniversary/hamborgsch.php
>
> Ollands:
>
> http://www.lowlands-l.net/anniversary/ollandsch.php
>
> Oldenburg:
>
> http://www.lowlands-l.net/anniversary/ollenborgsch.php
>
> Quick observation shows us that Hamburgs and Ollands obviously must be
> dialects of one tongue. Yet Oldenburg seems so different that it
> doesn't seem possible for them to converse with the others at 90%+.
>
> Keep in mind that much of science is simply observational, hunches,
> intuition, etc. Sir William Jones famous discovery certainly was.
>

I don't question that hunches, impressions, etc can be right. It's
just that rather than presenting us with a provocative and fruitful
hypothesis (like Jones), you seem to be presenting discoveries -- that
X and Y are "really" different languages, when I'm not sure that
concept is solid enough to make that a discovery. If you say German is
"really" 84 different languages, it could be that you are just using
the terms different/language in an idiosyncratic way.

> > So (1) you talk to large numbers of people about dialect differences?
> > (2) You (or somebody) has applied some standard quantitative test to
> > many pairs of dialects?
>
> Yes, tests have been done and the results are that most German
> "dialects" are in fact separate languages. Swabish, Bavarian, Swiss
> German, Mainfrankisch, Pfalzisch, Luxembourgish, Hessian, Badisch all
> have 40% intelligibility with Standard German.

> Hutterite has 70% intelligibility with Pennsylvania German and 50%
> with St German and Plautdietsch (Mennonite).

And these are on the same SIL tests?

> Problem is that to do this testing you usually need a funding source
> and a team to go out and do it. I'd love to see lots more testing done
> in German. In Chinese, too. Lots of places. Hardly anyone does this
> for some reason, maybe because it's boring. Linguists are usually off
> dabbling in highfalutin theory. Most testing nowadays is being done by
> SIL by Bible translation purposes.

It would be interesting to know why you don't find it "boring".

>
> > (3) Some of it is just impressions?
>
> Some, not much.
>
> A lot also comes from the linguistic literature.

If I was interested enough I might ask for some references to that
literature. I don't doubt you've got them, but I'm not likely to get
around to looking at them any time soon.

Ross Clark

Ruud Harmsen

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Mar 10, 2009, 6:07:03 AM3/10/09
to
Tue, 10 Mar 2009 02:13:40 -0700 (PDT): "benl...@ihug.co.nz"
<benl...@ihug.co.nz>: in sci.lang:

>Statements of this kind are notoriously influenced by attitudes to
>other speakers and other kinds of extraneous factor. Since you seem to
>be using Dutch-Afrikaans as a benchmark, I might mention that a native
>Dutch speaker of my acquaintance told me not long ago that he could
>understand hardly anything of Afrikaans.

It so happens I was watching a dvd about writer W.F. Hermans, which
contains some bilungual interviews. There were three speakers, one of
which probably spoke Dutch with an Afrikaans accent, but the other two
spoke geniune Afrikaans. It wasn't so easy to understand for me, even
with Dutch subtitles.

--
Ruud Harmsen, http://rudhar.com

Bob

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Mar 10, 2009, 7:24:15 AM3/10/09
to
On Mar 10, 12:46 am, "PaulJK" <paul.kr...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Bob wrote:
> > On Mar 9, 7:58 pm, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
> >> On Mar 10, 12:14 pm, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> >>> On Mar 9, 1:57 pm, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
> >>>> On Mar 10, 5:51 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> >>>>>http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-l...

> > Exactly, this is how Ethnologue, and others, typically split many


> > languages. You ask speakers. Hey, can you understand those people over
> > there? "Sure." Dialects. "Are you kidding?" Separate languages.
> > Something in between? Much trickier, but often speakers will attempt
> > to clarify via percentages how much they understand.
>
> It's laughably unrealistic to base that on such provably flimsy
> value judgments.
>
> You'd need "standard" (whatever that means) speakers
> with IQ=100, all with the same understanding of what
> "understand those people" mean, and with no prior exposure
> to "those peoples'" language.

Maybe so, but this is typically how it is done by Ethnologue and
others. Linguistics is a science, and if people are wrong about lects
being languages or dialects, sooner or later it all sorts out. For
instance, Ethnologue recently was petitioned by Mesoamerican
linguistics experts to get rid of numerous Maya languages that they
had split as separate languages. So it looks like SIL is going to lump
these together. If you study the literature, "whether or not people
can understand each other" is not really very controversial. And I
have been through all of the intelligibility lit, unlike all of you, I
guess.

State of the art here:

http://www.ethnologue.com/show_work.asp?id=10386

Casad, Eugene H. 1974. Dialect intelligibility testing.‭ Summer
Institute of Linguistics Publications in Linguistics and Related
Fields, 38. Norman: Summer Institute of Linguistics of the University
of Oklahoma. xiv, 201 p.

If all else fails, there are tests. If you review the literature, an
extremely science based approach has been moving along in
intelligibility assessment, with many critiques of validity,
reliability, etc, and endless reviving of hypotheses, conclusions,
etc. To say that there is no scientific way that the science of
linguistics can determine intelligibility is the pinnacle of
obscurantism and Know Nothingism.

This problem has been dealt with in the lit. This is the very thorny
problem of learned bilingualism, and yes, it IS a problem. SIL (and I
know some of the folks who sit on the committee that determines what's
a language and what's not), when they denote "inherent
intelligibility" appear to be referring to "virgin ears". But the
problem of learned bilingualism is very difficult to assess. This is
clearly what we are dealing with with Czech and Slovak above. The
trick here is to find the "virgin ears" since learned bilingualism
makes no meaningful statements about intelligibility.

Say you find a village in Mexico where you have five males and five
females that you decide to test. The males test about 90% on the Lect
2 and the females test 50%. The intelligibility is 70% and you split
to languages, since SIL seems to split at 90%. See the Mexico page
here for evidence that splitting begins at 90%:

http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=MX

>
> > Once they start
> > saying, "We find it really hard to understand those people," you're
> > almost always dealing with 2 languages. At 90%+, people usually say
> > they can understand them well, more or less, etc. When they say things
> > like, "We can understand them partly but not fully," you are often
> > dealing with ~60-70% intelligibility.
>
> That's like conducting an IQ test, where you don't make
> people solve the puzzles and give you objective answers,
> instead just tell you how easy they think each question is
> on the scale of 0 to 100%.    :-)))

Well, the best way of all is intelligibility testing, but this is
probably not carried out with most languages, perhaps unfortunately.
So the state of the science is not that good. But if you study
intelligibility testing a lot, you find that when they do the tests,
it pretty much confirms what the people were telling you anyway.

This is what SIL does. Fist you need to ask quite a few folks, and
interview them separately, because group interviews fail due to a
strong personality who convinces others to maybe lie. You must
interview alone.

Can you understand those people? "Sure, no problem." Dialect, move on.
"No way, are you kidding?" Separate languages. Well, sort of. In that
case, Swadesh list. Swadesh list is used to sort the wheat from the
chaff, but Swadesh list is no good for intelligibility testing.
However, at <70%, you've got two languages, time to move on. At >90%
on Swadesh, they assume dialects and move on. 70-89% on Swadesh is the
key. Now you need to move on to intelligibility testing.
Intelligibility testing has been revised endlessly in a rigorous
empirical environment for over 50 years since Morris Swadesh wrote the
first piece in the 1950's.

Common techniques include sentence repetition, etc. You interview a #
of folks and average it all together.

You guys act like this is going to throw up all these false
conclusions about intelligibility, but I haven't heard of one yet. Can
you toss out an example?

Bob

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Mar 10, 2009, 7:43:14 AM3/10/09
to
On Mar 10, 1:13 am, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
> On Mar 10, 5:47 pm, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>
>
> > On Mar 9, 7:58 pm, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
>
> > > On Mar 10, 12:14 pm, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > > > On Mar 9, 1:57 pm, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
>
> > > > > On Mar 10, 5:51 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > > > > >http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-l...

