printability and standardization

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Jan 7 14:42:07 UTC 2004

Thank you, Joshua, for reminding us that standardization and print are
separate issues.  I have tried to make that case for 'standard' Spoken
Tamil, which doesn't often appear in print, since literary Tamil (with
extreme diglossic differences) serves that purpose.  People who work in
western linguistic traditions tend to think that print equals
standardization, and nothing else matters.  Sanskrit developed a method of
controlling 'standard' without resorting to print, and other languages can
do the same.

My article on this is ``Standardization and Restandardization: the case of
Spoken Tamil." Language in Society, Vol. 27 (3) 359-385. (1998)  and it's
also available on my website at

Hal Schiffman

On Tue, 6 Jan 2004, Joshua Fishman wrote:

> The discussion of (non-)Standardization of Ladin
> and the "reluctance" of the Italian government to
> utilize it in print should remind us that print
> and standardization are quite separate and
> independent of each other. Many languages have
> been printed (and, of course, also written) far
> before their standardization and, indeed, their
> use in print contributed greatly to their
> ultimate standardization (viz. D-B Kerler 2003).
> Of course, standardization did not rescue Latin,
> Greek, Hebrew, etc. from disappearing as
> vernaculars. It would be particularly
> "indelicate" for the Italian government to snub
> Ladin due to Ladin's lack of full
> standardization, given the lack of full
> standardization of Italian to this very day.
> English too is far from being fully standardized,
> which should lead most of us to be rather less
> dismissive of Ladin for this same very human
> "failing". All in all, "complete standardization"
> is a will-of-the-whisp and some small languages
> are far closer to this goal (acting on the
> mistaken assumption that it will promote their
> acceptance) than much larger ones who couldn't
> care less. Joshua A. Fishman
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