Criteria for languages?

Caoimhin O Donnaile caoimhin at
Wed Dec 2 00:39:11 CET 2009

> Currently, everyone who speaks Scots also speaks English

Change "speaks" to "understands" and that would be correct.
And it is also true that Scots speakers are capable of
"toning down" their Scots so that they can be more easily
understood by English speakers.  There is a continuum, as you
say.  But most Scots speakers don't "switch" to English in the way
that most German dialact speakers are capable of switching to

The question of how precise to be with language labels is
a serious practical one.  In particular, I have run into
the the issue of whether to label Norwegian as
Bokmål (nb) or Nynorsk (nn), or just label it as Norsk (no)
which is now a macrolanguage.  I have been developing a
facility,, which links
webpages automatically with online dictionaries, and so I need
to label each dictionary in the database of dictionaries.
I want to be as precise as possible, but on the other hand,
if I understand things correctly without knowing much Norwegian,
a Bokmål dictionary will at least work to some extent with a
Nynorsk text so I don't want to exclude it completely by having
a completely different label.  In cases like this of very closely
related "languages", I maybe need a concept of "language distance",
so that a Bokmål dictionary, rather than being completely excluded
for Nynorsk, would just get a lot of negative points.  (I already
have a "quality/usefulness" points system for dictionaries.)


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