> > Exactly, this is how Ethnologue, and others, typically split many


> > languages. You ask speakers. Hey, can you understand those people over
> > there? "Sure." Dialects. "Are you kidding?" Separate languages.
> > Something in between? Much trickier, but often speakers will attempt
> > to clarify via percentages how much they understand. Once they start
> > saying, "We find it really hard to understand those people," you're
> > almost always dealing with 2 languages. At 90%+, people usually say
> > they can understand them well, more or less, etc. When they say things
> > like, "We can understand them partly but not fully," you are often
> > dealing with ~60-70% intelligibility.
>
> Statements of this kind are notoriously influenced by attitudes to
> other speakers and other kinds of extraneous factor. Since you seem to
> be using Dutch-Afrikaans as a benchmark, I might mention that a native
> Dutch speaker of my acquaintance told me not long ago that he could
> understand hardly anything of Afrikaans.
> If you could show consistency of such judgments across a sample of
> speakers, you might have something. Correlation of such a consistent
> judgment with a quantitative measure (such as you seem to be assuming
> above) would be worth publishing.
> Anyhow, if you have been getting these judgments from internet
> contacts, rather than trudging through the potato fields of rural
> Germany, then presumably your judgments are coming from people who
> know the national standard, and are therefore less likely to be good
> indicators of direct dialect-to-dialect intelligibility.

No, "not intelligible with St German" doesn't cut it for separate
language. If you're going to do that, you end up with 4,000 separate
languages in Low Saxon alone! That's how many dialects there are in
Low Saxon. They're practically all not intelligible with St German.
That's not enough. We want to know that, in addition to that, German
Dialect A can't understand German Dialect B. You need to know their
names and all the details. For example, there may well be 40 separate
languages in Swiss German, but until someone can tell me that Bern
can't understand Zurich or whatever, we can't do anything, if you use
an evidence-based approach.

The Dutch speaker is clearly an outlier. I read through a # of
description of Dutch speakers hearing Afrikaans, and the average
seemed around ~80% (writing was almost 100%). What you do is talk to a
lot of speakers, then average them or weed out outliers.


>
> > > 2) "80% ... 90 %..."
>
> > If you read through Ethnologue, they seem to be splitting these days
> > at 90%. And you read all the literature on intelligibility done by SIL
> > people, this is indeed what they say. They split at 89%.
>
> I'm aware that SIL people have such tests. What I wanted to know was
> whether your figures were derived from such tests, and whether done by
> yourself or others.

In some cases they are, but in general, SIL are the only folks doing
these tests, and they've only tested some German lects - incidentally,
typical distance between Average German Dialect and St German was
~80%. Testing has been inside Ripaurian and has found that at either
ends of the Ripaurian dialect chain, intelligibility is ~20%. So that
right there makes the notion of one Ripaurian language nuts.

It would be great if more testing would be done. It's good hard
science for intelligibility.


>
> > Keep in mind that much of science is simply observational, hunches,
> > intuition, etc. Sir William Jones famous discovery certainly was.
>
> I don't question that hunches, impressions, etc can be right.  It's
> just that rather than presenting us with a provocative and fruitful
> hypothesis (like Jones), you seem to be presenting discoveries -- that
> X and Y are "really" different languages, when I'm not sure that
> concept is solid enough to make that a discovery.

No, not at all. They are really hypotheses. Are you familiar with
"pilot study"? I'm just throwing out some provocative hypotheses, and
hoping for lots of further thinking, study and *criticism* will come
of that. If I'm wrong, fantastic, but someone needs to get the ball
rolling here.

If you say German is
> "really" 84 different languages, it could be that you are just using
> the terms different/language in an idiosyncratic way.

I'm sorry. I'm presenting a very weak hypothesis that German may be 90
languages and hoping for tons of critical response to clear things up.

> > Yes, tests have been done and the results are that most German
> > "dialects" are in fact separate languages. Swabish, Bavarian, Swiss
> > German, Mainfrankisch, Pfalzisch, Luxembourgish, Hessian, Badisch all
> > have 40% intelligibility with Standard German.
> > Hutterite has 70% intelligibility with Pennsylvania German and 50%
> > with St German and Plautdietsch (Mennonite).
>
> And these are on the same SIL tests?

Those are all SIL figures I think.


>
> > Problem is that to do this testing you usually need a funding source
> > and a team to go out and do it. I'd love to see lots more testing done
> > in German. In Chinese, too. Lots of places. Hardly anyone does this
> > for some reason, maybe because it's boring. Linguists are usually off
> > dabbling in highfalutin theory. Most testing nowadays is being done by
> > SIL by Bible translation purposes.
>
> It would be interesting to know why you don't find it "boring".

I'm fascinated by it. Looking around the net, tons of non-linguists
are. I'm not sure why academics often shy away from this stuff.
Probably because an academic writing what I wrote is really sticking
his neck out to get pounded. Anyway, I know these guys, and they are
mostly presenting papers on Optimality Theory or Generative Syntax and
they don't mess around with this stuff.

I know some of these guys, and they don't seem to care if some lect is
a language or a dialect. If you ask them, they just refer to SIL and
say, SIL is calling this a language nowadays and shrug their heads.

Plus when you start splitting all these languages, you run into all
this political BS from nationalists screaming that are making
languages out of "dialects" of the national tongue, or fostering
separatism or whatever. Look around the Net for the wild debate about
whether Scots is a dialect of English or a language. I mean, a lot of
people just go stark raving furious when you say Scots is a separate
language for some reason.

Can you imagine the media firestorm if SIL decided that AAVE was a
separate language from St English?

Speaking of which, why don't we split Geordie off? Probably political
reasons.

> If I was interested enough I might ask for some references to that
> literature. I don't doubt you've got them, but I'm not likely to get
> around to looking at them any time soon.

There should be some links in the piece.
>
> Ross Clark

grammatim

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 9:59:52 AM3/10/09
to
On Mar 10, 7:24 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mar 10, 12:46 am, "PaulJK" <paul.kr...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>
>
>
>
> > Bob wrote:
> > > On Mar 9, 7:58 pm, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
> > >> On Mar 10, 12:14 pm, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > >>> On Mar 9, 1:57 pm, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
> > >>>> On Mar 10, 5:51 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > >>>>>http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-l...
> > > Exactly, this is how Ethnologue, and others, typically split many
> > > languages. You ask speakers. Hey, can you understand those people over
> > > there? "Sure." Dialects. "Are you kidding?" Separate languages.
> > > Something in between? Much trickier, but often speakers will attempt
> > > to clarify via percentages how much they understand.
>
> > It's laughably unrealistic to base that on such provably flimsy
> > value judgments.
>
> > You'd need "standard" (whatever that means) speakers
> > with IQ=100, all with the same understanding of what
> > "understand those people" mean, and with no prior exposure
> > to "those peoples'" language.
>
> Maybe so, but this is typically how it is done by Ethnologue and
> others.

Hos do you know that?

> Linguistics is a science, and if people are wrong about lects
> being languages or dialects, sooner or later it all sorts out. For

_Linguists_ do not care about or address the question of language vs.
dialect. It is purely a political question.

> instance, Ethnologue recently was petitioned by Mesoamerican
> linguistics experts to get rid of numerous Maya languages that they
> had split as separate languages. So it looks like SIL is going to lump
> these together. If you study the literature, "whether or not people
> can understand each other" is not really very controversial. And I
> have been through all of the intelligibility lit, unlike all of you, I
> guess.

Tell us what literature you have studied on questions of mutual
intelligibility. With full bibliographic references so other people
can check.

> State of the art here:
>
> http://www.ethnologue.com/show_work.asp?id=10386
>
> Casad, Eugene H. 1974. Dialect intelligibility testing.‭  Summer
> Institute of Linguistics Publications in Linguistics and Related
> Fields, 38. Norman: Summer Institute of Linguistics of the University
> of Oklahoma. xiv, 201 p.

So nothing has been done in this area in 35 years, despite the immense
progress in variationist linguistics?

