Ethnogenesis and Language.

Another great passage from Wickham’s The Inheritance of Rome (see this post and this post):

It is this process that has been called ‘ethnogenesis’ by Herwig Wolfram and his school: the recognition that ethnic identities were flexible, malleable, ‘situational constructs’; the same ‘barbarian’ in sixth-century Italy could be Rugian, and Ostrogothic, and (though only after the east Roman reconquest) even Roman. Such people would have picked up different identities successively (or contemporaneously), and these would have brought with them different modes of behaviour and loyalties, and even, eventually, different memories. As Walter Pohl has recently put it, the ‘kernel of traditions’ that made someone Ostrogoth or Visigoth was probably a network of contradictory and changeable beliefs; there does not have to have been a stable set of traditions in each group as it moved from beyond the frontier, to discontinuous service in the Roman army, then to settlement in a Roman province. By 650 every ‘barbarian’ kingdom had its own traditions, some of them claiming to go back centuries, and those doubtless were by then core elements in the founding myths of many of their inhabitants; all the same, founding myths not only do not have to be true, but also do not have to be old. Each of the ‘Romano-Germanic’ kingdoms had a bricolage of beliefs and identities with very varying roots, and these, to repeat, could change, and be reconfigured, in each generation to fit new needs. Historians tend to give more attention to the account that Clovis’s grandfather was the son of a sea-monster, a quinotaur, than to the account that the Franks were descended from the Trojans, which seems more ‘literary’, less ‘authentic’; but the first record of each of these traditions appears in the same seventh-century source, and it would be hard to say that one was more widely believed — or older — than the other.

From all of this, one has to conclude that post-Roman identities were a complex mixture, and they had a variety of origins: Roman, ‘barbarian’, biblical; and also both oral and literary. What they had to do was less to locate an ethnic group in the past, than to distinguish it from its contemporary neighbours. This means that to ask what was non-Roman or ‘barbarian’ about the new ethnic groups is in part the wrong question; Arianism, for example, was a very Roman heresy, but by 500, for most people, it had become an ethnic marker, of Goths or Vandals. The Gothic language itself was by 500 in large part a liturgical tradition, associated precisely with that ex-Roman Arianism, rather than with ‘Gothic-ness’ in an ethnic sense; many Goths just spoke Latin, without their Gothic-ness being affected either positively or negatively. Indeed, unlike in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, language was not, as far as we can see, a strong ethnic marker anywhere in our period. Plenty of Franks in 600, say, still spoke Frankish (a version of what we now call Old High German), but very probably not all did, and many were certainly fully bilingual. Gregory of Tours, the most prolific writer of the sixth century in Gaul, who was a monoglot Latin-speaker, never gives the slightest indication that he had trouble communicating with anyone else in the Frankish kingdoms. Neither he nor anyone else in the Frankish world, until the ninth century in fact, makes anything of communication difficulties between primary speakers of Latin and Frankish; it must have happened, but it was not a problem for Frankishness.

The “kernel of traditions” idea is nicely illustrated in a contemporary context by Mikhail Iampolski in a recent article (Russian, English — I’ll note that the latter contains a confusing typo, “a war reenacted” for “a war reenactor”); Iampolski has a good quote from Jean-Luc Nancy, who in The Inoperative Community (pp. 43-44) “proposed an imaginary scenario behind the formation of collective identity[…] people sitting around a campfire and listening to the myth of their shared origin”:

They were not assembled like this before the story; the recitation has gathered them together. Before, they were dispersed (at least this is what the story tells us at times), shoulder to shoulder, working with and confronting one another without recognizing one another. <…>He [the founder of the community] recounts to them their history, or his own, a story that they all know, but that he alone has the gift, the right, or the duty to tell. It is the story of their origin, of where they come from, and of how they come from the Origin itself—them, or their mates, or their names, or the authority figure among them. And so at the same time it is also the story of the beginning of the world, of the beginning of the assembling together, or of the beginning of the narrative itself….

Iampolski adds, “When he describes this mythical scene containing echoes of Schlegel, Shelling, Görres, Bachofen, Wagner, Freud, Kerényi, Cassirer, and Goethe, Nancy shows it to be pure myth, part of collective memory.”

Comments

  1. Trond Engen says:

    Yes! This is something I’ve been thinking about. Now it strikes me that this must have been a matter of great political and diplomatic concern. A nation’s stories would have to be tailored to mirror the position it was ready to defend.

    And I have to have that book.

  2. fisheyed says:

    Gregory of Tours, the most prolific writer of the sixth century in Gaul, who was a monoglot Latin-speaker, never gives the slightest indication that he had trouble communicating with anyone else in the Frankish kingdoms. Neither he nor anyone else in the Frankish world, until the ninth century in fact, makes anything of communication difficulties between primary speakers of Latin and Frankish; it must have happened, but it was not a problem for Frankishness.

    Not that I know anything at all about the topic, but I find this hard to take at face value. Who were the Goths who were monoglot Latin speakers? What made them so comfortable with not being able to communicate with the Gothic-speaking Goths around them in Gothic? What did Gothic-speaking Goths think of the monoglots? Do we know?

    I am not questioning the porousness , malleability etc of ethnicity, along with that permeable boundary, every ethnicity everywhere has “He’s alright but he’s not real” and it would be really surprising if language were not one of the tests of realness.

    (Of course I bring my matching luggage set of baggage to this question.)

  3. This view of ethnogenesis is familiar to me from German publications (essays in magazines and newspapers) and from academic literature, primarily Sloterdijk and Luhmann in my case. The idea goes back farther than Wolfram, namely at least as far as Max Weber in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (first edition 1922):

    Wir wollen solche Menschengruppen, welche auf Grund von Ähnlichkeiten des äußeren Habitus oder der Sitten oder beider oder von Erinnerungen an Kolonisation und Wanderung einen subjektiven Glauben an eine Abstammungsgemeinschaft hegen, derart, dass dieser für die Propagierung von Vergemeinschaftungen wichtig wird, dann, wenn sie nicht ‚Sippen‘ darstellen, ‚ethnische‘ Gruppen nennen, ganz einerlei, ob eine Blutsgemeinschaft objektiv vorliegt oder nicht.

    We will use the term “ethnic groups” to denote groups of people who hold and foster subjective beliefs that they share a common descent due to similarities of external appearance or customs, or both, or to memories of colonization and migration, provided the groups themselves deem these beliefs crucial to explain the origin and growth of their communities, and provided these groups are not simply “clans”. We use this term regardless of whether ties of common blood can be objectively demonstrated.

  4. which leaves two quesitons to be addressed: how debunking myths affects group (ethnic) identity and how competing identities affect each other?

