Principles of Operation

Kent Karlsson kent.karlsson14 at
Thu Jan 24 21:33:34 CET 2008

John Cowan wrote:
> Rather, "Flemish" (and "Vlaams") have been used as the name of two
> distinctly different language varieties:  Standard Dutch as spoken in
> Flanders, and the local dialect group of Flanders, which is related
> to but not identical with Standard Dutch.

I doubt this description very much; it sound very much like an
echo of the Ethnologue, and does not fit any other description I
have seen or heard elsewhere. But I leave it to Dutch speakers
to comment further.

> > Just looking at some languages I'm familiar with, it lists Scanian,
> > Dalecarlian, and Jamtska as "languages". Actually they are just
> > three of the many dialects of Swedish (a few more are listed in
> >; 100+ dialects; depending
> > on your level of granularity, it is far from complete, alternatively
> > the major ones all have a few subdialect samples each). 
> Such national authorities are, unfortunately, not to be trusted in such
> matters: they have a hidden (or sometimes not-so-hidden) agenda, namely
> to claim that only the imposed standard language is a real language, and
> the other surviving varieties spoken in the country are "just" dialects.
> "A sprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot."  Or, as we say in our
> funky dialect of Westernest Frisian, they have an axe to grind.
> I don't know the facts on the ground for the last two, but the facts
> of history for Scanian are clear: if not for a battle or two, it would
> be Eastern Danish, not Southern Swedish, and even today its links to
> undoubted varieties of Danish are probably closer than to the rest
> of Swedish.  (Again, there is presumably a Scanian accent of Standard
> Swedish; I am *not* referring to this.)

That is just pure fantasy. Let me guess that you don't have any
direct knowledge about Swedish dialects, nor Danish. Skanska/Scanian
is most certainly a dialect of Swedish. It is very far from being
"Eastern Danish" (though someone might have described it like that
*for fun*). Scanian can certainly not be considered a dialect of
(East Denmark) Danish, and is much more closely related to standard
Swedish than to Danish. And there is no such thing as "Scanian vs. a
Scanian accent of standard Swedish", though like all dialects it has
subdialects (the Swedia site gives six sample subdialects of Scanian).
All Swedish dialects, as most other dialects, are much older than
the standard language. So even the description "accent of Standard
Swedish" is way wrong. If you had any more intimate knowledge of
the Scandinavian languages and their dialects, even to a small
degree, you would never echo current Ethnologue on this point, which
is just about as wrong it can be. And I have no axe to grind,
just facts to note.

If one were to give Scanian a separate code, there are several tens
of Swedish dialects that differ about as much, in some cases more
(out of which I can speak one), from (modern) standard Swedish as
Scanian, and should also be given separate codes. Arbitrarily
picking three and misclassifying them will not do. (As I noted,
none of those three actually got language codes in 639-3, though
Ethnologue erroneously states that they do. 639-6 is another matter,
and I have yet to see what it says on this point.)

The Swedia site is set up by professional linguists, not following
any kind of political agenda. I can assure you that it is much much
much more reliable than the Ethnologue page on Swedish. The latter
seems to live in some fantasy-land, with descriptions that are very
very far from accurate.

Sorry about getting slightly off-topic (and writing to long a message).
But I think it is important to note that Ethnologue is not very reliable.
And that is easy to see even for a non-linguist like me, just by being
(very) familiar with some (non-English) languages and dialects.

		/kent k

As an aside, note that Ethnologue and 639-3 gives codes for
two Danish languages, 'dan' and 'jut'. That I think is correct,
since Jutish is quite different from standard Danish, to the
point that it deserves to be considered a separate (spoken)
language. The written languages do not differ in (standard)
orthography, and that in turn does not differ much from
Norwegian bokmal, though the spoken languages are quite different.

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