> If all else fails, there are tests. If you review the literature, an
> extremely science based approach has been moving along in
> intelligibility assessment, with many critiques of validity,
> reliability, etc, and endless reviving of hypotheses, conclusions,
> etc. To say that there is no scientific way that the science of
> linguistics can determine intelligibility is the pinnacle of
> obscurantism and Know Nothingism.

Ok, where's your literature review? Is it in an Annual Review of
Anthropology somewhere?

Ah. So you now admit that your motivation is religious.

No references, of course.

> This is what SIL does. Fist you need to ask quite a few folks, and
> interview them separately, because group interviews fail due to a
> strong personality who convinces others to maybe lie. You must
> interview alone.
>
> Can you understand those people? "Sure, no problem." Dialect, move on.
> "No way, are you kidding?" Separate languages. Well, sort of. In that
> case, Swadesh list. Swadesh list is used to sort the wheat from the
> chaff, but Swadesh list is no good for intelligibility testing.
> However, at <70%, you've got two languages, time to move on. At >90%
> on Swadesh, they assume dialects and move on. 70-89% on Swadesh is the
> key. Now you need to move on to intelligibility testing.
> Intelligibility testing has been revised endlessly in a rigorous
> empirical environment for over 50 years since Morris Swadesh wrote the
> first piece in the 1950's.

Yet you haven't offered a single reference less than 35 years old.

> Common techniques include sentence repetition, etc. You interview a #
> of folks and average it all together.
>
> You guys act like this is going to throw up all these false
> conclusions about intelligibility, but I haven't heard of one yet. Can

> you toss out an example?-

Linguists don't care about the lines you are so eager to draw.

grammatim

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 10:06:55 AM3/10/09
to
On Mar 10, 7:43 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:

> In some cases they are, but in general, SIL are the only folks doing
> these tests, and they've only tested some German lects - incidentally,
> typical distance between Average German Dialect and St German was
> ~80%.  Testing has been inside Ripaurian and has found that at either
> ends of the Ripaurian dialect chain, intelligibility is ~20%. So that
> right there makes the notion of one Ripaurian language nuts.

You can't assert that until you have some non-subjective definition of
your terms.

> I'm fascinated by it. Looking around the net, tons of non-linguists
> are. I'm not sure why academics often shy away from this stuff.

Have you never heard of dialectology, and the great Linguistic Atlas
projects?

> Probably because an academic writing what I wrote is really sticking
> his neck out to get pounded. Anyway, I know these guys, and they are
> mostly presenting papers on Optimality Theory or Generative Syntax and
> they don't mess around with this stuff.

Then you know very, very few linguists.

> I know some of these guys, and they don't seem to care if some lect is
> a language or a dialect. If you ask them, they just refer to SIL and
> say, SIL is calling this a language nowadays and shrug their heads.

Precisely. "Language vs. dialect" is not a question of linguistics.

> Plus when you start splitting all these languages, you run into all
> this political BS from nationalists screaming that are making
> languages out of "dialects" of the national tongue, or fostering
> separatism or whatever. Look around the Net for the wild debate about
> whether Scots is a dialect of English or a language. I mean, a lot of
> people just go stark raving furious when you say Scots is a separate
> language for some reason.
>
> Can you imagine the media firestorm if SIL decided that AAVE was a
> separate language from St English?

Precisely. It's exclusively a political question.

> There should be some links in the piece.

(a) What "piece"?

(b) You don't know? You haven't read it??

noesy_parker

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 10:47:04 AM3/10/09
to
grammatim <gram...@verizon.net> wrote in news:a852fd21-1f3f-4e03-8167-
257624...@o36g2000yqh.googlegroups.com:


>
> Precisely. "Language vs. dialect" is not a question of linguistics.
>

It's utterances like that that showed linguistics is not a science.

Bob

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 10:47:31 AM3/10/09
to
On Mar 10, 6:06 am, grammatim <gramma...@verizon.net> wrote:
> On Mar 10, 7:43 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > I'm fascinated by it. Looking around the net, tons of non-linguists
> > are. I'm not sure why academics often shy away from this stuff.
>
> Have you never heard of dialectology, and the great Linguistic Atlas
> projects?

Those often don't split languages and dialects much. The Linguistic
Atlas of China is an endless list of "dialects."


>
> > Probably because an academic writing what I wrote is really sticking
> > his neck out to get pounded. Anyway, I know these guys, and they are
> > mostly presenting papers on Optimality Theory or Generative Syntax and
> > they don't mess around with this stuff.
>
> Then you know very, very few linguists.
>
> > I know some of these guys, and they don't seem to care if some lect is
> > a language or a dialect. If you ask them, they just refer to SIL and
> > say, SIL is calling this a language nowadays and shrug their heads.
>
> Precisely. "Language vs. dialect" is not a question of linguistics.

Really? Why then a committee of linguists at SIL determine what is a
language and what is a dialect, if linguistics has zero to do with it.
Why do linguists the world over submit ISO apps to SIL to split off
new languages, or get rid of some languages and rephrase them as
dialects.

Is Lyle Campbell a linguist? I will answer that myself. He is one of
the world's top linguists. Campbell and other Americanists submitted
an ISO app to SIL recently to eliminate some Mayan language and
reclassify them as dialects of some larger Mayan languages. If this
question has nothing to do with linguistics, why did Dr. Campbell do
this. BTW, Campbell seems to be on good terms with the SIL crew. I
assume Dr. Campbell is a religious nut too.

Bob

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 10:49:55 AM3/10/09
to
On Mar 10, 5:59 am, grammatim <gramma...@verizon.net> wrote:
> On Mar 10, 7:24 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>
>
> > On Mar 10, 12:46 am, "PaulJK" <paul.kr...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > > Bob wrote:
> > > > On Mar 9, 7:58 pm, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
> > > >> On Mar 10, 12:14 pm, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > > >>> On Mar 9, 1:57 pm, "benli...@ihug.co.nz" <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote:
> > > >>>> On Mar 10, 5:51 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > > >>>>>http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-l...

>


> Linguists don't care about the lines you are so eager to draw.

If "linguists" don't care about what's a language and what's a
dialect, why are some of the world's top and best linguists always
submitting ISO apps to SIL to create new languages, merge others,
eliminate languages and reclassify them as dialects, etc. Is there
something wrong with these people, since "linguists don't care." Are
they crazy, are they not linguists, is something wrong with them?

grammatim

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 11:47:11 AM3/10/09
to
On Mar 10, 10:47 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mar 10, 6:06 am, grammatim <gramma...@verizon.net> wrote:
> > On Mar 10, 7:43 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > > I'm fascinated by it. Looking around the net, tons of non-linguists
> > > are. I'm not sure why academics often shy away from this stuff.
>
> > Have you never heard of dialectology, and the great Linguistic Atlas
> > projects?
>
> Those often don't split languages and dialects much. The Linguistic
> Atlas of China is an endless list of "dialects."

I don't know what that could mean, but if it is, then it isn't a
linguistic atlas in any recognizable sense. The great linguistic
atlases of the first half of the twentieth century are enormous
collections of data -- gathered at immense expense -- plotted on
incredibly detailed large-scale maps, from which people like you can
gather the evidence (which will show that there are usually no lines
on the ground where you want to draw them).

> > > Probably because an academic writing what I wrote is really sticking
> > > his neck out to get pounded. Anyway, I know these guys, and they are
> > > mostly presenting papers on Optimality Theory or Generative Syntax and
> > > they don't mess around with this stuff.
>
> > Then you know very, very few linguists.
>
> > > I know some of these guys, and they don't seem to care if some lect is
> > > a language or a dialect. If you ask them, they just refer to SIL and
> > > say, SIL is calling this a language nowadays and shrug their heads.
>
> > Precisely. "Language vs. dialect" is not a question of linguistics.
>
> Really? Why then a committee of linguists at SIL determine what is a
> language and what is a dialect, if linguistics has zero to do with it.

