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Old 09-05-2012, 11:06 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ABQConvict View Post
The (somewhat cheeky) answer is that a language is a dialect with an army and a navy.

For example, look at the Scandinavian languages, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish. Some say that if they were under the banner of a single country, those languages would become dialects. In fact, those languages are rife with dialects themselves and as one approaches the borders between the countries, one finds similar dialects on both sides of the border with the great distinction being the influence of the written language instituted by the distant capital.

Agree, the definition is strictly political. For example, Spanish textbooks used to say until 1975 that Catalan was a rough dialect spoken by uncouth but noble peasants in dark and secluded valleys in the Pyrenees.
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Old 09-08-2012, 11:06 AM
 
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Originally Posted by lentzr View Post
If they are mutually intelligible, meaning you can understand at least most of what is said by each other, then you are dealing with two dialects. If you can not understand much of what is said by each other, you are dealing with two separate languages. Now, where exactly is this boundaries between "most" and "much" being mutually intelligible? There is no clear boundary. I guess factors such as history, ethnicity, identity are at play in determining the difference between dialects and separate languages. Hence, the exact divide should be approached at an individual basis (most of what I said is a big generalization).
The distinction is more diacrhonic than synchronic. As a rough guide, if two tongues developed from a common root they are dialects of that root form a historical point of view, but separate languages from each other once the common root becomes a dead language. If one of those two tongues develops differnet tongues, then those tongues are dialects of that language.

Sometimes though for political reasons languages which developed separately are considered dialects of the dominating tongue. This is the case in Italy. What we call Italian is acrualy Tuscan dialect, one of the many which sprung in Italy from Latin. Unification in the 19th century meant it was adopted as th eofficial language and now all other tongues are considered "dialects", but from a strictly linguistical point of view they have equal status to Tuscan/Italian, since they all developed independantly from Latin.
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Old 09-08-2012, 11:14 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Pestiferous View Post
Agree, the definition is strictly political. For example, Spanish textbooks used to say until 1975 that Catalan was a rough dialect spoken by uncouth but noble peasants in dark and secluded valleys in the Pyrenees.
I haven't seen those textbooks (I doubt you have either), but linguistics didn't change after 1975.
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Old 09-08-2012, 11:15 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ja1myn View Post
Yes. Which is what I said, with a slight twist.
The twist in this case implies that a dialect means butchering a language, which is highly unscientific to say the least.
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Old 09-09-2012, 09:03 AM
 
Location: Østenfor sol og vestenfor måne
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I reckon the 'pure' language, subject to butchery, which ja1myn described is the written 'book language', artificially codified by grammarians, with dialects being the actual spoken forms which comprise the source of, and ostensibly subscribe to, the book language.

Of course, the 'book language' (or proper grammar) is really just an unspoken dialect itself, created by grammarians and recognized as a model by consensus of society. Nynorsk in relation to the dialects it supposedly incorporates might be a good example of an artificial 'model language' to be used in writing by the speakers of its subsidiary source dialects.

The book language, being artificial, can also be a repository for inane grammar rules which have no support from, or bearing on, the spoken language itself. For example, the English 'rule' that a sentence cannot end in a preposition, a feature of Latin grammar that found its way into English grammar rule books (American, but I assume British, also?). No American English dialect requires such a limitation on prepositions unless the individual speaker has been seduced by the rule thus introducing a grammatical artifact into his dialect.
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