[Ads-l] An Army and a Navy

Margaret Winters mewinters at WAYNE.EDU
Sun Dec 17 22:07:40 EST 2017

I don't disagree with how you see his point, Larry - it is indeed political.

Former Provost
Professor Emerita - French and Linguistics
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI  48202

mewinters at wayne.edu

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, December 17, 2017 10:00 PM
Subject: Re: An Army and a Navy

> On Dec 17, 2017, at 9:51 PM, Margaret Winters <mewinters at WAYNE.EDU> wrote:
> I've always considered it ironic that Max Weinreich, THE historian of Yiddish, coined this rule of thumb when his native language and subject of his research was one of the salient conterexamples.  I like Jim's proposal, but think that, for most of what we study, Weinreich's characterization holds if we think of languages as a feature (property?) of political entities, those with an army and a navy.  But there are, of course, exceptions.
> Margaret

I don’t see it as ironic.  I’ve always understood his point to be precisely that the definition of dialect vis-à-vis language is politically justified but linguistically arbritrary, really telling us much more about who’s in charge than about the nature of variation.  And the clear case in point is Yiddish, which is (or was, at the time of Max Weinreich’s writing) considered to be a dialect not because of the relation between it and other Germanic varieties but indeed because there is no Yiddish army and navy (unlike the case of, say, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish which count as separate languages for political reasons).

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