Single language

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A single language is used by the human language that their speakers a complete and self-contained character in the form of voice system loud or voice behaving for communication offers. A single language can evolve naturally or it can be artificially created . In the case of natural languages, such a linguistic form of expression ( variety ) is generally considered to be a single language that unites several dialects as a so-called " umbrella language " . What is defined as a dialect and what is defined as an independent individual language depends on linguistic and political criteria.

Problems of definition

Individual languages ​​are usually associated with groups of people who, as members of certain countries, use them (“in Spain they speak Spanish, the Italians speak Italian”). With such a stereotypical perception, reference is made (only) to the official language of a state, which is always an individual language. Since official languages ​​are of political importance, not only scientific but often political factors determine what is declared a single language and what is “only” a dialect. But also from a scientific point of view it is often difficult to decide which linguistic variety can be accepted as an individual language.

For these reasons there are different statements about how many languages ​​exist on earth today. Numbers between 3,000 and 8,000 and of a similar magnitude are rumored. From the Summer Institute of Linguistics , a sociolinguistic organization registered with stand 2020 of managed voice database exactly 7,111 individual languages. In ISO 639, the International Organization for Standardization assigns a unique code to each individual language for identification. In terms of area and number of inhabitants, the lowest number of different individual languages ​​can be found in Europe. It is assumed that a large number of individual languages, which are spoken by comparatively few people, will become extinct in the next few decades.

Individual languages ​​and their dialects are examined in the university area in various specialist areas of the independent discipline of linguistics (linguistics), but also in the linguistic departments of the individual philologies (such as German , Romance , Slavonic , Turkish , etc.).

Definition criteria

What counts as a single language depends on various factors, with politics as well as linguistics being decisive:

  • Language systematic criteria:
Individual languages ​​can be distinguished from one another according to language systematic description criteria, with language comparisons being used to determine how far two language systems correspond in terms of vocabulary , grammar and phonological and phonetic features. If sufficiently different characteristics of two varieties can be identified, one speaks of " distance languages ", as is the case with Spanish versus Italian. However, if one variety moves away from another due to language planning measures (such as standardization), one is seen as an expanded language . One such is Ladin versus Italian or Letzeburgisch versus German.
  • Comprehensibility criterion:
An important pragmatic determinant for the definition of a language as an individual language is mutual intelligibility. If speaker A uses his mother tongue and speaker B does not understand what A said using his mother tongue, these two languages ​​are considered to be independent individual languages. This criterion, which appears coherent, is only of limited use for the definition of a single language, for at least two reasons:
  1. There are, on the one hand, varieties of a single language that are not mutually understandable (such as Valais German versus standard German as varieties of the German language). On the other hand, there are also different individual languages ​​that can still be understood from one another (for example, the spacing languages Swedish and Norwegian or the extended languages Serbian and Croatian ). The intelligibility can only be given in one direction (for example, Danes understand Swedish well, but the Swedes hardly understand Danish ).
  2. The personal moment also plays a role. People with a gift for languages ​​or those who already speak several languages ​​can more easily hear themselves into a foreign variety than others. The literacy factor - orality - can also play a role. While some understand written language more easily, others may understand spoken language better.
  • Language policy criteria:
Since the scope of a linguistic variety and national boundaries often (at least largely) coincide, language-political decisions often play a key role as to which variety is to be regarded as an individual language. In order to give its population the feeling of being an independent nation, a state can create institutions that unify the linguistic varieties used in the country into a standard and declare this standardized variety to be the norm by means of dictionaries and grammars. This often goes hand in hand with a legal regulation that defines this variety as the official language. In addition, such varieties are then also used in the country's mass media. Circumstances of this kind exist , for example, in the case of Bosnian versus Serbian and Croatian. Related questions are, for example, how many people have such a variety as their mother tongue or whether literary works exist in these varieties. Such factors are often decisive in determining the status of a minority language in a country.

Sociolinguistic status of individual languages

States stipulate by law which languages ​​are official and which can be used as minority languages ​​in offices, authorities and in court. Associated with this is a certain political status of the people who speak these languages. For this reason, it is in many cases irrelevant for recognition as an official or minority language how many people in the country speak a certain language, but only who speaks these languages. Because although far more people speak Turkish in Germany than Sorbian, for example, or in Austria also more people speak Turkish than Burgenland-Croatian or Hungarian , only the latter have the status of a minority language in these countries, as their speakers are considered autochthonous and therefore also have an ancestral right to can politically demand the use of their languages.

