Alsatian answer from LOC

Randy Presuhn randy_presuhn at
Wed Feb 27 01:51:45 CET 2008

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ciarán Ó Duibhín" <ciaran at>
To: <ietf-languages at>
Sent: Tuesday, February 26, 2008 4:47 PM
Subject: Re: Alsatian answer from LOC

> Rebecca S. Guenther was quoted as writing:
> <<
> ... But if some may consider "Alsatian" to be an alternate name by
> which they refer to the language coded as "gsw", then we would add it. We
> are not certain that indeed this is the case, so would ask that you give
> evidence that "Alsatian" is used by some group of people as a language
> name rather than the name of a dialect within that language.
> >>
> While I am not so strongly against adding "Alsatian" as an alternative name
> for gsw as I was earlier
> (
> , I stand by the argument in my third point there that the kind of evidence
> reasonably asked for by Ms Guenther is (as far as I know) lacking.
> Certainly in English, "Alsatian" is not used to mean "gsw as a whole", but
> only that part of gsw spoken in the territory of Alsace.
> Is the term "Alsatian" not used in the same way in other languages? Even in
> Alsace itself, would anyone say (the equivalent in French or in Alsatian of)
> "the Alsatian-speaking regions of Switzerland and Germany"?  To my mind,
> this last question is the key one, and an analogy with Castilian is valid
> only if the answer to it is "yes".
> If the answer is "no", we should not try to persuade LOC that Alsatian means
> the same thing as gsw to anyone, but we should instead try to convince them
> (and ourselves) that a name applied to a geographically-restricted subset of
> a language can be acceptable as an alternative name for the language in
> these circumstances.
> The circumstances surrounding Alsatian differ from the normal dialect
> situation - again, as far as I can judge - in that the name Alsatian is
> used, not so much because of any linguistic difference from other forms of
> gsw, but more as a result of political sensitivities, to distance it from
> other forms of gsw.  (Balkan analogies?)  It is those sensitivities which
> consciously restrict the name to Alsace, and a good example of them is
> provided by the French document referenced by Stéphane, which correctly
> calls Alsatian an "indigenous language of France", but never once hints that
> it is related to German, and actually - in its tables of languages spoken in
> France - contrasts it with "German" by which I assume it means
> non-indigenous German.  Recognizing those political sensitivities - and it
> matters not whether we agree with them - gives just a glimmer of
> justification for raising Alsatian to the level of an alternative name for
> gsw.
> It is arguable whether the name "Swiss German" would pass Ms Guenther's test
> either.  In principle its situation is similar to that of Alsatian, though
> it has a much greater degree of practical plausibility.  I would see
> Alemannic as the only fully satisfactory name for gsw.
> Ciarán Ó Duibhín
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