  5. Sashura, the French have been considerably excercised by your first question for the last few decades, with regard to what “the French nation” is:

    Ce phénomène a été étudié depuis longtemps par les psychologues sociaux à travers les notions d’identité sociale, par exemple par Lucy Baugnet dans L’Identité sociale (Dunod, 1998). Les groupes humains tendent assez spontanément à se reconstituer sur une base identitaire lorsqu’une menace, une crise pèse sur une communauté jusque-là assez peu structurée.

    On peut transposer aux nations européennes cette approche constructiviste des identités collectives. Longtemps, les historiens ont considéré l’émergence des nations
    comme une réalité séculaire, forgée autour d’un peuple soudé par une langue, une histoire, une culture communes. C’est ainsi que Fernand Braudel présentait la constitution de la nation française dans l’Identité de la France (Fayard, 3 t. 1986.). Dans La Construction des identités nationales, xviiie-xixe siècles, Anne-Marie Thiesse donne une tout autre version de l’histoire. Les identités nationales européennes sont, pour la plupart, très récentes (xixe siècle). C’est le cas de l’Allemagne, et de l’Italie, mais aussi de la Hongrie, la Suède, la Suisse, la Finlande, l’Espagne et aussi de la France où l’unification culturelle était loin d’être réalisée au début du xixe siècle.

  6. Il vergognoso says:

    Portugal must be one of the rare old nations of Europe.

  7. Yes, I am following this debate. Re France I was thinking more how its long competition, a love-hate relationship with England (Britain) had helped her forge her own identity.

    Funny you should mention Braudel. There was a recent spat between the Russian Duma deputy Nikonov and a few popular journalists who erroneously attributed to him a passage from Mein Kampf. He is the grandson of Molotov and a serious historian in his own right, an expert on American political history, but has recently become a voice of nationalism. In another part of the quote, which Nikonov didn’t disown, he says that Russians are ‘a branch of the Aryan tribe who descended from the Carpatian mountains and peacefully settled the Great Russian plain, Siberia, reached the Pacific…’ In a follow up article to this curious incident Nikonov said that Braudel’s ideas are a source of his own thinking. I tried to find any references to Aryans in Braudel’s works but couldn’t. Does anyone know?

  8. Who were the Goths who were monoglot Latin speakers? What made them so comfortable with not being able to communicate with the Gothic-speaking Goths around them in Gothic?

    You are (naturally) in the mindset that sees language as inextricably intertwined with nationality and ethnic identity, which is how we see things these days. That’s not how it worked in the ancient world (and is in fact a product of the nineteenth century), which is why books like this are so exhilarating — they force us out of our comfortable habits of mind.

  9. David Marjanović says:

    Frankish (a version of what we now call Old High German)

    Cutting across all the way from High to Low.

    Gregory of Tours, the most prolific writer of the sixth century in Gaul, who was a monoglot Latin-speaker

    Is it actually known that he did not speak, let alone not understand, Frankish?

  10. St. Greg was born in Clermont-Ferrand (he was called “of Tours” because he was bishop there), an old Gaulish town in the heart of the South, and certainly thought of himself as a Roman, not a Frank: his father was a senator of Clermont and therefore a member of the old local aristocracy. WP says he personally knew most of the leading Franks of his day, which suggests that he could have known Frankish, though many of them would have had good Latin educations by then.

    I fear that Wickham is making Gregory out to be a Frank because he was a subject of the Frankish king, thus undermining his own point. It’s clear from legal history that “Frank” and “Roman” were inherited statuses, and important because Frankish rule guaranteed Romans the benefit of Roman law and Franks the benefit of Salic law, with elaborate provisions on what happened when a Frank sued a Roman or vice versa.

  11. It’s been a very long time since I read Gregory, but I don’t recall there being any reason to believe that he didn’t speak (some) Frankish. He only wrote in Latin, but that doesn’t indicate much of anything. While he considered himself a Roman, it was not clear to me from his own writings whether this really was incompatible with also being a Frank.

  12. I thought of e-mailing Wickham and asking what he based it on, but he doesn’t make his address publicly available.

  13. Etienne says:

    Wickham’s basic point is valid, but in some ways he doesn’t push his own logic far enough: to call the language of the Franks “Frankish” is misleading to the average reader, inasmuch as “Frankish” was more of a dialect/local variant within the West Germanic continuum (whose speakers were divided into scores of local and quite fluid/variable identities) than a clearly separate system within West Germanic.

    Conversely, though, I am more than a little suspicious of his claim that monolingual Latin/Romance speakers considered themselves as fully Frankish as Frankish speakers: I too would like to know the source of the claim.

  14. As mentioned above, you were a Frank if you descended from the blood of the Franks (jus sanguinis). What languages you spoke where and when was secondary and instrumental.

  15. I am not sure that we cannot identify with people in state/language split because of 19th and 20th centuries. On the contrary, we are painfully aware of them (see Jews, Armenians for extreme examples or Belgians for less extreme). If the point is that it was not so painful then, maybe.

  16. fisheyed says:

    As mentioned above, you were a Frank if you descended from the blood of the Franks (jus sanguinis). What languages you spoke where and when was secondary and instrumental.

    Do you mean legally?

    Because what I wonder about is whether Frankish-speaking Franks (majority, yes?) saw Latin-monoglot Franks as equally Frankish. Do we know? Are their views equally present in the historical record?

    You are (naturally) in the mindset that sees language as inextricably intertwined with nationality and ethnic identity, which is how we see things these days.

    In the US and Canada, I have met many Anglophone-monoglot people who claim various ethnic identities as matters of blood rather than language. They might see themselves as equally whatever, but do other people? Generally, no.

  17. I am not sure that we cannot identify with people in state/language split because of 19th and 20th centuries. On the contrary, we are painfully aware of them (see Jews, Armenians for extreme examples or Belgians for less extreme). If the point is that it was not so painful then, maybe.

    But the point is that there was no state/language split in anyone’s mind, because language was not part of anyone’s conception of nationality.

    In the US and Canada, I have met many Anglophone-monoglot people who claim various ethnic identities as matters of blood rather than language. They might see themselves as equally whatever, but do other people? Generally, no.

    It is not clear to me what point you are making here.

  18. But the point is that there was no state/language split in anyone’s mind, because language was not part of anyone’s conception of nationality.

    Ah, yes, right.

  19. Do we know? Are their views equally present in the historical record?

    No and no, to be sure. But we know there was a state/descent split, and we do not hear anything about a state/language split. More recent empires have cared about their subjects’ religion or descent, but again we don’t hear about language as a distinguishing factor.

    claim various ethnic identities as matters of blood

    Me, for example. I am of Irish and German origin and quite proud of it, but I don’t mistake myself for a resident of Ireland (where I am a citizen) or Germany (where I’m not), nor do I speak either Irish or Hiberno-English or German.

