Thursday, October 18, 2012

Language or Dialect? Part 2

Yesterday, we started making the call on what qualifies as a language and what qualifies as a dialect... read the first part here. Here's our next group of contenders in: Language or Dialect?

Catalan v. Valencian

This is definitely a no-brainer for us. The main issue of language or dialect for these two comes from an inability to decide what to call the language. If you're Catalan you call your language Catalan, if you're Valencian you call your language Valencian.

They have long been considered the same language, but certain locals have difficulty admitting to it. The governing body of Valencian, the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua, considers the two to be names for the same thing. The differences are minuscule, we're talking about pronunciation and lexicon.

The ideal solution would be to change the name altogether. Catalencian or Valalan don't really roll of the tongue though...

Ruling: Dialects of Catalan/Valencian, just call it whatever you like!

American English v. British English

Now we're just being silly. Historically a bit of a Ross and Rachel story.

"Hey, it's quite nice here... actually, let's not pay taxes. Screw you monarchy! We'll make our own country!" Britain and the U.S. were "on a break" when Webster got his hands on the English language and wrote his "English for dummies", better known as his spelling reform for American English.

This is Noah Webster. It's his fault that
Brits and Americans are constantly
 fighting over whose spellings are correct.

Color or colour? Favor or favour... perhaps marketing would have taken off much quicker in the UK if they had been able to maximise their savings on ink like the U.S. did. Doughnuts? It'd be half price if you spelt them donuts.

Despite the niggling pains that those who speak as though they have a mouth full of chewing gum (Americans) are speaking the same language as those who speak as though they have a mouth full of fruit (the British), both parties will have to kiss and make up and admit that those wearing baseball caps, shorts and a bum bag (fanny pack) are speaking the same language as those in football (soccer) shirts with a pint of beer in hand (uhm... do Americans have a word for beer?).

Ruling: Dialects of English, unfortunately...

English v. Scots

Calm down! We're talking about the English language and the Scots language! Not football or a referendum!

Scots does not refer to Scots Gaelic, which is a Celtic language, but the Germanic language, which is related to English. It has no official status in any country but does have status as a traditional language under the Scottish Parliament and a regional or minority language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

The debate comes down to whether it's just another type of English, just like Old EnglishMiddle English, etc. or a separate language. They're barely mutually intelligible, though the same is sometimes said of the Scottish Dialect. One problem though... we've considered American English to be the same language as British English. If Scots is a dialect of English, then Americans would have to be able to understand speakers of Scots. But can they? We think not.

Ruling: Different Languages

Americans don't really understand bagpipes
either... though does anyone, really?
In the end though, language and dialects are really identified by the speakers. Linguists and governments can say what they want, but they can't change the minds of the people who speak their language... or is it dialect?

Part 1 | Part 2