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What a language?

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Language variation
• register
• genre
• dialect
• accent
Language variation
• dialect
• "a language"
• accent
Discussing language variation in
Iceland
• Are there any dialects in Icelandic?
• What "type" of Icelandic is taught to foreign
students?
• Will they hear any difference in the
Icelandic spoken in Reykjavík, Ísafjörður,
Akureyri, Neskaupstaður, Höfn .....
• Can all Icelanders understand each other?
Discussing language variation in
Iceland
• Compare this to an Icelandic student who
has learnt English for 15 years at school
and at university in Iceland –
• will s/he be able to communicate with
people on the street in London, Taunton,
Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow,
Aberdeen, Londonderry, Dublin ....?
Discussing language variation in
Iceland
• Can all speakers of Icelandic understand
each other?
• Can all speakers of English understand
each other?
• German? Italian? Japanese?
Discussing language variation in
Iceland
• How long do you have to listen to an
Icelander to hear what part of Iceland s/he
comes from?
• Britain?
• Germany?
• Norway?
• Italy?
English?
I saw her yesterday
I seed her yesterday
So I said to him ...
So I says to him ...
I don’t want any more trouble
I don’t want no more trouble
Description
Prescription
descriptive rules or prescriptive rules?
English?
•
•
•
•
•
•
Our father which art in heaven
Our father who art in heaven
Our father who is in heaven
Our father oo is in heaven
Our father what is in heaven
Our father as be in heaven
English?
•
•
•
•
•
Good and bad English
Correct and incorrect English
Standard and substandard English
Standard and non-standard English
Dialects of English
LINGUISTIC VARIABLES
• Lexical - vocabulary
• Grammatical
• Phonological
- pronunciation
• Lexical - vocabulary
This and the following
maps are from Widdowson
and Upton
Isogloss
showing
lexical
variables
Isoglosses
showing
lexical
variables
Isoglosses
showing
lexical
variables
Isoglosses
showing
lexical
variables
Isoglosses
showing
lexical
variables
Isoglosses
showing
lexical
variables
• Lexical - vocabulary
• Grammatical
Isoglosses
showing
grammatical
variables
Isoglosses
showing
grammatical
variables
Isoglosses
showing
grammatical
variables
Isoglosses
showing
grammatical
variables
Isoglosses
showing
grammatical
variables
• Lexical - vocabulary
• Grammatical
• Phonological
- pronunciation
} в†’ dialect
• vocabulary
• grammar
• pronunciation
в†’ accent
Each dialect has its own accent:
dialect 1
dialect 2
dialect 3
dialect 4
в†’ accent 1
в†’ accent 2
в†’ accent 3
в†’ accent 4
Standard dialect
в†’ standard acccent
+ all other accents
} в†’ dialect
• vocabulary
• grammar
• pronunciation
в†’ accent
English dialects:
London dialect в†’ London acent
Yorkshire dialect в†’ Yorkshire accent
Somerset dialect в†’ Somerset accent
Standard English в†’ RP
+ London, Yorshire,
Somerset .....
Phonological variables
STRUT/FOOT
BATH/TRAP
ISOGLOSS
A line drawn on a map between two
different realisations of a single linguistic
variable.
ISOGLOSS
+
_
These realizations are often the result of a historical
process, such that on one side of the line the process has
occurred (+), and on the other it has not occurred (-).
ISOGLOSS
a
b
b
a
Here are two isoglosses, showing two
imaginary processes which we shall call a
and b
ISOGLOSS
a
b
+a +b
+a -b
-a +b
b
-a -b
a
They split the area into 4 different language varieties.
ISOGLOSS
ISOGLOSS
BUNDLES OF ISOGLOSSES
dialect x
dialect y
Isoglosses often occur in
bundles, resulting in different
dialectal areas with a
transition zone between them.
What do we mean by:
language?
dialect?
Language
?
dialects
•Some possible definitions:
Languages are divided into dialects
Dialects are regional varieties of language
Dialects are regional and social varieties of language
But first we have to ask: what do we
mean by a language?
ei
stein
e
sten
Eidskog
Eda
Eid
stein
Eda
sten
Oslo
в†ђ dialect continuum в†’
Stockholm
Stockholm
Oslo
Eid
Eda
Stockholm
Oslo
Eid
Norwegian
Eda
Swedish
socio-political entities
Dialect continua in Europe
Gorb
Garobia
Porkistan
Langauge B
Porki
A national border in a
dialect continuum
"Language" A
"Language" B
Nanamai
Banandia
Gorskch
Pthsiskt
A national border between two
different language families
Language A
Language B
bilingual area
Dialect continua in Europe
What is a dialect?
What a language?
Popular understanding:
1. A dialect is a type of language spoken by
uneducated or country people. It is a
corrupt form of the “correct” language. It
is derived from the “corrrect” form.
Those who speak the language “correctly”
do not speak “dialect”.
What is a dialect?
What a language?
Or:
2. A language is a collection of dialects, one
of which has been adopted as the standard
variety, which people think of as “the
language”.
The standard variety is simply another
dialect.
A dialect becomes a standard:
1. Selection. The dialect of the ruling or most
influential class is adopted as the standard.
2. Literacy. It acquires a written form.
3. Standardizaton. Grammars and dictionaries are
composed, spelling becomes fixed, and are
competing grammatical or spelling forms
current, one is adopted as correct and the
other(s) are deemed incorrect.
4. Elaboration. Its vocabulary increases with
cultural, philosophical, technological and
scientific development.
the standard language:
“French”, “German”
Social
axis
REGIONAL DIALECTS
Geographical axis
Norsk
Eidskog
Svenska
Eda
To Sweden, 1658
Max Weinreich 1945
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_language_is_a_dialect_with_a
n_army_and_navy
"Vos iz der khilek fun a dialekt biz a
shprakh?" Ikh hob gemeynt, az es ruft zikh im
der maskilisher bitl, un ikh hob im gepruvt
aroyffirn afn rikhtikn veg, nor er hot mikh
ibergerisn "Dos veys ikh, ober ikh vel aykh
gebn a besere definitsye. A shprakh iz a
dialekt mit an armey un flot."
Max Weinreich 1945
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_language_is_a_dialect_with_a
n_army_and_navy
...A teacher at a Bronx high school once appeared among the
auditors. He had come to America as a child and the entire
time had never heard that Yiddish had a history and could
also serve for higher matters.... Once after a lecture he
approached me and asked, 'What is the difference between a
dialect and language?' I thought that the maskilic contempt
had affected him, and tried to lead him to the right path, but
he interrupted me: 'I know that, but I will give you a better
definition. A language is a dialect with an army and navy.'
From that very time I made sure to remember that I must
convey this wonderful formulation of the social plight of
Yiddish to a large audience
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