字幕表 動画を再生する 英語字幕をプリント So let’s talk about boundaries. People really like categorizing things, sorting them into little boxes: chocolate or vanilla, horse or zebra, hot or mild. But not everything can get nicely solved in this way – a lot of things in the world exist along a spectrum. It might seem like deciding what counts as a language should be an easy question, but when it comes down to it, it’s often more a matter of politics than of science. I’m Moti Lieberman, and this is the Ling Space. So defining what exactly language is can be quite a challenge, but one approach is to say that it’s a consistent way people have to communicate with each other. If someone speaks the same language as you, then you should be able to understand what they’re saying without too much trouble. But even within what we’d consider the same language, there can be lots of variation in how it’s used: so, between people in one place or another, or in one socioeconomic class or another, or even of one gender or another. We call sub-types of the same language dialects, but actually, the border that divides a language from a dialect isn’t really clear. So, for example, Norwegian and Swedish are pretty unanimously thought of as different languages. But speakers of these two “languages” are totally able to understand each other! Same thing with Hindi and Urdu – each language is intelligible to the people who speak the other one. On the other hand, you have Mandarin and Cantonese, which are often thought of as two “dialects” of the Chinese language. Except that the speakers of one can’t understand the other – the phonology, the vocabulary, the syntax, it’s all quite different. Mandarin and Cantonese have way less in common than Norwegian and Swedish. So what’s going on with these pairings? Well, it turns out that whether a particular variety of speech is called a ‘language’ or a ‘dialect’ isn’t strictly speaking a matter of linguistics. There’s no council of linguists that gets together and says, hey, look how different this dialect is! We better break this dialect off and make it a new language! No, usually, it’s determined by socio-political criteria. As Max Weinreich famously said, “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy”. But keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at what a linguist might actually say about classifying dialects and languages. Every dialect - every way of communicating - is based on an internal grammar, stored in the brain, with a full-fledged set of rules for how to structure its sounds and sentences. So in that sense, every single dialect could be thought of as a separate language. But using the word “dialect” that way would be confusing, and it wouldn’t capture the connections between the different varieties in question. So instead, linguists use the word “dialect” to mean closely related varieties of a language, those with significant overlap in the words they use, and also in their phonology, morphology, and syntax. Even if they’re different, if they have that much in common they should be mutually intelligible, which is how we should define dialects. Looking at it more broadly, dialects are the sum of the linguistic characteristics within a given community. But there are a lot of different ways to define community. Age can enter into it - most of us don’t sound like our grandparents when we talk. Or pick up a book from 100 years ago, or even 50, and you’ll see that the way that we say things has changed a lot. Many languages also have real differences in the way men and women tend to speak – different vocabulary and pronunciation and even syntax. Even the way you refer to yourself can be different – Japanese speakers might say “あたし” if they’re female, but “俺” if they’re male. And a lot more factors also can come into play - race, class, religion, or even what you do for a living. But for now, let’s focus on one really important factor in what makes a dialect: geography. You might have seen those cool maps that show how people vary in their pronunciation and word choice. So, large regions of the US say “car-mel” with two syllables, except for a big swath of the east coast and southeast, where they say “caramel”. Or, the word “miracle”, which is pronounced the way I just said it except in unconnected areas like Houston, Boston, central Georgia, and most of Utah, where they say “mIracle”. You can have hours of fun looking at these! But the point here is that a widespread language like English (or Spanish, or French, or whatever) literally has hundreds of dialects. Linguists still end up calling them dialects, because a speaker of English from, like, New Jersey can still understand one from California, or even one from Newcastle, with a little bit of practice. But even though they’re mutually intelligible, each dialect of English - and of every other language - has its own fully developed, fully functional mental grammar. Each one is a complete version of the language. Now, there’s no reason why any speaker should be limited to only having one dialect. In fact, most people end up trying to match