This term has a connotation in technical linguistic usage which is somewhat different from its ordinary meaning. To the linguist there is no real difference between a dialect and a language which can be shown to be related, however remotely, to another language. By preference the term is restricted to a form of speech which does not differ sufficiently from another form of speech to be unintelligible to the speakers of the latter. Thus Great Russian and White Russian are said to be dialects of the same language. Similarly, Alsatian, Swabian and Swiss German are dialects or groups of dialects of a common folk speech. Literal mutual intelligibility, however, is not a criterion of great interest to the technical linguist, who is more concerned with the fact and order of historical relationships in speech. To him Venetian and Sicilian are equally dialects of Italian, although as far as mutual intelligibility is concerned these two might as well be called independent languages. Russian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian and Serbian, conventionally considered as independent languages because of their national affiliations, are no less truly dialects of a common Slavic speech or linguistic prototype than Venetian and Sicilian are dialects of a supposedly common Italian language. If two obviously related forms of speech are spoken at the same time, the linguist does not say that one of them is a dialect of the other but that both are sister dialects of some common prototype, known or inferred. When they diverge so far as not only to be mutually unintelligible but no longer to be too obviously related to each other, the term language is more freely used than dialect, but in principle there is no difference between the two. Thus in a sense all Romance languages, all Celtic languages, all Germanic languages, all Slavic languages, and all Indo-Aryan vernaculars are merely dialect groups of a common Aryan or Indo-European language.
A group of dialects is merely the socialized form of the universal tendency to individual variation in speech. These variations affect the phonetic form of the language, its formal characteristics, its vocabulary and such prosodic features as intonation and stress. No known language, unless it be artificially preserved for liturgical or other non-popular uses, has ever been known to resist the tendency to split up into dialects, any one of which may in the long run assume the status of an independent language. From dialects formed by inherent differentiation one may distinguish dialects which owe their origin to speech transfers. A community which takes on a language that is different from the one to which it has originally been accustomed will unconsciously carry over into the adopted language peculiarities of its own form of speech which are pronounced enough to give its use of the foreign language a dialectic tinge. Many linguists attach much importance to the influence of superseded languages in the formation of dialects. Thus some of the distinctive peculiarities o f both Celtic and Germanic are supposed to be due to the retention of phonetic peculiarities of pre-Aryan languages.
In less technical or frankly popular usage the term dialect has somewhat different connotations. Human speech is supposed to be differentiated and standardized in :a number of approved forms known as languages, and each of these in turn has a number of subvarieties of lesser value known as dialects. A dialect is looked upon as a departure from the standard norm, in many cases even as a corruption of it. Historically this view is unsound, because the vast majority of so-called dialects are merely the regular, differentiated development of earlier forms of speech which antedate the recognized languages. Popular confusion on the subject is chiefly due to the fact that the question of language has become secondarily identified with that of nationality in the larger cultural and ethnic group which in course of time absorbs the local tradition. The language of such a nationality is generally based on a local dialect and spreads at the expense of other dialects which were originally of as great prestige as the culturally more powerful one.
Of the large number of dialects spoken in Germany, German Switzerland and Austria, for example, very few, if any, can be considered
(124) as modified forms of the culturally accepted Hochdeutsch of literature, the pulpit, the stage and general cultural activity. The dialects of the German speaking folk go back unbrokenly to the Old High German of early mediaeval times, a German which was even then richly differentiated into dialects. The present standardized German of the schools arose comparatively late in the history of German speech as a result of the fixing of one of the Upper Saxon dialects as the recognized medium of official communication within the German speaking dominions. Luther's Bible helped considerably in the diffusion of this form of German as the recognized standard. It has taken a long time, however, for Hochdeutsch to take on a recognized phonetic form and to be looked upon as a well standardized form of oral communication, and to this day a large proportion of Germans, including the educated ranks, are bilingual in the sense that they use the standardized German for formal purposes but employ the local dialect for more familiar uses.
