[b-hebrew] dialects

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Mon Jul 6 03:09:14 EDT 2009


On Sun, Jul 5, 2009 at 6:10 AM, <joel at exc.com> wrote:
>>> One that I note, namely, that the difference between a dialect and a
>>> cognate language is only one of degree, not of kind.
>>Karl, please provide linguistic substantiation on this point. That is a
>>big claim you are making and one which I don't think is supported in the
>>linguistic literature.
> It's generally recognized that the distinction between "dialect" and
> "language" is a political, not a linguistic one.  ("A language is a
> dialect with an army.")
That is a humorous way of putting it. Actually it has more to do with
ethnic identity. Which explains how Polish and Ukrainian survived even
when they did not have armies.

Looking at the Mesha Stele, it appears as if Hebrew and Moabite were
close enough as to be mutually understandable yet recognized as
separate languages (in the same way as modern Norwegian, Swedish and
Danish) while Cantonese which has its own characters added onto
standard Chinese, diverging grammar from Mandarin, people who speak
Mandarin cannot understand Cantonese and visa versa, and its own sub
dialects, is considered a dialect because its people ethnically
identify themselves as Chinese. Many German dialects would be
considered different languages except for the fact that the people
ethnically identify as Germans, hence the field work of the Brothers
Grimm among German dialects is still considered valid for cross
language studies in linguistics.

> A modern example comes from Yugoslavia.  Until the war, people
> generally spoke of one language: Serbo-croatian.  Now some prefer
> "Serbian" and "Croatian."
Again ethnic identity that survived political unity into one
country—the Croatians never considered themselves the same as
Serbians. I remember hearing about this even before I entered college,
long before Yugoslavia broke up.

> -Joel
> Joel M. Hoffman, PhD
> http://www.lashon.net
> http://www.AndGodSaid.com
> Director of Education
> Temple Israel of Northern Westchester
> http://www.TINW-School.org
Karl W. Randolph.

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