  20. David Eddyshaw says:

    To confuse the issue (a service I am ever willing to provide), with Australian languages a distinction is drawn by the speakers between “owning” a language, which claim is based on paternal descent, and the ability to speak it. You can own a language and not be able to speak it; on the other hand a language can be your mother tongue (literally) and yet not be “yours.” (Paraphrased from the introduction to Mark Harvey’s grammar of Limilngan, but it turns up a lot in the literature. I have no first hand expertise in this area.)

    John Cowan presumably owns Irish. I think I may own Norwegian.

  21. There’s a very nice review of linguistic exogamy in the Vaupès region of Brazil, and related issues, in this article by Stenzel. The basic idea is that you can only marry someone who speaks a different language from you.

  22. David Eddyshaw says:

    Although it was perfectly possible to be a Roman citizen without knowing Latin, at least in imperial times, I recall reading somewhere that Claudius deprived some eminent Greeks of citizenship because they didn’t know Latin. Mind you, he was odd.

    I think language has probably more often been taken as a marker of ethnicity in premodern times than descent; certainly the ancient Greeks were conscious of themselves as Greeks by classical times but quite certainly didn’t think that what united them was common descent – the Athenians believed they were autochthonous, for example, whereas the Spartans knew they were not. And Roman empire-building quite consciously involved assimilation to citizenship of peoples who were not originally “Roman”; nevertheless Latin was still definitely the “official” language even in Justinian’s time, by which presumably relatively few Roman citizens could actually speak it.

    The deliberate conflation of language affiliation with genetic descent seems to be a relatively recent creation of modern pseudoscience.

    In any case the question of the construction of ethnicity is not quite the same as the question as to whether the only legitimate basis of a state is ethnicity; it’s possible to “believe” in ethnicity (which is a valid concept to some extent at least in sociological terms) without subscribing to the poisonous ideology of ethnically based nationalism.

  23. certainly didn’t think that what united them was common descent

    Hesiod, who with Homer was very nearly a sacred author, traced the Hellenes to Hellen son of Deucalion (or of Zeus), whose sons and grandsons Aeolus, Dorus, Achaeus, and Ion were the putative ancestors of the Aeolians, Dorians, Achaeans, and Ionians respectively. Thucydides sang the same tune, explicitly contradicting the Athenians’ claim. Later Greeks may have known better, and there’s hardly a mythical explanation that doesn’t have an equal and opposite mythical explanation somewhere, but the idea of common origin clearly wasn’t completely alien.

  24. David Eddyshaw says:

    @JC:

    True enough. Still, it seems clear enough that to the Greeks, what made you a Greek was speaking Greek and participating in Greek culture; there was nothing paradoxical about the idea that a people might *become* Greek.

    Incidentally, the scholar Fallmerayer (whose works understandably do not appeal to modern Greeks, and were actually banned under the Colonels) maintained that the modern mainland Greeks are in fact hellenised Slavs, who were brought back into the Greek world when the Byzantines recovered mainland Greece as the empire recovered. There does seem to be a kernel of truth in this, although not to the extreme degree Fallmerayer maintained; his motives, moreover, seem to have been basically racist.

  25. David Eddyshaw says:

    After the disaster of 1922, when there was wholesale ethnic cleansing of Greeks and Turks from the new Turkey and Greece, the criterion of ethnicity was the Ottoman one, religion. If you were a Muslim Greek speaker, you were a Turk; if an Orthodox Turkish speaker, you were a Greek. Hence (in part) all the Greeks with Turkish names like Karamanlis and those ending in -oghlou, and some Hadzi- names, though these apparently also reflect Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem rather than Muslim Hajj.

  26. The Greeks seem to have been pretty keen on language on the whole. Herodotos mentions language along with ancestry and cultural practices as the key things tying the politically independent Greek city-states together. This seems to cover the major poles of identity pretty well. Anyway, there’s a wide gulf between the idea that language as a key part of ethnicity is a 19th century innovation and the notion that language has always been as important as we now feel it to be (or important in the same ways).

    http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126%3Abook%3D8%3Achapter%3D144%3Asection%3D2

    More generally, the term ‘ethnogenesis’ always puts me on my guard. Not that the concept itself isn’t potentially insightful or useful, but it’s gotten tied up with a school of thinking, especially in archaeology, that tends to regard historical linguistic evidence as at best worthless. A couple of examples are the very popular idea of Celtic ethnogenesis in the 4th millennium BC (!) on the Atlantic fringe, or Slavic ethnogensis in the early Middle Ages – which often carries with it the (unnecessary) claim that the Slavic linguistic group just didn’t exist before the cultural ethnogenesis. From what I remember of Wickham’s book, he seems to have a pretty refreshingly reasonable take on the whole thing, though.

  27. David Eddyshaw says:

    Wickham makes quite a point of distinguishing between the Sclavonic peoples named as such in the sources and speakers of Slavonic languages, though he also implies that the two came to coincide more as time went by.

    BTW I only realised on reading his book that the word “slave” is actually of the same origin as “Slav.” Previously I presumed that the similarity of sound was just coincidence.

  28. A different body of opinion argues that ‘slav’ comes from an old form of ‘falcon’ – sklav – sokol, a Slavonic totem. And one of course should not exclude that ‘sloven’ may have something to do with the Slavs.

  29. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Sashura.

    It’s not that anyone thinks “Slav” is derived from “slave”; rather that “slave” is from “Slav”, an etymology only too plausible, from what Wickham has to say. Venice seems to have prospered in the period in question largely on the basis of the slave trade, which reminds me that it was from Hat himself I learnt that “ciao” is from the Venetian dialect equivalent of “schiavo.”

    I’ve always supposed that the etymology of “slav” is either from “glory” or “those who can speak” (unlike Germans.)

  30. David Eddyshaw says:
  31. English sloven is < *sleubh- ‘slide, slip’, which gives us slip, slop, sleep, sleeve and (thanks to the magic of s-mobile) lubricate, lubricious. It has nothing to do with Slav.

  32. The meaning of ethnicity can be tricky even with a family. My sister was born in China and adopted by my parents (after their biological children were all grown). My wife thinks that she is ethnically Chinese, while I feel that her ethnicity should be exactly the same as mine.

  33. David Eddyshaw says:

    Among the Yoruba (a pragmatic people with a proper appreciation of family) it is not very unusual for a single family to include Muslim, Christian and animist members, who by Ottoman criteria would all belong to different ethnic groups.

