The making and breaking of an Ausbausprache
Utilizing Kloss’s concept of Ausbausprache (language as a sociopolitical construct), this article adopts the view that many languages in the world owe their language status to non-linguistic factors such as their speakers’ ethnic, cultural, and political affiliations, as well as language policy. It is thus possible that individuals who can readily understand each other in everyday conversation (such as two individuals living on either side of the Macedonian/Bulgarian border) can be deemed to speak different languages, while those who cannot understand each other at all (such as speakers of Shanghainese and Mandarin) can be widely perceived as speakers of the same language. This article is an account of how the South Slavic language formerly known as Serbo-Croatian came to be conceived of as a single, unified language due to a number of non-linguistic factors, and how it ceased to be considered a language once these non-linguistic factors were no longer present. Thus, apart from being a case study of how one particular European language was born and how it died without any significant change in linguistic reality on the ground, the present article serves to reinforce the theoretical notion of Ausbausprache as a crucial concept for defining what a language is.
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