LANGUAGE AND DIALECT
Modern Linguistic and psychological studies have presented major challenges in establishing the distinction between language and dialect. This analogy is well presented by David Crystal, whereby he explains the simple assumptions behind the possibilities of two individuals understanding one another when they speak. First, he states that; it may be thought that the two individuals are not understanding one another when they speak different languages. He also brings out the second assumption whereby he states that the two may also understand each other where it can then be concluded that they are speaking different dialects of the same language.
According to David, one of the major problems that arise from these assumptions is that dialects of the same language in their spoken form are not mutually intelligible. However, a common feature among these individuals is that they share a common written language; thus, the various spoken varieties within the region may then be referred to as dialects of the same language. David also notes that a huge theoretical problem arises from this understanding that aims to establish the point in the chain from where one language ends and another begins. From here, he seeks to establish a means from where he can draw boundary lines within languages.
He notes that we may think of these languages as different. Still, he attributes this to the fact that we are generally exposed to the standard varieties of these dialects, which may not be mutually intelligible. From David’s analogy, we observe that he applies the criteria of distinguishing language and dialect based on mutual intelligibility. He notes that a language that is equally different from an already existing variant should be a separate language.
However, this strategy fails to be effective because the intelligibility of a language is not often symmetrical. After all, historical and sociological factors highly influence it. He uses the analogy of Europe, where the variety of speech changes its name within national lines. For example, he recognizes that Dutch changes to German while Spanish and Swedish became Portuguese and Norwegian, respectively. Thus, he appreciates the fact that these differences are both historically and politically influenced.
Summing up, David believes that arguments around the names of languages and dialects often escalate to political disputes, especially when the countries in question have disputed national boundaries. Therefore, in his text, David has concluded the argument by emphasizing that the existence of direct chains of dialects in a region presents a huge problem in utilizing the linguistic criterion to establish the distinction of language and dialect.
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