  34. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    @David Eddyshaw

    from what I’ve heard “word-people” is the more likely one since the variant Slověni occurs earlier in known texts than Slavěni (which would be a later semantic reworking, perhaps helped by akanye in Russian?). Zbigniew Gołąb, a prominent Polish linguist, had a theory that the original form was *Svoběne (reflected by Souobenoi ‘[a tribe in Eastern Europe]’ in a Greek source), derived from the IE reflexive pronoun like other similar names of peoples, e.g. Suebi. Cf. also the noun *svoboda “freedom” (according to Gołąb from *svob-ota lit. ‘one’s-own-ness’) which appears as sloboda in certain Slavic languages/dialects, e.g. in the name of a former Serbian president.

    The semantic change Slavs > slaves in early medieval Latin and Greek has parallels elsewhere; the one I know is Pawnees > panis, once a term for Indian slaves in North America.

  35. David Eddyshaw says:

    Apropos (just barely) and also harking back to a previous discussion about the word “pagan”, I just discovered that where the Greek of Acts 16:1 says that Timothy had a Jewish mother but a Greek father, the Peshitta has his father as a “pagan”, (‘arma:ya:, originally “Aramaean”, though Syriac has a separate form ‘Ara:ma:ya: for that, albeit written identically.)

    I knew that in later Greek “Hellen” meant “pagan” but it surprised me initially to see the word translated thus so early. Thinking about it, the translator surely right that the author did essentially mean “gentile” in using the word in this context, rather than “Greek” in the sense that our modern concepts of ethnicity tend to make us read into the text, just as when Paul talks about “Jews and Greeks” he means “Jews and gentiles.” Natural in the light of Jewish experience of Seleucid forced hellenisation that “Greek” should basically come to mean “goy” after all.

    Again, more modern English translations render the word as “gentile” rather than “Greek” in contexts like Romans 1:16 where the Peshitta has ‘arma:ye: “pagans” too, not Yawna:ne: “Greeks.”

    On the other hand, Yawna:ne: is used not only for Greek-Greeks, as it were, but also for Greek-speaking Jews, where the Greek text has “Hellenists” in Acts 6:1.

    Anyhow, it brought home to me just how far the label “Greek” is in the New Testament milieu from the sort of ethnic-group assumptions the word evokes for a modern reader.
    The Aramaic translator renders the Greek word for “Greek person” as “pagan” when there is a contrast with “Jew”, but also happily uses the Aramaic word for “Greek person” for “Greek-speaking Jew” as opposed to “Hebrew- or Aramaic-speaking Jew.”

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    Yawna:ye: not Yawna:ne:, passim …

  37. Rodger C says:

    Natural in the light of Jewish experience of Seleucid forced hellenisation that “Greek” should basically come to mean “goy” after all.

    In more recent times a great many Jews used “Christian” in exactly the same way. When I was a graduate student in the 70s, and was around a good many Jews for the first time in my life, this was a constant source of mutual misunderstanding with those of us who used “Christian” to mean someone with a certain set of beliefs and practices. I have the impression that this usage may be old-fashioned now; I hope so.

  38. Vassmer rejects derivation of Slav-slovenin both from slava (glory) and from slovo (word). He puts forward some hydronims like Slovutich – Dnepr, but it seems that there is no shortage of hypothesis.

  39. David Eddyshaw says:

    If it acts like a Greek, or talks like a Greek …

  40. … but is wearing a skullcap, it may well be one of the προσκυνημένοι. See “Al-Hamidiyah” by Nick Nicholas (naturally).

    Native Americans have been known to use “white man” in reference to African Americans.

  41. J.W. Brewer says:

    Maybe the thread has moved on now, but I think there was some unnecessary confusion arising from how Wickham wrote the passage. He follows up the claim that there were people who self-identified as Franks-in-the-ethnic-sense who spoke no Frankish but only “Latin” (or proto-Old-Occitan or whatever people who wrote in Latin were actually speaking locally in that century) with a reference to Gregory, who seems an unlikely example to illustrate the claim since it seems unlikely that Gregory (descended as he was from the Gallo-Roman elite) would have self-identified as a Frank-in-the-ethnic-sense. On careful rereading Wickham is making no such claim – he’s just using Gregory’s silence as indirect evidence for the lack of communication difficulties in a multilingual (and multiethnic, even if the boundaries of language and ethnicity were not coextensive) society. But you have to read carefully avoid thinking that Gregory’s being used as an implausible illustrative example of a phenomenon for which no actual individual examples are given.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    Ксёнѕ Фаўст : The semantic change Slavs > slaves in early medieval Latin and Greek has parallels elsewhere; the one I know is Pawnees > panis, once a term for Indian slaves in North America.

    In the Tsimshianic languages (Northern BC, near Alaska), the word for “slave(s)” is a form of the word “Tlingit” (Coast Tsimshian  LiLiingyit, Nisga’a LiLingit) (here L = barred l).

    JC: Native Americans have been known to use “white man” in reference to African Americans.

    Most Native words for “white man” (or rather “white person”) are not literal translations of the English phrase, so there is not necessarily a contradiction when African Americans are called “black whitemen”.

  43. Rodger C says:

    And in the West, “Anglo” often includes black people.

  44. David Eddyshaw says:

    @JC:

    “… but is wearing a skullcap, it may well be one of the προσκυνημένοι. ”

    Interesting link, thanks.

    I suppose the Greeks illustrate pretty much a full range of possibilities for ethnic identity, from a tribe (maybe in the beginning) to a culture (gloriously) to a confession (under the Ottomans) to … a nation.

    As Forster has his avatar say in an analogous case:

    India a nation! What an apotheosis! Last comer to the drab nineteenth-century sisterhood! Waddling in at this hour of the world to take her seat! She, whose only peer was the Holy Roman Empire, she shall rank with Guatemala and Belgium perhaps!

  45. David Eddyshaw says:

    Don’t know what Forster had against Guatemala …

  46. Most Native words for “white man” (or rather “white person”) are not literal translations of the English phrase, so there is not necessarily a contradiction when African Americans are called “black whitemen”.

    Yes, but it always got a big laugh when Old Lodge Skins called them that in Little Big Man.

  47. Bathrobe says:

    many Goths just spoke Latin, without their Gothic-ness being affected either positively or negatively. Indeed, unlike in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, language was not, as far as we can see, a strong ethnic marker anywhere in our period. Plenty of Franks in 600, say, still spoke Frankish (a version of what we now call Old High German), but very probably not all did, and many were certainly fully bilingual.

    OK, criteria for group identity have changed through history. But I doubt there was ever a time when group identity did not exist. Saying that language was not always the key identifier is a truism. But groups that did not treat language as an important identifier were arguably the first ones to lose theirs. I think the negative message about linguistic identity here needs to be considered from different angles.

