Ah-Bin Posted March 7, 2006 at 02:52 AM Report Share Posted March 7, 2006 at 02:52 AM In other threads the war over dialects and languages has been fought with as much bitterness as 吳 versus 越 or 劉邦 versus 項羽. I'd been debating the same thig for years, until I had tried to find the academic definitions for "language" "dialect", "語言" and "方言" and found that someone had solved the problem of definition in a different way. The debate that goes on in these pages is basically because the difference between "language" and "dialect" cannot be measured empirically, so we can go on quoting examples from different parts of the world to justify one viewpoint or another and never get anywhere. The best solution I've found for the argument is to scrap the terms "language" and "dialect" altogether and use Peter Trudgill's (1974) concept of heterogenity and homogenity instead. In this concept "language" is a generic term for all spoken and written language and is subdivided into many "varieties" Autonomous varieties are “independent, standardized varieties of language, with, as it were, a life of their own” and heteronomous varieties "look to some other autonomous variety as a standard." This can be found in his book "Sociolinguistics", which has also been translated into Chinese, (I think) as 社會語言學 there is definitely a Japanese translation of this book too. Now the interesting part is the way to determine what is heteronomous and what is autonomous: Standardizing changes in a heteronomous variety of language will cause the variety to move closer to some other autonomous variety. So, here we have something measurable and have moved beyond the differences in meaning in "dialect" and "方言". If we look at the variety of language spoken in Shanghai, for example, younger speakers (so I have heard) have tended to use words that are cognate with Mandarin in place of older terms that are composed of different characters (maybe someone who knows more about this can provide examples). In Cantonese as well, 最好has started to replace 至好 as the standard shifts towards Mandarin usage. This process even has a name, in German it is called Verdachung (=moving towards a roof?) As an example of the move from heteronomous to autonomous, there is standard Norwegian, which was once heteronomous to Danish, but now develops according to its own standard. Will this solve the argument about languages and dialects? We shall see.... Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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