Monday 21 June 2021, 11:00am CEST
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.
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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.