    1. Latin was the language of writing in those days. There wasn’t the modern ideal that every ethnicity should have its own written language, each with equal validity and capable of being used in every sphere of life. This is an ideal of modern nationalism, but people from many periods of history, into the modern period, have accepted that the language used in everyday life is not necessarily the language of writing (e.g. postcolonial Black Africa). So writing in Latin was not necessarily a negation of Gothic as a language or ethnicity; it was merely affirmation of Latin’s status as the de facto language of writing in that era.

    2. Note that the example is Latin vs Gothic. What if a Goth spoke another, non-prestigious language? Could you claim yourself to be a Goth if you couldn’t speak Gothic and could only speak the language of one of the Goth’s enemies? In other words, what are the in-group/out-group boundaries? Latin as the language of community and the written language might be ok. What about other languages that might be stronger markers of belonging?

    3. The Gothic language is dead. So is the Gothic identity. The fact that the Goths readily embraced other languages and discarded their own is possibly one reason for this. Arguing that pre-moderns didn’t care which language they spoke seems to be a good argument for homogenising all language to the most widespread lingua franca. There are many people who might argue this and many people probably take this attitude in their lives (speak the language of the surrounding majority, especially if it confers major advantages). It’s a very pragmatic attitude. Only those who cling to their language and culture as something more than this are likely to keep their language. What future is there for a culture that lets go of its language and culture? I think the answer is oblivion. Of course, none of this matters in the end because it’s all just idle vanities….

  48. fisheyed says:

    2. Note that the example is Latin vs Gothic. What if a Goth spoke another, non-prestigious language? Could you claim yourself to be a Goth if you couldn’t speak Gothic and could only speak the language of one of the Goth’s enemies? In other words, what are the in-group/out-group boundaries? Latin as the language of community and the written language might be ok. What about other languages that might be stronger markers of belonging?

    I would like to know the answers to these too.

  49. SFReader says:

    I am pretty sure that what the Goth in question spoke was not a classical Latin, but rather one of varieties of Vulgar Latin which later would developed into Italian, Spanish or French.

    Would Cicero recognize his speech as Latin?

    I rather doubt it.

  50. Saying that language was not always the key identifier is a truism. But groups that did not treat language as an important identifier were arguably the first ones to lose theirs. I think the negative message about linguistic identity here needs to be considered from different angles.

    You don’t seem in the least interested in the facts of life 1,500 years ago; you’re entirely focused on the implications for life today. There is no “negative message about linguistic identity,” there’s a statement that such identity was not seen as an ethnic marker. To leap from that to “What future is there for a culture that lets go of its language and culture? I think the answer is oblivion” is exactly the kind of teleological thinking Wickham is trying to get away from. Surely it’s possible to discuss what life was like in the sixth century without having to deal with today’s obsessions.

  51. Bathrobe says:

    Of course I’m not denying the facts of life 1,500 years ago, which are obviously interesting in themselves. But you don’t have to go back 1,500 years to find that you need to drop modern assumptions in understanding people in the past. Just a few generations in one’s own family are usually enough to turn up different mentalities.

    I was more applying the situation of Gothic to the present. Knowing why people even today are ditching their own languages in favour of larger cosmopolitan languages doesn’t make it easier to be reconciled to what is happening. I’m not being ‘teleological’ about it; I’m merely pointing out that the loss of Gothic might perhaps be related to the sociolinguistics of the era.

    I think my points about Latin and Gothic do need an answer. You can find the similar mentalities in modern times — Ireland, for instance, where ‘ethnicity’ is present despite the fact that most Irish don’t speak Irish at all. Perhaps the relevant difference between Irish and Gothic is that the Irish feel the need to keep Irish alive as a manifestation of modern nationalism, whereas there was no such mentality among the Goths.

  52. Well, languages have been lost through this sort of mechanism throughout history, you’re right about that. I guess the difference is that now we’re sentimental about it and rue the loss, whereas in the old days they were too busy trying to keep from starving or being slaughtered to bother about it.

  53. J. W. Brewer says:

    Note FWIW that in Ireland the “indigenous” language (really just the language imported by a somewhat earlier wave of migrants/invaders) was displaced by the “invading” language, whereas in Iberia, Gaul, and Italy the various Germanic languages of the more recent invaders were displaced by the pre-existing local language (although in each case the resultant Romance language, itself generally the legacy of an earlier invasion, had lexical and perhaps more-than-lexical influence from the lost-as-such Germanic language). Not sure if that makes a difference, but in general we perhaps ought to be careful mourning the loss of distinctions between ethnic or linguistic groups when the prior sharp separation between group A and group B was a side effect of a sharp distinction between rulers and ruled.

  54. Rodger C says:

    I suspect Cicero would have recognized the vernacular of 500 years later as some pretty bad Latin. It’s been pointed out that Cicero’s letters contain more prepositional constructions, etc., than his orations.

  55. Bathrobe says:

    SFReader: I am pretty sure that what the Goth in question spoke was not a classical Latin, but rather one of varieties of Vulgar Latin which later would developed into Italian, Spanish or French.

    Since the point of the post is that we need to look at these people in terms of the mentalities of the time without teleological assumptions, I think we need to ask ourselves whether Gregory of Tours really regarded himself as speaking “one of varieties of Vulgar Latin which later would developed into Italian, Spanish or French”.

    In fact, Gregory of Tours was neither a Goth nor a Frank; he was born into the upper stratum of Gallo-Roman society (as JWBrewer points out). According to Wikipedia he wrote in a form of late Vulgar Latin. The Wikipedia article goes into some detail on his Latin-language education:

    Gregory’s education was the standard Latin one of Late Antiquity, focusing on Virgil’s Aeneid and Martianus Capella’s Liber de Nuptiis Mercurii et Philologiae, but also other key texts such as Orosius’ Chronicles… and Sallust…. His education… did not extend to a broad acquaintance with the pagan classics but rather progressed to mastery of the Vulgate Bible. It is said that he constantly complained about his use of grammar. He did not understand how to correctly write masculine and feminine phrases, reflecting either a lack of ability or changes in the Latin language. Though he had read Virgil, considered the greatest Latin stylist, he cautions that “We ought not to relate their lying fables, lest we fall under sentence of eternal death.” By contrast, he seems to have thoroughly studied the lengthy and complex Vulgate Bible, as well as numerous religious works and historical treatises.

    It seems unlikely that he would have written in Gothic, even if he could, since according to the quotation in the post above “the Gothic language itself was by 500 in large part a liturgical tradition, associated precisely with … ex-Roman Arianism”, a heresy that Gregory of Tours was energetic in fighting.

    Incidentally, the “recognition that ethnic identities were flexible, malleable, ‘situational constructs’” is standard in modern studies of nationalism, as seen in Benedict Anderson’s celebrated notion of “imagined communities”. I totally agree with the point of the passage, that these Germanic people moving into the Roman world did not maintain some kind of pure “Germanic identity” (if such a thing was possible) or constant tribal identity; they defined themselves by adopting various myths, many of which were clearly “non-Germanic” (such as descent from the Trojans), and defined their tribal identity in different ways at different times. This is all familiar stuff if you study Asian history, and I suspect, the history of any other part of the world.

