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January 03, 2016


Since I was able to apparently shut down the Star Wars thread (sorry about that), I thought I might offer something here and see if it had the same juice.

The line 'a language is a dialect with an army and a navy', is something Max Weinreich attributed to a person speaking to him after a lecture, which encapsulates my take on this. Similarly, a number of linguistic presentations begin with a joke along the lines of 'this data is from my own personal ideolect, of which I am the only fluent speaker'. The question of whether something is a language is not there is a particular code that a small group uses, it is in the portability of the code. The examples above are not really portable, in that you couldn't meet new people and speak to them in this code to get new information. Meeting someone who spoke that code would automatically mean that they have a certain amount of shared information, which negates the idea that the code can carry all or at least a sizable portion of the information so that someone who knew the code but didn't know the background information could communicate something that was completely unknown to the other person. At least that is my first glance take on this.

I'm recalling a case that I picked up in an Anthro class way back in college. A child had parents who were native speakers of two different languages. The nanny spoke a third language, the gardener a fourth and the cook a fifth. (Can't recall, at this point, whether there were other members of the household as well.)

The kid picked up all of those, of course. But he also started inventing a language of his own . . . because, after all, everybody (in his experience) had a language of their own.

Sorry, a quick search didn't turn up the original source.

This may be related to the topic


There was a film made about Poto and Cabengo but it seems not to be freely available on the net (only clips).

The Manchester part seems most unlikely, at least if Chambers means (as he seems to) that this was happening on a large scale.

After all, 'the children of factory workers' presumably constituted a large proportion of the city's population, yet that period actually saw considerable standardising of the English spoken in Manchester. Whereas you'd expect what he's describing to leave significant traces in the colloquial language that weren't found elsewhere in the region.

Liverpool, 35 miles down the East Lancs road, retains to this day major lexical and phonological differences from the rest of Lancashire - let alone the country - much of it apparently stemming from Irish influence (for instance, widespread lenition of stops). Whereas Manchester, while it has a recognisable accent, doesn't have this kind of outlier status.

By the way, my father, who happened to be the son of Manchester factory workers, was evacuated during the War to a little town about 50 miles north of Manchester. It took him a couple of weeks to understand what anyone was saying there - they still used terms like, 'hither', 'thither' and 'yonder', and he said that the phrase meaning "Are you going down [i.e. to the football]" came out as "A t'behn dehn" [a təbɛːn dɛːn]. Sadly almost all genuine dialects are dead now in England, though that vestige of 'thou', t', is still not uncommon in various parts of the North.

The piture looks like they are playing mancala. I have that game.

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