I've no idea. SIL is a religious missionary organization whose aim is
to translate the Bible into as many languages as possible, believing
that this will hasten the Second Coming. It is very much to their
advantage to multiply the number of "languages." The SIL listing is
universally recognized as the "extreme splitter" case, while area
specialists have to sew back together all the different named entities
they have registered.

> Why do linguists the world over submit ISO apps to SIL to split off
> new languages, or get rid of some languages and rephrase them as
> dialects.

Because two or three years ago SIL became the organization assigned to
care for the ISO listing, over the objection of a number of people who
were opposed to the christianization of the list of the world's
languages.

> Is Lyle Campbell a linguist? I will answer that myself. He is one of
> the world's top linguists. Campbell and other Americanists submitted
> an ISO app to SIL recently to eliminate some Mayan language and
> reclassify them as dialects of some larger Mayan languages. If this
> question has nothing to do with linguistics, why did Dr. Campbell do
> this. BTW, Campbell seems to be on good terms with the SIL crew. I
> assume Dr. Campbell is a religious nut too.

I've never met him. I know that he is a rabid opponent of Greenbergian
megalocomparison (as Jim Matisoff called it), and as a specialist in
Maya linguistics, is probably familiar enough with all 20-odd living
varieties, and their speakers -- who the question is ultimately up to
-- to say what counts as a language and what doesn't, in the opinions
of the speakers.

grammatim

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 11:48:11 AM3/10/09
to

They're not doing linguistics. The ISO is not a linguistic
organization. They're doing politics.

There are no linguistic criteria for the distinction "language" vs.
"dialect."

António Marques

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 12:09:27 PM3/10/09
to
Harlan Messinger wrote:
> You're talking about these things as though they're mutually
> exclusive and as though the lines you're drawing are particularly
> meaningful.

*That's* the key issue with Bob's (and other folks') obsessions. They
don't grasp the central concepts of meaningfulness and usefulness.
84? Heck. Make it 480 separate languages. What does any speaker of one
of them care?
--
António Marques

Harlan Messinger

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 12:26:57 PM3/10/09
to

I offer a conjecture (sheer speculation, not something for which I would
argue, but something that I think others have suggested here) that
Ethnologue has a vested interest in teasing out as many languages as
possible: to drive an increase in the number of versions of the Bible
they can give the appearance of needing to publish. The more versions
they can justify, the greater they can impress on contributors and
potential contributors the importance of their mission.

Also, imagine giving a person in Lower Slobovia his very own Bible
translated into Upper West-Central Lower Slobovian. This show of special
attention might give the Upper West-Central Lower Slobovian speaker a
warm, fuzzy feeling that could facilitate proselytization.

António Marques

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 12:30:24 PM3/10/09
to
Bob wrote:

> ... this is typically how it is done by Ethnologue and others.

Yes, and it's one of the reasons people (except for Wikipedia) don't
rely on Ethnologue's classifications.

> Linguistics is a science, and if people are wrong about lects being
> languages or dialects, sooner or later it all sorts out. For
> instance, Ethnologue recently was petitioned by Mesoamerican
> linguistics experts to get rid of numerous Maya languages that they
> had split as separate languages. So it looks like SIL is going to
> lump these together.

And the picture emerges: whenever someone looks at the data with seeing
eyes, Ethnologue's original approach is found out to be useless. Of
course, some parts of Ethnologue have been vetted; others have not. For
instance, Ethnologue has reported 'galician' (15k), 'asturian' (25k) and
'Miranda do Douro' (15k) for Portugal like since ever. 'Galician' simply
just doesn't exist here, nor has it ever (except for possible
immigrants, of course; but they've even drawn a completely fictitious
map), while the 'asturian' consists of, precisely, nothing else than
'mirandese' (not 'Miranda do Douro' , which is the portuguese name of
the county's capital). Now, when will this be corrected? Never, of
course. For occitan, besides the stupidity of separating it into 6
languages (when actual speakers don't do any such thing and merrily
communicate with each other), they put it inside 'ibero-romance' - for
crying out loud, they have no idea what 'ibero-romance' even is. Their
sources are scant, outdated, poorly chosen, not representative, and they
lack the baggage to evaluate them. And who, in God's name, has the
patience to correct them? Let them be.
The dialect/language distinction was never scientific and to try to make
it seem so is but an exercise on vanity.
--
António Marques

António Marques

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 12:35:09 PM3/10/09
to
Bob wrote:

> Plus when you start splitting all these languages, you run into all
> this political BS from nationalists screaming that are making
> languages out of "dialects" of the national tongue, or fostering
> separatism or whatever.

It's the opposite, Bob. You run into all the political BS that you're
downgrading their 'language' to a dialect.

I've never seen any english person worried that scots is considered a
separate language, I've seen plenty of scots take offense to the idea
that Scots is 'just a dialect'. (And reasonably so, because the *useful*
thing to do with Scots is precisely to cultivate it as separate from
english.)
--
António Marques

António Marques

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 12:39:12 PM3/10/09
to

Why? Is astronomy any less of a science just because it was only
recently that a committee chose a definition of 'planet', which moreover
is of extermely limited impact?
--
António Marques

noesy_parker

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 1:08:24 PM3/10/09
to
=?UTF-8?B?QW50w7NuaW8gTWFycXVlcw==?= <m....@sapo.pt> wrote in news:gp6543
$rp8$2...@nntp.motzarella.org:

The astronomers aren't saying whether something is a planet or not is a
question for astronomy, in fact they take the trouble to make a decision
on something of no great import. Very unlike linguists who appeared to
have turn their back on a problem related to their discipline.

I haven't heard a single valid reasons why language/dialect demarcation
should not be a question for linguistics. Some of reasons given are
plainly assinine, like the point about familiarity and exposure in
relation to Czech/Slovak. This is like, DUH! If linguists can't even
deal with something like that, then there is no hope for it as a
scientific discipline.

Richard Herring

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 1:04:21 PM3/10/09
to

[sorry, soc.culture.* stripped by my server]

In message <71nimiF...@mid.individual.net>, Harlan Messinger
<hmessinger...@comcast.net> writes


>António Marques wrote:
>> Harlan Messinger wrote:
>>> You're talking about these things as though they're mutually
>>> exclusive and as though the lines you're drawing are particularly
>>> meaningful.
>> *That's* the key issue with Bob's (and other folks') obsessions.
>>They
>> don't grasp the central concepts of meaningfulness and usefulness.
>> 84? Heck. Make it 480 separate languages. What does any speaker of
>>one of them care?
>
>I offer a conjecture (sheer speculation, not something for which I
>would argue, but something that I think others have suggested here)
>that Ethnologue has a vested interest in teasing out as many languages
>as possible: to drive an increase in the number of versions of the
>Bible they can give the appearance of needing to publish. The more
>versions they can justify, the greater they can impress on contributors
>and potential contributors the importance of their mission.

And the primary unstated purpose of all organizations is to perpetuate
themselves. Yet logically, the _fewer_ the languages, the sooner their
mammoth task would be complete. Anyone would think they don't actually
deep-down believe in their mission...

--
Richard Herring

Harlan Messinger

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 2:47:10 PM3/10/09
to

Chemists who specialize in pigments have no interest in and reject
responsibility for dividing the Impressionists up into sub-genres based
on differences among the characteristics of their respective painting
styles. If chemists can't even deal with something like that, then there
is no hope for chemistry as a scientific discipline.

António Marques

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 2:48:42 PM3/10/09
to
noesy_parker wrote:
> =?UTF-8?B?QW50w7NuaW8gTWFycXVlcw==?=<m....@sapo.pt> wrote in news:gp6543
> $rp8$2...@nntp.motzarella.org:
>
>> noesy_parker wrote:
>>> grammatim<gram...@verizon.net> wrote in
>>> news:a852fd21-1f3f-4e03-8167-
>>> 257624...@o36g2000yqh.googlegroups.com:
>>>
>>>> Precisely. "Language vs. dialect" is not a question of
>>>> linguistics.
>>> It's utterances like that that showed linguistics is not a science.
>> Why? Is astronomy any less of a science just because it was only
>> recently that a committee chose a definition of 'planet', which
> moreover
>> is of extermely limited impact?
>
> The astronomers aren't saying whether something is a planet or not is a
> question for astronomy, in fact they take the trouble to make a decision
> on something of no great import. Very unlike linguists who appeared to
> have turn their back on a problem related to their discipline.