  56. gwenllian says:

    I guess the difference is that now we’re sentimental about it and rue the loss, whereas in the old days they were too busy trying to keep from starving or being slaughtered to bother about it.

    Well, in the past, even if you did rue the loss, what could you do? You just had to resign yourself to the way of the world. Today there are options, especially in the peaceful and rich West, with its emphasis on social justice and minority rights. I do feel today’s world could do with a bit more resigning to the facts, though. The optimism nowadays is out of control.

  57. Bathrobe says:

    However, it also prompts us to look at the function and status of language in those times. What the passage above suggests is 1) an advanced stage of assimilation to Roman culture, where mastery of Latin is already widespread and knowledge of the Frankish language is not taken for granted even among the Franks, and 2) identification of Gothic with a heretical liturgy, due to its widespread adoption among the Goths. I think we need a lot more than this passage, which delivers a needed corrective but is also necessarily cast in negative terms, in order to understand the mentalities of the time.

    (Incidentally, you don’t have to go far in modern times to find ethnicity defined by religion than by language. Croatian, Bosnian, and Serbian are all languages that tend to be defined by religion — Roman Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox — since there are no great linguistic differences among the three.)

  58. I do feel today’s world could do with a bit more resigning to the facts, though. The optimism nowadays is out of control.

    This is one reason I love Russian literature so much.

  59. fisheyed says:

    Well, in the past, even if you did rue the loss, what could you do?

    Run up hills? As in the James Scott book about Aseans rejecting assimilation into empire, including the suggestion of rejecting literacy.

  60. gwenllian says:

    (Incidentally, you don’t have to go far in modern times to find ethnicity defined by religion than by language

    Well, that depends on what your definition of far or modern times is. Public opinion on the importance of the issue has vacillated considerably over time, but the tradition of considering them different languages is not a recent one.

    What’s really funny about that tradition is that Croatian and Serbian were even standardized based on the exact same variety of Shtokavian – the speech of Eastern Herzegovina – back when South Slavic unity was the aspiration and Hungarian, German and Italian the threat. So those who want to highlight the differences between the standards are left splitting hairs pointing out every little difference between two standardizations of Eastern Herzegovinian. It’s all a bit tragicomic, really.

    Especially hilarious is the idea of a Croatian Shtokavian and a Serbian Shtokavian as different languages, but Croatian Shtokavian, Kajkavian and Chakavian in Croatia, or Serbian Shtokavian and Torlakian in Serbia, as one language. Another funny claim is that the Croatian standard incorporates elements from Chakavian and Kajkavian. That’s a straight up lie, made up on the basis of a grand total of maybe 5 words incorporated into it.

  61. Well, more like 15. But it’s not surprising that traditionally purist Standard Croatian has resisted loan words from either Chakavian or Kajkavian. The spoken varieties of neo-Shtokavian in Croatia are not so impervious.

    See also my Scots-Kajkavian analogy.

  62. I found a list of such borrowings: hrdja, imetak, klesar, krstitke, kukac, ladanja, podrobno, pospan, prah, rubac, rublje, skladatelj, spuzhva, tjedan, tlak, hrvati, hrzati, and the prefix protu- ‘anti-‘.

  63. gwenllian says:

    It’s not surprising that there is almost no Kajkavian and Chakavian influence, but in spite of that, it’s such a common assertion that the Croatian standard was built on a Shtokavan basis but with the incorporation of elements of the other two dialects.That’s definition of the Croatian standard that is taught in schools. It annoys me. It’s more or less a total fabrication meant to distance the Croatian standard from the Serbian one, and maybe toss a bone to Croatian non-Shtokavians.

    Well, more like 15.

    I’m racking my brain, but I can’t really think of any beyond the ones I had in mind. Do you (or anybody else who might be reading this) have a link to some sort of list?

    But it’s not surprising that traditionally purist Standard Croatian has resisted loan words from either Chakavian or Kajkavian.

    It should be noted that in the process of standardization, Slavic words used chiefly in Chakavian or Kajkavian were overlooked in favour of a loanword from Hungarian or Turkish used chiefly in Shtokavian. Which, considering the well-known Croatian propensity for purism, really shows the absurdity of the claim that incorporation of Kajkavian and Chakavian elements had any role in the creation of the Croatian standard.

    The Scots analogy is a good one. What happened in the end with the subtags?

    So Britons who move to the capital have some incentive to adopt local forms of speech, though it’s alien enough that they can’t do it very well, and neither can Americans.

    I feel I should add that Zagreb is nowadays firmly Shtokavian territory. Most people born in Zagreb speak a Shtokavian variety, with a dynamic accent with non-standard place of emphasis. There is usually some superficial Kajkavian influence on their speech (some vocab, future verb forms), though that varies greatly depending on the origin of a speaker’s family. So while the speech of most Zagreb natives nowadays is not very close to the standard, it’s much closer to it than to Kajkavian. Newcomers don’t feel the need to conform to local norms in any way. That sort of thing is just not really done in Croatia (or the BCS area in general, as far as I’m aware). The only non-native speakers who would try to conform to Zagreb Shtokavian are Kajkavians from neighbouring regions.

    Like Scots, Kajkavian is spoken in the northern part of one country only; like Scots, it’s much more different from the Croatian and Serbian standards than they are from each other; like Scots, it was heavily influenced by a nearby language that is *not* part of the continuum but is distantly related (Norse for Scots, Slovene for Kajkavian)

    This part is incorrect. Slovenian is no more or less part of the continuum than Kajkavian or Chakavian are. Kajkavian and Slovenian are very similar, but it’s not because of influence, it’s because they’re closely related, not distantly. There was little influence in either direction as Slovenian areas were part of Austria and most Kajkavian areas part of Hungary. But not only the varieties in the northern part of Croatia are considered Kajkavian. The speech of most of the Gorski Kotar region in the northwest is also classified as such, but apparently, it’s actually closer to dialects of Slovenian.

    like Scots, it was once a literary language and is now undergoing a revival as such.

    I’m not really sure that there’s much of a revival. Some bands use Kajkavian in their work, but that was done in the 90s, and I don’t think it’s picked up much steam since. Similarly, music in Chakavian got a lot of airplay for a very brief period in the mid-90s, but it was a flash in the pan. I don’t think young Kajkavians or Chakavians today are any more likely to create non-Shtokavian works than their parents or grandparents. I don’t ever see non-fringe non-Shtokavian writing in bookstores, though I admit that I don’t read much Croatian literature in the first place. There isn’t really any Kajkavian or Chakavian on TV, not even as comic relief. I’m sure things are different on local TV, but nobody watches local TV, or at least the young definitely don’t.

