Language or Dialect?: The History of a Conceptual Pair

ISBN : 9780198845713

Raf Van Rooy
336 ページ
156 x 234 mm

This book provides a historiographic study of the distinction between language and dialect, a puzzle which has long fascinated linguists and laypeople alike. It offers a comprehensive account of the intriguing and complex history of the language-dialect pair, and shows that its real origins can be found in sixteenth-century humanist scholarship. The book begins with a survey of the prehistory of the language/dialect distinction in antiquity and the Middle Ages. Raf Van Rooy then provides a detailed investigation of the emergence, establishment, and development of the conceptual pair during the early modern period, from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, when linguistic diversity was first studied in depth. Finally, the much-debated and ambiguous fate of the language/dialect opposition in modern linguistics is explored: although a number of earlier ideas were adopted by later scholars, many linguists today question the notion of a seemingly arbitrary and subjective distinction between language and dialect.


1 Introduction
Part I: Prehistory, 500 BC-1500
2 A dive into the prehistory of the conceptual pair
3 The exception to the rule: Lingua and idioma in Roger Bacon's thought
Part II: The origin of the conceptual pair, 1500-1550
4 From dogs and hounds to languages and dialects: The conceptual pair in Conrad Gessner's work
5 Lingua and dialectus: From synonymy to contrast
6 Hellenism, standardization, and info-lust: The genesis of the conceptual pair in context
Part III: Consolidation by elaboration, 1550-1650
7 Space and nation: Greek definitions transformed
8 Aristotle's legacy: Substance, accidents, and mutual intelligibility
9 A subjective touch: Language beats dialect
10 The conceptual pair and language history: Language generates dialects
11 Consolidation by elaboration: Drawing the balance
12 The conceptual pair in transition: The case of Georg Stiernhielm
Part IV: Systematization and rationalization, 1650-1800
13 Putting the conceptual pair on the scholarly agenda: The orientalist Albert Schultens
14 Lexicostatistics avant la lettre: The historian Johann Christoph Gatterer and the conceptual pair
15 Classes of variation: How do languages and dialects differ?
16 Between systematization and rationalization: The conceptual pair through the Enlightenment lens
Part V: From silent adoption to outspoken abandonment, after 1800
17 From Jones to Gabelentz: Silent adoption and renewed suspicion
18 Schuchardt the iconoclast
19 From Saussure to 1954: Structuralism and the language/dialect distinction
20 Mutual intelligibility: The number one criterion?
21 Between two extremes: Generative and sociolinguistic interpretations
22 A gentle goodbye? Dialect stripped for parts
23 Language, dialect, and the general public-or how not to popularize knowledge
24 Language and dialect between past and future: Terminological success, conceptual failure


Raf Van Rooy is affiliated with KU Leuven as a postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO). He was educated at Leuven, Thessaloniki, Louvain-la-Neuve, and Ghent, and obtained his PhD in Linguistics in May 2017 from KU Leuven and the FWO. His research focuses on the early modern study of the Ancient Greek language and on the reception of key linguistic concepts of Greek origin. He has been awarded a number of grants and prizes for his research, which has been published in journals such as Language & Communication, Glotta, and Journal of Greek Linguistics.