So you don't take exception to the fact that a question is decided or
important or not, but to people saying the question is out of the scope
of their field of study?

It's not like Mercedes spends a whole lot of time anguishing over
whether it is a car or truck manufacturer, or what the precise
scientific distinction is between an SUV and an AUV.

> I haven't heard a single valid reasons why language/dialect demarcation
> should not be a question for linguistics.

Language/dialect demarcation is not a question for linguistics to
*decide* for the exact same reason that government
reelection/overthrowal is not a question for social science to decide.
It's not a matter of arguing whether it should be decided or not by
lingusitics, it's the fact that it *is* decided out of science
altogether. By those, err, 'people', I think it is, who use them (and
that includes people who study languages which nobody speaks).
Now, linguistics may study why and how such a demarcation appears or
not, but that's a completely different issue.
--
António Marques

1X2Willows

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 4:06:35 PM3/10/09
to
"Bob" <lindsay...@gmail.com> wrote

>
> For example, there may well be 40 separate languages in Swiss German,
> but until someone can tell me that Bern can't understand Zurich or
> whatever, we can't do anything, if you use an evidence-based approach.

Appenzell most definitely can't understand Wallis and vice versa.
That's but one example. There are more.


Nathan Sanders

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 5:08:07 PM3/10/09
to
In article <123670490...@proxy00.news.clara.net>,
"noesy_parker" <noesy_...@clara.co.uk> wrote:

> I haven't heard a single valid reasons why language/dialect demarcation
> should not be a question for linguistics.

What's a valid reason why it *should* be?

If I analyze the structure of X and I analyze the structure of Y, how
would my analyses be fundamentally different if I call them dialects
of the same language or different languages?

The methods I use are going to be the same either way. The
implications for the field are going to be the same either way.
Dialects and languages (whatever those are) all differ from each other
in exactly the same possible ways: phonetics, phonology, morphology,
syntax, semantics, pragmatics, etc.

Nathan

--
Nathan Sanders
Linguistics Program
Williams College
http://wso.williams.edu/~nsanders/

Helmut Richter

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Mar 10, 2009, 5:17:29 PM3/10/09
to
On Mon, 9 Mar 2009, Bob wrote:

> I left some intact. I wasn't able to prove Thuringian is
> unintelligible with St German, so it stayed.

Mutual intelligibility may be a viable concept in regions where there is
no standard language. When you find two tribes at the Amazonas which had
not contact with each other, you may ask how well they manage to get
themselves understood. But a situation where a Thuringian and a St German
meet and are dependent only on their native language skills simply does
never happen. There is no person in Thuringia that would not understand St
German, not even children.

The mutual intelligibility of dialects makes a little more sense. But keep
in mind that nearly always, mutual understanding can easily be achieved by
reverting to a less extreme variety of dialect. Mutual intelligibility
could perhaps be tested by letting a person from elsewhere overhear a
conversation in the local dialect without the speakers knowing that a
stranger is listening.

Thuringian and Upper Saxon (the two are nearly indistinguishable for me
even though I learnt Upper Saxon fairly well from my parents, both from
Leipzig) are certainly among the dialects where other German speakers have
the least problems to understand.

> And Central and Northern Bavarian seem intelligible.

With what?

The North of the province of Bavaria, that is, the region *now* called
Franconia (districts Ober-, Mittel- and Unterfranken) whose dialect is
called Franconian (fränkisch) by by the man in the street (as distinct
from linguists who use the term Franconian for many languages outside that
region) is not treated by Ethnologue. For them, Middle German ends with
[vmf] near Frankfurt/M and Upper German starts at Regensburg with [bar] a
gap of nearly 200 km of unknown land between. The cities of Bayreuth,
Nürnberg, of Hof have thus disappeared from the map.

Anyhow, their dialect, elsewhere called East Franconian, is more closely
related to the West Middle German dialects to their west than to the South
German dialects to their South.

Another region uncovered by Ethnologue is Low Alemannic, that is the Rhine
valley from the Swiss border until Heidelberg plus the Alsace (as far as
German is spoken there which is the case to a large extent along with
French).

--
Helmut Richter

Helmut Richter

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Mar 10, 2009, 5:29:17 PM3/10/09
to
On Tue, 10 Mar 2009, 1X2Willows wrote:

> Better yet, there is no empiric "Swiss German" but once more, only
> a plethora of dialects which may or may not be mutually intelligible.
> Rule of thumb: The further apart in distance, the less commonalities.

But that does not prevent a common Swiss TV where most programmes are in
Swiss German. People from all Swiss-German speaking cantons are
interviewed in these programs without giving them special lessons in
something like "Standard Swiss German". Subtitles are normally not used.
This proves that by and large, Swiss German dialects are mutually
intelligible, even though there are certainly extremes that are not.

BTW, one of these programmes ("10 vor 10") is retransmitted all over
Switzerland, Germany, and Austria a few hours later, but then with German
subtitles for the Swiss-German passages.

> This is the reason why in the majority of Cantons, St German is being
> taught in school as a primary 'foreign language' from first grade on.

I doubt that this is the reason. It was a political decision not to
develop a national Swiss language (as there is a national Dutch language
although the Netherlands have also mutually unintelligible sublanguages on
their territory). I do not think there are linguistic reasons why this has
not been done.

> Schwiizertüütsch (Swiss German) is usually not written, except for
> completely unregulated phonetic spellings, used by people sometimes
> for fun or as an expression of identity; a trend which is most popular
> among the younger generation nowadays.

That's correct.

--
Helmut Richter

benl...@ihug.co.nz

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Mar 10, 2009, 5:56:47 PM3/10/09
to
On Mar 11, 6:08 am, "noesy_parker" <noesy_par...@clara.co.uk> wrote:
> =?UTF-8?B?QW50w7NuaW8gTWFycXVlcw==?= <m...@sapo.pt> wrote in news:gp6543
> $rp...@nntp.motzarella.org:
>
>
>
> > noesy_parker wrote:
> >> grammatim<gramma...@verizon.net>  wrote in
> >> news:a852fd21-1f3f-4e03-8167-
> >> 2576249fc...@o36g2000yqh.googlegroups.com:

>
> >>> Precisely. "Language vs. dialect" is not a question of
> >>> linguistics.
>
> >> It's utterances like that that showed linguistics is not a science.
>
> > Why? Is astronomy any less of a science just because it was only
> > recently that a committee chose a definition of 'planet', which
> moreover
> > is of extermely limited impact?
>
> The astronomers aren't saying whether something is a planet or not is a
> question for astronomy, in fact they take the trouble to make a decision
> on something of no great import.  Very unlike linguists who appeared to
> have turn their back on a problem related to their discipline.

No, they haven't turned their back on it. They are confronted with it
all the time, either in their own informal talk about languages, or in
persistent questions from non-linguists who think they must have an
answer.

Do you think linguists would enhance their scientific credibility if
they officially sanctified some arbitrary criterion (like SIL/Bob's
90%) as the answer to the question, while admitting that it was not a
scientific finding of linguistics?

>
> I haven't heard a single valid reasons why language/dialect demarcation
> should not be a question for linguistics.  Some of reasons given are
> plainly assinine, like the point about familiarity and exposure in
> relation to Czech/Slovak.  This is like, DUH!  If linguists can't even
> deal with something like that, then there is no hope for it as a
> scientific discipline.

So when the linguists tell you that the study of language (which is
what they do) reveals no basis for distinguishing language/dialect,
you think they're just lying to cover up their incompetence? You're
sure there must be some such basis, although you can't tell us what it
is?