  64. gwenllian says:

    Sorry, I see you were ahead of me.

    hrdja, hrvati, hrzati

    In standard Serbian these are rđa, rvati and rzati, the only difference is the retention of intial h. I’m not sure why this would be considered non-Shtokavian, not all Shtokavian dialects drop the h in these words.

    prah

    Wait, what would be the Shtokavian word here?

  65. What happened in the end with the subtags?

    Nothing. At this point, nobody has the knowledge and the will needed to get a comprehensive solution passed, which means there is simply no way to tag palaeo-Shtokavian, Chakavian, Kajkavian, or Torlakian on the Internet except by (mis)using the standard-language tags ‘sr’, ‘hr’, ‘bs’ (there is no tag for Standard Montenegrin yet), or very generically as ‘sh’ (= Serbo-Croatian). Ditto for any of the non-standard varieties of neo-Shtokavian.

    However, ISO finally gave “Literary Kajkavian”, whatever that may be, its own 3-letter language tag.

    Slovenian is no more or less part of the continuum than Kajkavian or Chakavian are.

    Thanks for the correction. I note, though, that although in the Kingdom Slovene was officially part of S-C(-S), it was in practice treated as a separate language, and during the Socialist Republic it was officially so. So it has had Ausbau status for the last hundred years, despite the lack of Abstand.

    overlooked in favour of a loanword from Hungarian or Turkish

    Italian, Hungarian, and French (!) are considered “phonologically compatible” with Croatian, and no attempt is made to root their loanwords out. German is iffy.

    prah

    I think the point is that in the prescriptive standard it means ‘dust’ (which is what it means in Slovene and presumably in Kajkavian) as well as ‘powder’. But I’m only speculating about that. Most of the list comes from the Hrvatski jezični savjetnik, 1999 edition, to which I have no direct access and couldn’t read if I did.

    I like your nom. Llewelyn the Last’s daughter, or someone more recent?

  66. gwenllian says:

    It’s a pity a truly satisfactory solution hasn’t been found. I remember reading about this before, but I haven’t followed it properly over time. It seems Literary Kajkavian getting its own tag was featured quite a bit in the newspapers here, and inspired at least a tiny bit of discussion on the fate of Kajkavian and Chakavian and their position as dialects, something that almost never gets any mainstream media attention. Here are the articles, in case you want to take a look. Google Translate should be decent. Unsurprisingly, the headlines are mostly over the top:

    Kajkavian gets a language code, gains recognition as a language

    Kajkavian becomes a language, Chakavian on thebrink of extinction

    Kajkavian is a literary language, not a dialect

    Jembrih: Kajkavian on the world stage

    Literary Kajkavian finally gets a code and a place among world languages

    “Literary Kajkavian”, whatever that may be

    Apparently, it’s the historical variety of Kajkavian used in most of the Kajkavian literature between the 16th and 19th century, but sporadically used in the 20th as well, most notably in Krleža’s Ballads of Petrica Kerempuh (in which, among many other things, he calls out Ljudevit Gaj, leader of the Illyrian movement, as a traitor to fellow Kajkavians). So, basically, a variety of Kajkavian is recognised as a historical language, but Kajkavian still has no recognition as a living one. And I feel sorry for poor Chakavian, forgotten as always. It’s really had kind of a tragic history. Of course, while there’s plenty of literature in different Chakavian varieties, there’s never been a single Literary Chakavian variety to be recognised, and there’s so much diversity within Chakavian that many question the usefulness of the label.

    I note, though, that although in the Kingdom Slovene was officially part of S-C(-S), it was in practice treated as a separate language, and during the Socialist Republic it was officially so.

    Yes, Slovene was the language of a constituent country and a constituent people. Kajkavians (and Chakavians) have a Croatian identity, and as such are considered to be represented by Standard Croatian. And many are okay with that, even if at the same time they cared deeply about maintaining the Croatian standard recognised as a separate language in Yugoslavia. Comparing the sense of loss so many Irish seem to feel for a language of their ancestors’ ancestors to the resignation most Croatian Kajkavians and Chakavians feel about the fate of their own mother tongues, it really is amazing how national narratives shape people’s perceptions and attitudes.

    I like your nom. Llewelyn the Last’s daughter, or someone more recent?

    Thanks. Someone less recent, I guess. Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd. But mostly I just chose it because the first comment I left was on Welsh, about Y Gwyll.

  67. John Emerson says:

    Don’t have time to read the whole thing here, but the Austro-Hungarian Empire classified people according to native language. Jews were thus either Germans, Poles, Czechs or Italians. And when the chips were down, German speaking Jews were the most loyal of the Austro-Hungarian Germans, since many of the Christian Germans wanted to Austria to become part of the German Empire.

  68. gwenllian says:

    Italian, Hungarian, and French (!) are considered “phonologically compatible” with Croatian, and no attempt is made to root their loanwords out. German is iffy.

    The bit about French shocked me, so I googled it and found the source on Google Books, and Greenberg actually reports that the Savjetnik considers French a phonologically incompatible language. But just when I thought I had this figured out, he goes on to say that the Savjetnik does indeed display a special tolerance for borrowings from French, but on the basis of cultural affinity.

    Apparently, the authors recommend tolerating borrowings from lending languages of nations for which the Croats have felt cultural affinity and this especially applies to borrowings from French, Italian and Hungarian. That left me really confused. The Croats feel a cultural affinity for the French? Not that people have something against the French or their culture, but there’s no special feeling of cultural affinity to speak of. I’m really not sure why such a special tolerance should be displayed for borrowings from French over those from English and German, the other languages classified as phonologically problematic. Now I’m definitely looking up the Savjetnik, as well as other authors’ positions on the various lending languages.

  69. Bathrobe says:

    Perhaps it goes like this:

    English: Too alien. Remember we’re European.
    German: Nah, we’ve had our fill of Germans (and Austrians).
    French: International, European, and NOT German.

  70. It is no exaggeration to say that an important difference between standard literary Croatian and other South Slavlanguages (Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin) are the kajkavian and chakavian influences in the standard literary language. By “standard literary language” I mean the language of books, newspapers, law courts, schools etc – not the ordinary speech of the home and the fruit & veg markets.

    Aside from the vocabulary, the influence is also found in syntax, grammar (esp. verbal tenses) and on pronunciation (accentuation) especially in Zagreb and on the national TV.

    An example of the influence of kajkavian is apparent in “internationalisms” ie. words of greco-latin origin, such as “nacija” (nation), “demonstracija” (demonstration) etc. These words had endings -cjun, rather than -cija in the shtokavian dialect before the standardisation of Croatian at the start of the 19th century. There are other examples, but in essence, the internationalisms in the standard literary Croatian language by and large reflect the old kajkavian usage, rather than anything that was used in any other shtokavian dialect (including dialects of the other South Slav langauges) prior to the 19th century.

