McWhorter, John, The Power of Babel

Today’s “Dialect” is Tommorow’s “Language”

Not only has one of many hitherto unranked dialects often been anointed the standard, but we even see dialects actively dismissed as “quaint vernaculars” at point A only to be enshrined as inherently noble vehicles of humans’ loftiest thoughts at point B, with nothing but a decisive geographical shift at the root of the mysterious change in perception.

The Romanian-speaking area extends Eastward into a little hump of land called Moldova, much of which for decades was incorporated within the Soviet Union. Moldovan is not just “close” to the Romanian dialects in Romania proper: it is very much one of them, not differing from the standard dialect any more than any Romanian nonstandard one does…The Soviets however, in a quest to discourage Moldovans from identifying with their Romance-speaking neighbours to the west, directly required Russian linguists to foster a conception of Moldovan as a “different lanaguage” from Romanian, exaggerating the import of the minor differences inevitable between dialects of any language. Many grammar books of “Moldovan” were little more than translations of Romanian-language Rommanian grammars into Russian. Now independent, the Moldovans continue to encourage a perception of “Moldovan” as a distinct “language” from Romanian, in part because Romanians tend to dismiss their dialect as sounding uneducated. Hence the Moldovan “language,” fully intelligible with Romanian right next door…

…These [Swedish and Danish] are even closer than Standard German and Schwabisch or Standard Italian and Milanese…

I once asked two Bulgarians what Macedonian sounded like to them, and they said in unison, “Its a dialect of Bulgarian!” “Macedonian” is indeed so close to Bulgarian that Bulgarians crossing the border need make even less adjustment than Swedes make going to Denmark. Many Macedonians would find my Bulgarian freinds’ comments a little irritating , which stems from the fact that “Macedonian” is considered a seperate “language” owing its speakers’ distinct political and cultural identity from Bulgarians, reinforced by their incorporating until recently into the Yugoslavian federation.

-McWhorter, John, The Power of Babel, 2002, p69

Not only can Bulgarians understand Macedonians next door, but Macedonians on the border with Yugoslavia can communicate with Serbo-Croatian speakers on the other side

-McWhorter, John, The Power of Babel, 2002, p83

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