Ross Clark

noesy_parker

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Mar 10, 2009, 6:07:49 PM3/10/09
to
Nathan Sanders <nsan...@williams.edu> wrote in news:nsanders-
489551.170...@AToulouse-552-1-42-74.w92-136.abo.wanadoo.fr:

> In article <123670490...@proxy00.news.clara.net>,
> "noesy_parker" <noesy_...@clara.co.uk> wrote:
>
>> I haven't heard a single valid reasons why language/dialect
demarcation
>> should not be a question for linguistics.
>
> What's a valid reason why it *should* be?
>

I find this idea of why it should or shouldn't be curious - it is about
basic language properties of language, how people can understand
something unfamiliar. It's the issue of intelligibility, if linguists
aren't interested in that what, what on earth can be they interested in?

> If I analyze the structure of X and I analyze the structure of Y, how
> would my analyses be fundamentally different if I call them dialects
> of the same language or different languages?

Even weirder question. Scientists label, group and classify things all
time, whether something is of a different species, a different type of
enzymes, a different group of chemical compounds, etc. Why is that a
problem for you?

Helmut Wollmersdorfer

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Mar 10, 2009, 6:13:54 PM3/10/09
to
Bob wrote:

> And Central and Northern
> Bavarian seem intelligible.

Yes and no. Depends on the age of speakers and social context, also
(nearly) extinct versus current lects.

I am born 1957 and grew up in the east of Vienna speaking East-Viennese
dialect at home, Standard German in school. Most of the Viennese
dialects disappeared in the last 20 years, e.g. Schönbrunnerisch. Now
there is only one dialect in Vienna, which developed from old
East-Viennese ('Meidlingerisch') to a more moderate dialect, half the
way to Standard German. Maybe we can call this 'Urban Bavarian', which
is quite intelligible with 'Urban Swabian' or 'Urban Franconian'.

When I go to rural areas and try to understand 'grandfathers' then I
maybe will understand less than 50%. E.g. at the age of 15 I didn't
understand the granny of my girlfriend - in a village just 20 km east of
my home.

What's the purpose of your 'Reworking of German Language
Classification'? Just taxonomy for fun? The main purpose of ISO language
codes is classifying _written_ languages. Written German is Standard
German in 99.99% of the cases. In my dictionary of plants and animals
covering ~300 languages German is German. The names

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feldsalat
----quote----
Ackersalat (in Schwaben), Mäuseöhrchensalat (Eifel, Hunsrück),
Vogerlsalat (Österreich), Vogelsalat (Südtirol), Rapunzelsalat
(Thüringen, Sachsen), Nüsslisalat oder Nüssler (Schweiz), Nüsschen
(Nordhessen), Sunnewirbilin bzw. Sonnenwirbelin Baden.
----quote end----

are all German;-)

Helmut Wollmersdorfer

noesy_parker

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Mar 10, 2009, 6:35:24 PM3/10/09
to
=?UTF-8?B?QW50w7NuaW8gTWFycXVlcw==?= <m....@sapo.pt> wrote in news:gp6cn0
$bj1$1...@nntp.motzarella.org:


A bit of both. Whether it is important or not I can't say, but there is
certainly some interest in that for it to be something worth studying.
But for linguists to assert that some issues related to language,
however trivial it might seem to them, is out of the scope of their
study is to me utterly bizarre. Scientists investigate apparently
trivial or useless things all the time, sometimes such trivial things
yield unexpected important results and become an important field of
study in itself. That is how science grows and knowledge expands.


>
> It's not like Mercedes spends a whole lot of time anguishing over
> whether it is a car or truck manufacturer, or what the precise
> scientific distinction is between an SUV and an AUV.
>
>> I haven't heard a single valid reasons why language/dialect
demarcation
>> should not be a question for linguistics.
>
> Language/dialect demarcation is not a question for linguistics to
> *decide* for the exact same reason that government
> reelection/overthrowal is not a question for social science to decide.
> It's not a matter of arguing whether it should be decided or not by
> lingusitics, it's the fact that it *is* decided out of science
> altogether. By those, err, 'people', I think it is, who use them (and
> that includes people who study languages which nobody speaks).
> Now, linguistics may study why and how such a demarcation appears or
> not, but that's a completely different issue.


Intelligibility surely must be an issue for linguistics? The first time
I ever went to Glasgow, I stopped someone on the street and ask for
direction, and I couldn't understand a single word he said. So why
can't I understand his speech? Is it the change in vowel sounds, or
unfamialir vocabulary, or speech pattern peculiar to that place, or
something else completely? Is he speaking a different language, should
his speech be classified as a separate language?

I can think of many ways a scientist would investigate and pursue such
questions, so it is perplexing for me to find that linguists would
insist that such questions are not issues relevant to them.

Helmut Wollmersdorfer

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Mar 10, 2009, 6:42:29 PM3/10/09
to
Helmut Richter wrote:

>> And Central and Northern Bavarian seem intelligible.
>
> With what?

Central with Northern Bavarian (Bavarian in terms of language taxonomy,
which covers most of the province Bavaria, most of Austria and South Tyrol).

> Anyhow, their dialect, elsewhere called East Franconian, is more closely
> related to the West Middle German dialects to their west than to the South
> German dialects to their South.

Hmm ... as a Viennese I live in Erlangen since 2007 and I understand them;-)

Helmut Wollmersdorfer

benl...@ihug.co.nz

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Mar 10, 2009, 7:00:47 PM3/10/09
to
On Mar 11, 11:35 am, "noesy_parker" <noesy_par...@clara.co.uk> wrote:
> =?UTF-8?B?QW50w7NuaW8gTWFycXVlcw==?= <m...@sapo.pt> wrote in news:gp6cn0
> $bj...@nntp.motzarella.org:

>
>
>
>
>
> > noesy_parker wrote:
> >> =?UTF-8?B?QW50w7NuaW8gTWFycXVlcw==?=<m...@sapo.pt>  wrote in
> news:gp6543
> >> $rp...@nntp.motzarella.org:
>
> >>> noesy_parker wrote:
> >>>> grammatim<gramma...@verizon.net>   wrote in
> >>>> news:a852fd21-1f3f-4e03-8167-
> >>>> 2576249fc...@o36g2000yqh.googlegroups.com:
>
> >>>>> Precisely. "Language vs. dialect" is not a question of
> >>>>> linguistics.
> >>>> It's utterances like that that showed linguistics is not a science.
> >>> Why? Is astronomy any less of a science just because it was only
> >>> recently that a committee chose a definition of 'planet', which
> >> moreover
> >>> is of extermely limited impact?
>
> >> The astronomers aren't saying whether something is a planet or not is
> a
> >> question for astronomy, in fact they take the trouble to make a
> decision
> >> on something of no great import.  Very unlike linguists who appeared
> to
> >> have turn their back on a problem related to their discipline.
>
> > So you don't take exception to the fact that a question is decided or
> > important or not, but to people saying the question is out of the
> scope
> > of their field of study?
>
> A bit of both.  Whether it is important or not I can't say, but there is
> certainly some interest in that for it to be something worth studying.  
> But for linguists to assert that some issues related to language,
> however trivial it might seem to them, is out of the scope of their
> study is to me utterly bizarre.

You are misunderstanding what the linguists say.
The "issue" you are preoccupied with is whether two similar forms of
speech are to be classified as different languages or dialects of the
same language.
What the linguists are telling you is that there is nothing in the
structure of these forms of speech, or the comparison thereof, that
will answer this question.
If you insist on an answer, you will either have to bring in non-
linguistic considerations (these people live in different countries,
so they must speak different languages), or set up an arbitrary
criterion, such as SIL/Bob's 90% on a standard intelligibility test.
(Did you ever wonder why 90%? Are you sure the correct figure is not
91% or 88.7%?)

Probably all of the above. Now here you have a legitimate linguistic
question, and I don't doubt that somewhere in the psycholingistic or
applied (SIL) literature there are interesting general observations on
this question (I mean beyond simple A-vs-B intelligibility
measurement).

Is he speaking a different language, should
> his speech be classified as a separate language?

