Chapter published in:Contested Languages: The hidden multilingualism of Europe
Edited by Marco Tamburelli and Mauro Tosco
[Studies in World Language Problems 8] 2021
► pp. 3–17
What are contested languages and why should linguists care?
The literature on regional and minority languages has seen strong developments in recent years, and new frontiers have been opened on issues of minority language planning and development as well as on issues of speakers’ rights. Nevertheless, there are many varieties that are left in a sort of “linguistic limbo” within both the public and the academic domain. These are varieties that likely qualify as regional languages from an Abstand perspective (Kloss 1967), but are typically treated as “dialects” or “patois” by their respective governments, by many of their speakers and often by linguists, who typically cite the low sociolinguistic status for their terminological choice. In this chapter we discuss the characteristics of these “contested languages”, what underlies their “contestedness” and how they differ from the more widely accepted regional and minority languages. Specifically, we discuss how the very notion of regional “language” presupposes the notion “language” in opposition to that of regional “dialect”, though this supposed distinction is hardly ever tackled in any depth by the mainstream literature on regional and minority languages. Furthermore, we argue that the widespread, purely socio-political view of what qualifies as a “language” is untenable as well as undesirable in a discipline that, like linguistics, is also concerned with the structural and communicative properties of its subject matter as well as with objectivity and scientific inquiry. Throughout the chapter, we bring to the fore the need for a discussion of the notion of “language” with a focus on regional varieties and reject the supposedly sociolinguistic nature of the distinction between regional “languages” and regional “dialects”.
Published online: 21 January 2021
Benincà, Paola, and Glanville Price
Craith, Máiréad Nic
Extra, Guus, and Durk Gorter
Fishman, Joshua A.
Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman, and Nina Hyams
Gooskens, Charlotte, and Wilbert Heeringa
Joseph, John E.
Laitin, David D.
Lepschy, Giulio C.
Li, Chris Wen-Chao
McMahon, April, and Robert McMahon
Nicholson, Jeremy K., and Ian D. Wilson
Tang, Chaoju, and Vincent. J. van Heuven
van der Auwera, Johan and Dónall Ó. Baoill