The “Political” and the Language-Dialect Dichotomy, or Fact-Checking Noam Chomsky
Alexander Maxwell (Victoria University of Wellington)
In this talk, Alexander Maxwell suggests that linguists pondering the language-dialect dichotomy fall into two schools: apolitical agnostics who view the dichotomy as something political and therefore not linguistic, and objective assertionists, who declare the dichotomy ought to be analyzed on linguistic grounds to the exclusion of political factors. Since Noam Chomsky seems to straddle both schools, the paper then examines his comments on the dichotomy at length, fact-checking assertions concerning the linguistic diversity of Romance and Chinese and the putative scholarly consensus about Dutch and German. The extraordinary role of “the political” as a bugbear in linguistic thought also informs how scholars invoke the Weinreich witticism, and why it generates so much cognitive dissonance.
This talk is organized by Raf Van Rooy (University of Oslo & KU Leuven Center for the Historiography of Linguistics), and partly frames the course “The history of western linguistics: A survey in myths”, taught at the University of Graz this spring.
In this episode, we enter the age of classical structuralism by exploring the phonological research of Roman Jakobson and his colleague Nikolai Trubetzkoy undertaken within the Prague Linguistic Circle.
Maupas, Charles. 2021. Grammaire et syntaxe françoise. Édition de Nathalie Fournier. Paris : Classiques Garnier. (Descriptions et théories de la langue française, 4, in Grammaires françaises des xviie et xviiie siècles, 2). 637 p. ISBN : 978-2-406-10455-1 Publisher’s website
La Grammaire & syntaxe françoise de Charles Maupas (1607 et 1618) se signale par sa puissance théorique, son caractère méthodique et sa fine observation de l’usage du français. Cette édition critique entend montrer en quoi elle est un jalon décisif dans la jeune tradition grammaticale du français.
Chiflet, R. P. Laurent. 2021 . Essay d’une parfaite grammaire de la langue françoise. Édition de Cendrine Pagani-Naudet. Paris : Classiques Garnier (Grammaires françaises des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, 3, in Descriptions et théories de la langue française 5). 525 p. ISBN : 978-2-406-10458-2 Publisher’s website
Interview conducted in Lyon, on March 10th, 2021 by Chloé Laplantine. Film directed by Emilie Aussant, Chloé Laplantine and Rafaello Pisu. Translation by Andrew Eastman. Music from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Les Indes galantes (interpreted by Les Arts Florissants, at the Philarmonie de Paris).
The text of the interview has been edited in a bilingual version French / English, available here.
John Goldsmith (University of Chicago) has made a series of 10 videos – one for each chapter – about the book Battle in the Mind Fields, which he wrote with Bernard Laks (University of Paris) and published in 2019. A French version (Aux origines des sciences humaines: Linguistique, philosophie, logique, psychologie 1840–1940) is coming out from Gallimard in fall 2021.
Marco Tamburelli & Mauro Tosco, ed. 2021. Contested Languages. The hidden multilingualism of Europe. Amsterdam : John Benjamins. Studies in World Language Problems, 8. 271 p. ISBN : 9789027208040 Publishers’ website
This is the first volume entirely dedicated to contested languages. While generally listed in international language atlases, contested languages usually fall through the cracks of research: excluded from the literature on minority languages and treated as mere ensembles of geographically defined varieties by traditional dialectology. This volume investigates the nature of contested languages, the role language ideologies play in the perception of these languages, the contribution of academic discourse to the formation and perpetuation of language contestedness, and the damage contestedness causes to linguistic communities and ultimately to linguistic diversity. Various situations and degrees of language contestedness are presented and analysed, along with theoretical considerations, exploring potential roads to recognition and issues in language planning that arise from language contestedness. Addressing the “language vs dialect” question head on, the volume opens up new perspectives that are relevant to all students and researchers interested in the maintenance of linguistic diversity.
This workshop discusses various ways in which language and the study of language figured in the global history of knowledge, from the 16th to the early 20th century. In the expanding network of mercantile, missionary, and colonial relations, language was both a vessel and a barrier for the transmission of knowledge. Moreover, languages became an object of knowledge and theory-formation in themselves, in ways that diverged from how their speakers knew their language and their world.
Our aim is to address the interrelations between these different kinds of knowledge. The emergence of the language sciences has to be understood both in relation to traditions of textual scholarship within different cultures, and to developments in other fields of science (broadly understood).
Below are two talks originally presented at the meeting of the Society for the History of Linguistics in the Pacific, December 2020, on the history of the grammatical description of Vietnamese and Chinese.
Quang Anh Le, Time-marking particles and the problem of grammatical categorisation in Vietnamese: From French colonialism to the post-Cold War era
Edward McDonald, Ma Jianzhong and the perils of being a pioneer