In the majority of cases, a recognized individual language also functions as the official language of a country. This basically also applies to sign languages , which are recognized as official languages ​​in some countries. However, it is possible that non-individual languages ​​are also recognized as minority languages. This is the case, for example, in Switzerland, where Yenish is considered a minority language, while linguistically it is classified as a special language variant or sociolect of German.

Single language and dialect

In addition to scientific criteria, political factors are often decisive for which variety is recognized as an independent individual language and which varieties are considered dialects of such a language. In Spain, for example, Catalan is currently recognized as an independent language, Asturian is only partially recognized and Aragonese has so far only had the status of a dialect of Spanish.

In order to gain more weight, it may also be possible for different dialectal varieties of a small language group to be standardized to form a uniform standard variety, that is, to be unified in order to be scientifically, socially and politically recognized as an independent language. This is the case, for example, in the case of Ladin in northern Italy.

The fuzzy definition of mutual intelligibility also turns the demarcation between individual languages ​​and dialects into a politically (or sociologically) motivated decision that can even consciously ignore linguistic facts. Since the foreign and self-identification of a (ethnic) community as a group that belongs together is also largely carried out via its language, political factors play an important role, especially in the case of the establishment of a state, which declares which linguistic variety is an independent individual language (of the respective national people) and thus is set as the official language. Such decisions are often controversial.

Dialects as individual languages

Many varieties that are linguistically classified as dialects based on the criterion of understanding are considered to be independent languages ​​from a political point of view. The motivation in such cases is the political demarcation from the group of speakers who live in another state. Examples of this include Malay and Indonesian or Serbian and Croatian, with the distinction between the latter being promoted by using a different script (the Cyrillic script in the case of Serbian versus the Latin script in Croatian). (See also Serbo-Croatian .)

Some other examples of politically controversial cases in which dialects are declared individual languages ​​include the following:

Language policy decisions of a similar kind can be found in former colonial states of Africa or Asia when, for reasons of delimitation, indigenous languages ​​are standardized to a standard, codified as an individual language and set as the official language alongside the colonial language, as was done in South Africa, for example, the eleven official languages ​​recognized today having.

Individual languages ​​as dialects

Likewise, for political reasons, the reverse may be the case. The speakers of certain languages ​​cannot understand each other, but belonging to a common state or some other ideological commonality leads a government to more or less forcibly declare individual languages ​​as dialects of a common state language or as dialects of the language of the ruling ethnic group; something like that in the cases

Communities of understanding

Many individual languages ​​are closely related to one another, so that there is an intermediate stage between understanding and non-understanding among the speakers of such languages: understanding the other is not given from the beginning, but one can "get used" to the other language without explicit grammar and Learning vocabulary . Such communities of understanding form the individual languages ​​of the following language groups:

Language group Individual languages
Germanic languages German , Low German , Dutch , Afrikaans , Yiddish
Scandinavian languages : Danish , Norwegian , Swedish
Slavic languages East Slavic languages : Russian , Ukrainian , Belarusian
South Slavic languages : Serbian , Croatian , Slovenian , Macedonian , Bulgarian
West Slavic languages : Polish , Slovak , Czech , Sorbian
Romance languages Spanish , Portuguese , Catalan , Portuñol (mixed language between Spanish and Portuguese)
Spanish , Italian
French , Occitan
French sign languages French
Austro-Hungarian Sign Languages : Austrian , Hungarian , Czech , Slovak
German sign languages German , Polish

If the speakers of such languages ​​each use their own language in typical communication situations, a new mixed language can emerge with frequent and long-term contact .

Medial forms

In media terms, individual languages ​​are commonly seen as a system of human speech sounds (→  sound system ); every single language is thus at the same time a spoken language .

Nonetheless, individual languages ​​can also exist in the form of sign languages , with each language also having its own system of signs in this form of expression. This means that English sign languages ​​differ from German, which are also shaped differently depending on the country.

Individual evidence

  1. Languages ​​of the World , Language Facts ( February 23, 2010 memento in the Internet Archive ), accessed August 28, 2010.
  2. , accessed April 26, 2020.
  3. Tomasz Kamusella : The History of the Normative opposition of 'Language vs. Dialect:' From Its Graeco-Latin origin to Central Europe's ethnolinguistic nation-states. In: Colloquia Humanistica. Volume 5. 2016, pp. 189–198 (PDF, ).
  4. ^ A b Henri Wittmann : Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement. In: Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée. Volume 10, No. 1, 1991, pp. 215-288. ( ( memento of October 2, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), PDF).
  5. ^ J. Albert Bickford: The signed languages ​​of Eastern Europe. In: SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2005-026. SIL International , 2005, accessed April 26, 2020 .