But now you're back to the original question, to which, as I say, you
will not find a linguistic answer.

Ross Clark

Mok-Kong Shen

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Mar 10, 2009, 7:17:07 PM3/10/09
to
Bob wrote:
> http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-language-classification/
>
> German expanded from 20 to 83 separate languages.

Is there a corresponding figure for English?

Thanks,

M. K. Shen

benl...@ihug.co.nz

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Mar 10, 2009, 7:52:33 PM3/10/09
to
On Mar 11, 12:17 pm, Mok-Kong Shen <mok-kong.s...@t-online.de> wrote:
> Bob wrote:
> >http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-l...

>
> > German expanded from 20 to 83 separate languages.
>
> Is there a corresponding figure for English?
>
> Thanks,
>
> M. K. Shen

At the moment Ethnologue Online divides "English" into three
languages: English, Scots and Yinglish. "Yinglish" (as explained in an
extended quote from Fishman) is merely Yiddish-influenced English. The
English-based pidgins and creoles are in a separate "family" of their
own. Pretty clearly nobody has applied Bob's criteria to English.

Ross Clark

Richard Wordingham

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Mar 10, 2009, 7:56:27 PM3/10/09
to
<benl...@ihug.co.nz> wrote

> You are misunderstanding what the linguists say.
> The "issue" you are preoccupied with is whether two similar forms of
> speech are to be classified as different languages or dialects of the
> same language.
> What the linguists are telling you is that there is nothing in the
> structure of these forms of speech, or the comparison thereof, that
> will answer this question.

There is the practical question of how many different translations you need.
What branch of human knowledge addresses that issue? If it isn't
linguistics, what is it? Marketing?

Richard.

Nathan Sanders

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Mar 10, 2009, 8:00:42 PM3/10/09
to
In article <123672286...@proxy00.news.clara.net>,
"noesy_parker" <noesy_...@clara.co.uk> wrote:

> Nathan Sanders <nsan...@williams.edu> wrote in news:nsanders-
> 489551.170...@AToulouse-552-1-42-74.w92-136.abo.wanadoo.fr:
>
> > In article <123670490...@proxy00.news.clara.net>,
> > "noesy_parker" <noesy_...@clara.co.uk> wrote:
> >
> >> I haven't heard a single valid reasons why language/dialect
> demarcation
> >> should not be a question for linguistics.
> >
> > What's a valid reason why it *should* be?
>
> I find this idea of why it should or shouldn't be curious - it is about
> basic language properties of language,

Why do you think the dialect/language distinction is a "basic
property"?

> how people can understand
> something unfamiliar. It's the issue of intelligibility,

You think the dialect/language distinction should be based on mutual
intelligibility? That's already been tried, and the definition won't
work. Mutual intelligibility isn't a transitive relation, which means
for your proposed definition, there are cases where X and Y are
classified as dialects of the same language, Y and Z are classified as
dialects of the same language, but X and Z must be classified as
different languages.

Look up "dialect continuum" for more details on this issue.

> if linguists
> aren't interested in that what, what on earth can be they interested in?

The structure of language.

> > If I analyze the structure of X and I analyze the structure of Y, how
> > would my analyses be fundamentally different if I call them dialects
> > of the same language or different languages?
>
> Even weirder question. Scientists label, group and classify things all
> time,

But they don't classify *everything*.

> whether something is of a different species, a different type of
> enzymes, a different group of chemical compounds, etc. Why is that a
> problem for you?

It's interesting that you bring up "species". I don't think this term
is as well-defined as you think it might be. There are multiple ways
of defining what a species is, and they can lead to different
classifications. There is plenty of dispute over what, if anything,
should be the proper definition. Look up "species problem" for more
details on this issue.

Harlan Messinger

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Mar 10, 2009, 8:04:48 PM3/10/09
to

Your questions, probing the factors involved in mutual comprehension or
lack thereof, are fine till the last one, which is a subjective
conclusion possibly based on the outcome of the previous questions. It
is not itself a probing question that leads to any insight. It isn't
data, it's a declaration.

>
> I can think of many ways a scientist would investigate and pursue such
> questions, so it is perplexing for me to find that linguists would
> insist that such questions are not issues relevant to them.

Do linguists not study any of the questions you posed other than the
last one?

benl...@ihug.co.nz

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Mar 10, 2009, 8:06:28 PM3/10/09
to
On Mar 11, 12:56 pm, "Richard Wordingham" <jrw0...@yahoo.co.uk> wrote:
> <benli...@ihug.co.nz> wrote

It would come under what I referred to as "applied (linguistics)"
further down. But you could make those decisions without necessarily
having recourse to a "language/dialect" criterion. And in fact the
deciders would have to consider a range of other factors beyond simple
intelligibility -- choice of orthography, inter-ethnic attitudes,
existing bilingualism, and so on.

Ross Clark

Harlan Messinger

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Mar 10, 2009, 8:49:35 PM3/10/09
to

If someone from Lower Saxony can't read a book written for someone from
Glarus, his inability to read it won't change according to whether or
not you say it's his language or his dialect that's too different from
the one in the book.

Harlan Messinger

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Mar 10, 2009, 8:52:56 PM3/10/09
to
noesy_parker wrote:
> Nathan Sanders <nsan...@williams.edu> wrote in news:nsanders-
> 489551.170...@AToulouse-552-1-42-74.w92-136.abo.wanadoo.fr:
>
>> In article <123670490...@proxy00.news.clara.net>,
>> "noesy_parker" <noesy_...@clara.co.uk> wrote:
>>
>>> I haven't heard a single valid reasons why language/dialect
> demarcation
>>> should not be a question for linguistics.
>> What's a valid reason why it *should* be?
>>
>
> I find this idea of why it should or shouldn't be curious - it is about
> basic language properties of language, how people can understand
> something unfamiliar. It's the issue of intelligibility, if linguists
> aren't interested in that what, what on earth can be they interested in?
>

Who said linguists aren't interested in intelligibility? You can study
intelligibility all your life and never feel the need to state any of
your findings in terms of a language/dialect distinction.

grammatim

unread,
Mar 10, 2009, 11:27:12 PM3/10/09
to
On Mar 10, 8:00 pm, Nathan Sanders <nsand...@williams.edu> wrote:
> In article <1236722869.2510...@proxy00.news.clara.net>,
>  "noesy_parker" <noesy_par...@clara.co.uk> wrote:

> > how people can understand
> > something unfamiliar. It's the issue of intelligibility,
>
> You think the dialect/language distinction should be based on mutual
> intelligibility?  That's already been tried, and the definition won't
> work.  Mutual intelligibility isn't a transitive relation, which means
> for your proposed definition, there are cases where X and Y are
> classified as dialects of the same language, Y and Z are classified as
> dialects of the same language, but X and Z must be classified as
> different languages.

You don't even have to go so far as to consider X, Y, and Z. Spanish-
Italian and Finnish-Estonian are both said to have very different
degrees of mutual intelligibility depending on which direction you're
going.

Bob

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Mar 10, 2009, 11:47:58 PM3/10/09
to
On Mar 10, 8:35 am, António Marques <m...@sapo.pt> wrote:
> Bob wrote:
> > Plus when you start splitting all these languages, you run into all
> > this political BS from nationalists screaming that are making
> > languages out of "dialects" of the national tongue, or fostering
> > separatism or whatever.
>
> It's the opposite, Bob. You run into all the political BS that you're
> downgrading their 'language' to a dialect.

Correct, the Valencians are furious that SIL won't recognize Valencian
as a language, when it's a dialect of Catalan.


>
> I've never seen any english person worried that scots is considered a
> separate language, I've seen plenty of scots take offense to the idea
> that Scots is 'just a dialect'. (And reasonably so, because the *useful*
> thing to do with Scots is precisely to cultivate it as separate from
> english.)

