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. 59–86
Mixing methods in linguistic classification
A hidden agenda against multilingualism? The contestedness of Gallo-“Italic” languages within the Romance family
The scholarly literature unanimously describes Gallo-“Italic” as showing all the structural traits that distinguish Gallo-Romance from the other Romance varieties. Nonetheless, while some scholars classify Gallo-“Italic” as Gallo-Romance, others classify it as Italo-Romance (‘pro-Italo- scholars). These two labels (‘Gallo-Romance’ and ‘Italo-Romance’) are irreconcilable, as they are normally used in the family tree model to name two cousin taxa: Gallo-Romance is a Western Romance daughter, while Italo-Romance is an Eastern Romance daughter. In this chapter I argue that this problem can best be understood by applying Kloss’s distinction of Abstand vs. Ausbau. I will show that, in their proposed classifications, the pro-Italo- scholars mix the Abstand and the Ausbau criteria and that this is inconsistent with the aims of classificatory science. In fact, following Kloss (1993), the status of Abstand language and that of Ausbau language are defined on two dimensions – namely, according to two variables – that are ontologically and conceptually independent (see also Tamburelli 2014). Indeed, however a linguistic variety is classified along one of these two dimensions, it does not affect its classification along the other dimension. Therefore, Abstand and Ausbau must be seen as classificatory criteria for two independent classifications. I argue that, in science, classifications have an informative function, and that by employing mixed criteria, pro-Italo- scholars have provided a flawed “classification” that is informative neither of the Abstand nor of the Ausbau status of the varieties being classified, hence it is not useful for scientific purposes and should therefore be rejected. The final section sketches out how future research might consider how the acknowledgment of Gallo-“Italic” as Gallo-Romance collides with assumptions of nationalism, possibly constituting a taboo, which suggests that the unexpected classification of Gallo-“Italic” as Italo-Romance may be due to extra-linguistic reasons. In a preliminary analysis, I propose that contesting the Gallo-Romance genealogical-structural profile of Gallo-“Italic” varieties could be a means of preventing (many of) their speakers from developing awareness of the fact that they speak languages distinct from Italian (and not “Italian dialects”, as the nationalist rhetoric assumes), and consequently, inhibiting or containing a possible movement claiming the right of these languages to official public support.
Published online: 21 January 2021
Bartoli, Matteo Giulio
Bailey, Kenneth D.
Ehret, Christopher, and Margaret Kinsman
Fishman, Joshua A.
Greenberg, Joseph Harold
Kloss, Heinz and Grant D. McConnell
Lewis, Paul, Gary Simons, and Charles Fennig
Pellegrini, Giovan Battista
Simpson, George Gaylord
Tamburelli, Marco, and Lissander Brasca
Wartburg, Walther von