whoever they’re talking to, and whatever they’re talking about - either on purpose, or not. Think about how you talk to your grandmother or your boss, compared to how you talk with your friends, or your tiny little cousins. So even if we’re not bilingual, most of us are probably bi-dialectal, at least. But even if you speak more than one dialect, you probably think one of them is “better” than the other. People talk a lot about dialects deviating from the standard. Even the term “dialect” is often seen as less prestigious. Some languages have a formally defined standard, like French or Hindi or Arabic. The varieties that are not that standard version get called dialects, and they usually come with less social prestige. Social attitudes about language really come out when we start looking at dialects. Language prejudice is a form of discrimination, and can sometimes act as a “shield for racism”. As a society, we’ve rightly decided that singling someone out for the colour of their skin, or for what they believe in, is wrong, but often discriminating against how someone speaks feels safer. Just look at the tumultuous histories of African-American Vernacular English and the Quebec variety of spoken French. Fortunately, our societies have been developing a broader understanding of the linguistic richness of these dialects. Unfortunately contempt and prejudice towards these non-standard varieties is still surprisingly common. There are still lots of people who think of African-American Vernacular English as “grammatically deficient” or “sloppy and lazy speech”, or that people in Quebec don’t speak “proper French” or “lack grammar”. But from a linguist’s perspective, this is completely super wrong. Let’s look at a couple of examples from Quebec French. Now, Quebec French differs from standard European French in a bunch of interesting ways: so, vocabulary, of course, but also in its phonology and syntax. For example, when you get [t] or [d], and it's followed by a vowel like [i] or [y] that’s pronounced high up and front in the mouth, that [t] or [d] turns into either [ts] or [dz]. So let's say you want to inform your friends that T-Rex is stepping on a little house. In France you could say [tireks pil syr yn pɛtit mɛzõ]. In Quebec, though, it sounds like this: [tsireks pɪl sʏr ʏn pɛtsɪt mɛzõ]. This is a process called affrication, and it happens in a lot of languages! Japanese doesn’t even natively have the sound combinations “ti” and “tu”; instead, it uses the affricates “chi” and “tsu”. Or look at how Quebec French makes questions. Let’s say you want to ask about whether the Devil is playing video games. In European French, you would say “Est-ce que le Diable joue aux jeux video?”. But in Quebec French, the question isn’t made that way. It’s made using a question marking particle that comes after the auxiliary verb. So that's like, “Le Diable joue-tu aux jeux video?”. Now, that might not be okay to standard French speakers, but it’s a totally legitimate grammatical option! If you look at other languages, you see lots of them using question marking particles like that, like in Korean or Mandarin. And we’d never say it’s wrong to do it there. From a linguist’s perspective, Quebec French is every bit as complex and “correct” as any other version of the language. Let’s just put it very simply: There is no scientific basis for valuing one dialect of a language over any other. Just like our decisions about what qualifies as a language or as a dialect, these decisions are social and political. When we think about who decided what is “standard English” or “proper French”, we can see it’s those with the power and prestige in society. But when we look at the variation within a language, we see all dialects are valid, all of them are complex and interesting and worthy of our study. To a linguist, all languages are beautiful. It’s a wonderful linguistic world out there, for all the flavors of language. So we’ve reached the end of the Ling Space for this week. If you weren’t hung up on linguistic prejudices, you learned that deciding what’s a language and what’s a dialect is more political than linguistic; that if we gave a linguistic definition of dialects, it would be different versions of a language that are comprehensible to each other; that languages vary by age, class, gender, and region; that all varieties of language are built on the same foundations of grammar and are all equally valid; and that to think otherwise is a form of prejudice. The Ling Space is produced by me, Moti Lieberman. It’s directed by Adèle-Élise Prévost, and it’s written by both of us. Our production assistant is Georges Coulombe, our music and sound design is by Shane Turner, and our graphics team is atelierMUSE. We’re down in the comments below, or you can bring the discussion back over to our website, where we have some extra material on this topic. Check us out on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook, and if you want to keep expanding your own personal Ling Space, please subscribe. And we’ll see you next Wednesday. [ta 'leme 'sindoma]!