I know some Scots who insist that Scots is a dialect, and if you look
on the Net, you see lots of English speakers enraged over the idea
that Scots is a language.
> --
> António Marques

Bob

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Mar 11, 2009, 12:00:01 AM3/11/09
to
On Mar 10, 1:17 pm, Helmut Richter <hh...@web.de> wrote:
> On Mon, 9 Mar 2009, Bob wrote:
> > I left some intact. I wasn't able to prove Thuringian is
> > unintelligible with St German, so it stayed.
>
> Mutual intelligibility may be a viable concept in regions where there is
> no standard language. When you find two tribes at the Amazonas which had
> not contact with each other, you may ask how well they manage to get
> themselves understood. But a situation where a Thuringian and a St German
> meet and are dependent only on their native language skills simply does
> never happen. There is no person in Thuringia that would not understand St
> German, not even children.

That's not how it's done. You throw pure Thuringian dialect at
Standard German speakers who haven't heard it and see how much of it
they understand. No one tries to see how much St German a Thuringian
understands, only how much Thuringian a St German speaker understands.


>
> The mutual intelligibility of dialects makes a little more sense. But keep
> in mind that nearly always, mutual understanding can easily be achieved by
> reverting to a less extreme variety of dialect.

That's not you test it. To do it right, you record a good pure version
of the dialect and then go around to a number of speakers of the lect
and play it back to them and calculate how much they figure out. You
have to test individually, because when you test in groups, you get a
strong personality who says, "Yeah I understand it", when he doesn't
just to show off and the weaker personalities all agree just to go
along. So you test individually and get away from that.

Mutual intelligibility
> could perhaps be tested by letting a person from elsewhere overhear a
> conversation in the local dialect without the speakers knowing that a
> stranger is listening.

Precisely, this is what a recording does. "Testing" 2 German lect
speakers who are resorting to St German or slowing down their speech
and using all sorts of gestures is not going to give you a good
result.


>
> Thuringian and Upper Saxon (the two are nearly indistinguishable for me
> even though I learnt Upper Saxon fairly well from my parents, both from
> Leipzig) are certainly among the dialects where other German speakers have
> the least problems to understand.

Erzgebirgisch, Upper Saxon dialect is supposed to be extremely
divergent and hard for others to understand.


>
> > And Central and Northern Bavarian seem intelligible.
>
> With what?

With each other? Although the pure Bavarian lects of say Munich and
Vienna are said to be quite far apart.


>
> The North of the province of Bavaria, that is, the region *now* called
> Franconia (districts Ober-, Mittel- and Unterfranken) whose dialect is
> called Franconian

I am referring to the lect Northern Bavarian, spoken in Bavaria in
Germany, and the lect Central Bavarian, spoken to the south down into
Austria. I assume they are intelligible?

Bob

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Mar 11, 2009, 12:11:17 AM3/11/09
to
On Mar 10, 2:13 pm, Helmut Wollmersdorfer <hel...@wollmersdorfer.at>
wrote:

> Bob wrote:
> > And Central and Northern
> > Bavarian seem intelligible.
>
> Yes and no. Depends on the age of speakers and social context, also
> (nearly) extinct versus current lects.
>
> I am born 1957 and grew up in the east of Vienna speaking East-Viennese
> dialect at home, Standard German in school. Most of the Viennese
> dialects disappeared in the last 20 years, e.g. Schönbrunnerisch. Now
> there is only one dialect in Vienna, which developed from old
> East-Viennese ('Meidlingerisch') to a more moderate dialect, half the
> way to Standard German. Maybe we can call this 'Urban Bavarian', which
> is quite intelligible with 'Urban Swabian' or 'Urban Franconian'.
>
> When I go to rural areas and try to understand 'grandfathers' then I
> maybe will understand less than 50%. E.g. at the age of 15 I didn't
> understand the granny of my girlfriend - in a village just 20 km east of
> my home.
>
> What's the purpose of your 'Reworking of German Language
> Classification'? Just taxonomy for fun?

Pretty much. But my reclassification of Chinese is currently being
supported by some big names in Chinese linguistics who are working
closely with me on it, despite Linguistics professors (!) who say that
linguists have not valid interest in such things.

http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2008/12/27/a-reworking-of-chinese-language-classification/

The main purpose of ISO language
> codes is classifying _written_ languages.

Not really. If you look at a copy of Ethnologue, the vast majority of
ISO codes are for nonwritten languages.

John Atkinson

unread,
Mar 11, 2009, 12:11:27 AM3/11/09
to
grammatim wrote:
> On Mar 10, 10:49 am, Bob <lindsay.rob...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Mar 10, 5:59 am, grammatim gramma...@verizon.net> wrote:
>>
>>> Linguists don't care about the lines you are so eager to draw.
>>
>> If "linguists" don't care about what's a language and what's a
>> dialect, why are some of the world's top and best linguists always
>> submitting ISO apps to SIL to create new languages, merge others,
>> eliminate languages and reclassify them as dialects, etc. Is there
>> something wrong with these people, since "linguists don't care." Are
>> they crazy, are they not linguists, is something wrong with them?
>
> They're not doing linguistics. The ISO is not a linguistic
> organization. They're doing politics.

And, of course, there's absolutely nothing "wrong with them" for doing
politics. Many (most?) field linguists, whether associated with SIL or not
(mostly not) become close to the communities they work with and think it's
only fair that they should support them in their political aims, especially
those that involve their language(s). Let's face it, many of these minority
communities need all the help they can get.

> There are no linguistic criteria for the distinction "language" vs.
> "dialect."

Or at least, none that work -- although many linguists do find it convenient
to use the terms, it's only as a sort of shorthand rather than anything of
real linguistic significance.

John.

Bob

unread,
Mar 11, 2009, 12:17:53 AM3/11/09
to
On Mar 10, 2:35 pm, "noesy_parker" <noesy_par...@clara.co.uk> wrote:
> =?UTF-8?B?QW50w7NuaW8gTWFycXVlcw==?= <m...@sapo.pt> wrote in news:gp6cn0
> $bj...@nntp.motzarella.org:
>
>
>
>
>
> > noesy_parker wrote:
> >> =?UTF-8?B?QW50w7NuaW8gTWFycXVlcw==?=<m...@sapo.pt>  wrote in
> news:gp6543
> >> $rp...@nntp.motzarella.org:
>
> >>> noesy_parker wrote:
> >>>> grammatim<gramma...@verizon.net>   wrote in
> >>>> news:a852fd21-1f3f-4e03-8167-
> >>>> 2576249fc...@o36g2000yqh.googlegroups.com:
>
> Intelligibility surely must be an issue for linguistics?  The first time
> I ever went to Glasgow, I stopped someone on the street and ask for
> direction, and I couldn't understand a single word he said.  So why
> can't I understand his speech?  Is it the change in vowel sounds, or
> unfamialir vocabulary, or speech pattern peculiar to that place, or
> something else completely?  Is he speaking a different language, should
> his speech be classified as a separate language?
>
> I can think of many ways a scientist would investigate and pursue such
> questions, so it is perplexing for me to find that linguists would
> insist that such questions are not issues relevant to them.

If you go through the literature on intelligibility testing out of
SIL, they say that once you start getting below 90%, there are enough
problems to significantly impair communication. So if we set a
reasonable ceiling at say 90% and call all above dialects, then we can
make a scientific statement that these speakers can talk to each other
and understand each other. When we call all below say 90% languages,
we can make a scientific statement that these folks can't understand
each other much. Those are important facts to know about speech forms.

Communication is "significantly impaired" at 80%.

Even below 90%, you start running into serious problems with complex
speech and concepts.

Sure you can talk about the weather, but...

So 90% and 80% do seem to be legitimate benchmarks that say meaningful
things about the type of and quality of communication that is taking
place.

Bob

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Mar 11, 2009, 12:21:24 AM3/11/09
to
On Mar 10, 2:42 pm, Helmut Wollmersdorfer <hel...@wollmersdorfer.at>
wrote:

Yes, this is what I suspected. That's why I decided to call it
Northern-Central Bavarian, one language.

Bob

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Mar 11, 2009, 12:40:54 AM3/11/09