The history of German is paralleled more or less by the history of all the other national languages of Europe and of other parts of the world. As a result of cultural reasons of one kind or another a local dialect becomes accepted as the favored or desirable form of speech within a linguistic community that is cut up into a large number of dialects. This approved local dialect becomes the symbol of cultural values and spreads at the expense of other local forms of speech. The standardized form of speech becomes more and more set in its vocabulary, its form and eventually its pronunciation. The speakers of local dialects begin to be ashamed of their peculiar forms of speech because these have not the prestige value of the standardized language; and finally the illusion is created of a primary language, belonging to the large area which is the territory of a nation or nationality, and of the many local forms of speech as uncultured or degenerated variants of the primary norm. As is well known, these variations from the norm are sometimes much more archaic, historically speaking, than the norm from which they are supposed to depart.
Local dialects are in a sense minority languages, but the latter term should be reserved for a completely distinct form of speech that is used, by a minority nationality living within the political framework of a nation. An example of such a minority language would be the Basque of southwestern France and northern Spain or the Breton of Brittany. These languages are not dialects of French and Spanish but historically distinct languages that have come to occupy culturally secondary positions.
There is naturally no hard and fast line between a dialect and a local variation of a minor nature, such as New England English or middle western English. In the case of the older dialects the connection with the standardized speech is quite secondary, while in the case of such local variations as New England and middle western American speech standard English, however loosely defined, is present in the minds of all as the natural background for these variations, which are thus psychologically, if not altogether historically, variations from the primary or standard norm. It would be possible for the speaker of a local Swiss dialect or of Yorkshire English to build up a nationalistic gospel around his local dialect in opposition to the accepted speech of the cultured group, but the attempt to do this for middle western English in America would have something intrinsically absurd about it because of the feeling that this form of English is at best but a belated departure from an earlier norm. As usual in social phenomena, however, it is the symbolism of attitude that counts in these matters rather than the objective facts of history.
Ever since the formation of the great national languages of Europe toward the end of the mediaeval period there have been many social and political influences at work to imperil the status of the local dialects. As the power of the sovereign grew, the language of the court gained in prestige and tended to diffuse through all the ramifications of the official world. Meanwhile, although the Roman Catholic and Greek churches with their sacred liturgical languages were little interested in the question of folk versus standardized speech, the Protestant sects with their concern for a more direct relation between God and His worshipers emphasized the dignity of folk speech and lent their aid to the diffusion of a selected form of folk speech over a larger area. The influence of such documents as Luther's Bible and King James' authorized version in the standardization of German and English has often been referred to. In more recent days the increase of popular education and the growing demand for ready intelligibility in the business world have ,given a tremendous impetus to the spread of standardized forms of speech.
In spite of all these standardizing influences, however, local dialects, particularly in Europe, have persisted with a vitality that is little short of amazing. Obviously the question of the conservatism of dialect is not altogether a negative matter of the inertia of speech and of the failure of overriding cultural influences to permeate into all corners of a given territory. It is to a very significant degree a positive matter of the resistance of the local dialects to something which is vaguely felt as hostile. This is easily understood if we look upon languages and dialects not as intrinsically good or bad forms of speech but as symbols of social attitudes. Before the growth of modern industrialism culture tended to be intensely local in character in spite of the uniformizing influences of government, religion, education and business. The culture that gradually seeped in from the great urban centers was felt as something alien and superficial in spite of the prestige that unavoidably attached to it. The home speech was associated with kinship ties and with the earliest emotional experiences of the individual. Hence the learning of a standardized language could hardly seem natural except in the few centers in which the higher culture seemed properly at home, and even in these there generally developed a hiatus between the standardized language of the cultured classes and the folk speech of the local residents. Hence cockney is as far removed psychologically from standard British English as is a peasant dialect of Yorkshire or Devon. On the continent of Europe; particularly in Germany and Italy, the culture represented, for example, by standardized German or standardized Italian was until very recent days an exceedingly thin psychological structure, and its official speech could hardly take on the task of adequately symbolizing the highly differentiated folk cultures of German speaking and Italian speaking regions.
The Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century was, on the whole, hostile to the persistence of dialects, but the romantic movement which followed it gave to folk speech a glamour which has probably had something to do with the idealization of localized languages as symbols of national solidarity and territorial integrity. Few writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would have taken seriously the use of dialect in literature. It was only later that Lowland Scotch could be romantically restored in the lyrics of Robert Burns, that Fritz Reuter could strive to establish a Low German (Plattdeutsch) literary language and that Mistral could attempt to revive the long lost glory of Provençal. One may suspect that this renewed emphasis on linguistic differences is but a passing phase in the history of modern man. Be that as it may, it has had much to do with the emergence of new nationalisms in recent times. It is doubtful if such countries as Lithuania, Estonia and Czechoslovakia could have so easily proved their right to exist if it had not come to be felt that just as every nationality needs its language, so every unattached language needs its nationality and territorial independence to fulfil its inherent mission. Perhaps the best example of what might be called linguistic romanticism is the attempt of the Irish nationalists to renew the vitality of Gaelic, a form of speech which has never been standardized for literary, let alone folk, purposes and which is profoundly alien to the majority of the more articulate of Irish nationalists.
No doubt the respect for local forms of speech has received assistance from scientific linguistics and its tendency to view all languages and dialects as of equal historical importance. It is very doubtful, however, if linguistic localism can win out in the long run. The modern mind is increasingly realistic and pragmatic in the world of action and conceptualistic or normative in the world of thought. Both of these attitudes are intrinsically hostile to linguistic localism of any sort and necessarily therefore to dialectic conservatism. Compulsory education, compulsory military service, modern means of communication and urbanization are some of the more obvious factors in the spread of these attitudes, which, so far as language is concerned, may be defined by the thesis that words should either lead to unambiguous action among the members of as large a group as is held together culturally or in the domain of thought should aim to attach themselves to concepts which are less and less purely local in their application. In the long run therefore it seems fairly safe to hazard the guess that such movements as the Gaelic revival in Ireland and the attempt to save as many minority languages and dialects from cultural extinction as possible will come to be looked upon as little more than eddies in the more powerful stream of standardization of speech that set in at the close of the mediaeval period. The modern problem is more complex than the classical or the mediaeval problem, because the modern mind
(126) insists on having the process of standardization take the form of a democratic rather than an aristocratic process.
A word may be added in regard to the social psychology of dialectic forms of speech. In the main, markedly dialectic peculiarities have been looked upon as symbols of inferiority of status, but if local sentiment is strongly marked and if the significance of the local group for the larger life of the nation as a whole allows, a local dialect may become the symbol of a kind of inverted pride. We thus have the singular spectacle of Lowland Scotch as an approved and beautiful linguistic instrument and of cockney as an undesirable and ugly one. These judgments are extrinsic to the facts of language themselves but they are none the less decisive in the world of cultural symbolisms.
If an individual is brought up in a community that has its characteristic dialect and if he becomes identified later in life with another community which has a second mode of speech, some very interesting personality problems arise which involve the status symbolism or affectional symbolism of these differing forms of speech. Individuals who vacillate somewhat in their conception of their own role in society may often be detected unconsciously betraying this feeling of insecurity in a vacillating pronunciation or intonation or choice of words. When under the influence of an emotional crisis such individuals are thrown back upon their earliest emotional experiences= "regress," in short-they are likely to relapse into early dialectic habits of speech. It is suggested that the question of the relation of the individual to the various dialects and languages to which he has been subjected from time to time is of far more than anecdotal interest, that it constitutes as a matter of fact a very important approach to the problem of personality subjected to the strains of cultural change.