    I too am surprised by the reference to French in the “Savjetnik”, especially when Croatian uses forms such as “ofenzivni”, based on Latin, rather than “ofanzivni”, based on French pronunciation. Also, the vowel systems and prosody of French and Hungarian are too different to Croatian. Maybe the Savjetnik was referring to their consonant systems.

  71. @zyxt: But Standard Croatian does have nacija, doesn’t it?

  72. Yes, that’s the point: it has nacija (originally kajkavian) rather than nacjun (native shtokavian).

  73. nacija (originally kajkavian)

    But that doesn’t mean that form was borrowed from Kajkavian: it may simply be a puristic borrowing. I was quite taken by the Savjetnik’s take on the triplet kompajler (bad), kompilator (acceptable), prevodnik (preferred), all meaning ‘compiler (in computing)’.

    And I feel sorry for poor Chakavian, forgotten as always.

    Not so much forgotten as not yet put forward. Anyone can submit a new language for inclusion in the ISO registry if they are willing to fill out two rather short forms providing evidence of existence and provenance. Then SIL (in its capacity as the ISO registration authority) will mull the request and accept or reject it, normally in the following year. The fact that Literary Kajkavian got through suggests to me that there is hope for Literary Chakavian. And of course nothing prevents anyone from using this tag for not-so-literary forms of the same language, just as you can use Standard German’s tag (‘de’) for mesolects.

  74. gwenllian says:

    Perhaps it goes like this:

    English: Too alien. Remember we’re European.
    German: Nah, we’ve had our fill of Germans (and Austrians).
    French: International, European, and NOT German.

    If the Savjetnik is following an old tradition, maybe this could be it. I was about to say that almost certainly Hungarian should then get the same treatment as German, but Hungarian loanwords are way too integrated into non-coastal Shtokavian dialects, the standard’s Shtokavian purism would never stand for intolerance towards Hungarian loanwords.

    An example of the influence of kajkavian is apparent in “internationalisms” ie. words of greco-latin origin, such as “nacija” (nation), “demonstracija” (demonstration) etc. These words had endings -cjun, rather than -cija in the shtokavian dialect before the standardisation of Croatian at the start of the 19th century.

    Well, first off, all of these are the same in Standard Croatian and Standard Serbian. But more importantly, while some Shtokavian dialects, likely in Dalmatian, might have had nacjun instead of nacija, I am almost certain that the overwhelming majority of Shtokavian dialects never did, including all of the Shtokavian dialects of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. I’d love to see a cite for this claim, zyxt.

    Not so much forgotten as not yet put forward. Anyone can submit a new language for inclusion in the ISO registry if they are willing to fill out two rather short forms providing evidence of existence and provenance. Then SIL (in its capacity as the ISO registration authority) will mull the request and accept or reject it, normally in the following year. The fact that Literary Kajkavian got through suggests to me that there is hope for Literary Chakavian. And of course nothing prevents anyone from using this tag for not-so-literary forms of the same language, just as you can use Standard German’s tag (‘de’) for mesolects.

    Well, one of the problems is that there hasn’t been a Literary Chakavian, just literature in Chakavian(s). And even if there was, the fact that getting any sort of tag for Kajkavian has been a struggle, makes it unlikely that it will be achieved for Chakavian, nowadays a much smaller, more endangered, constantly shrinking language with even less activism behind it.

  75. gwenllian says:

    It is no exaggeration to say that an important difference between standard literary Croatian and other South Slavlanguages (Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin) are the kajkavian and chakavian influences in the standard literary language.

    It is absolutely not only an exaggeration, but completely untrue. All the differences between Standard Croatian and Standard Serbian (and those of other Shtokavian national languages, which are still finding themselves in terms of standardization and its acceptance among the people) are based on differences among Shtokavians (and not just any Shtokavians, but Shtokavians very close to each other) and stylistic decisions.

    By “standard literary language” I mean the language of books, newspapers, law courts, schools etc – not the ordinary speech of the home and the fruit & veg markets.

    All the influence of Kajkavian or Chakavian on the language of books, newspapers, law courts and schools is a deviation from the standard (those words John Cowan listed excepted, of course). It is considered and treated as undesirable and almost always only ocurrs as an error on the part of the person speaking/writing.

    Aside from the vocabulary, the influence is also found in syntax, grammar (esp. verbal tenses) and on pronunciation (accentuation) especially in Zagreb and on the national TV.

    The various kinds of speech heard on TV in Croatia are the ordinary speech of the home and the fruit & veg markets, as you put it. The only people who are supposed to use the standard are anchors and reporters, though how far this goes depends on the network and the type of show (the approaches usually range from “standard only” on the news to “ijekavian Shtokavian will do” on game shows and the like, with ikavian allowed sometimes). Some people appearing on TV using their native Shtokavian dialects (often influenced by Kajkavian and Chakavian), or (in the case of non-Shtokavians) using more or less the Shtokavian of the urban centre they gravitate to, are not an example of Kajkavian and Chakavian exerting influence on the standard.

  76. Things aren’t as bad as that. The Registration Authority wants to make sure it is classifying languages, not dialects, that’s all. If something has reasonably sufficient Abstand and/or Ausbau to be a language, then being endangered isn’t a problem, as there are gobs of such languages already in there (more than 7000 language tags in toto). Here are links to the registration forms (the two PDFs), which gives you an idea of the documentation that was considered sufficient for Literary Kajkavian.

    Hey, if you know the literature (primary and secondary), go for it (mutatis mutandis), or if you know someone else who does, urge them to do it. It’s important to fill these gaps where possible. And if the ISO process fails, there is the alternative process from IETF that I linked to before.

  77. gwenllian says:

    Thanks, John. It’s not that I think the Registration Authority would have a problem with the size or prospects of a language, it’s just that I don’t think there’s enough dynamism and activism in its remaining small speaker communities to do or even want to do this. Like I said, Literary Kajkavian getting a tag was covered in the media here, if one of the couple of hundred thousand remaining speakers of Chakavian or someone in academia wanted to try, they would have done it by now. I don’t have nearly enough knowledge myself, and I don’t believe I know anyone who has both an interest in making something like this happen and enough knowledge to do so.

    Also, I imagine that things might be complicated by the fact that there’s disagreement over how useful the Chakavian label is in the first place for all these diverse and often mutually unintelligible dialects.

  78. Bathrobe says:

    It sounds like you want to establish a Literary Standard for a group of dialects that is on the defensive and has no strong consciousness of itself as being worthy of having a literary standard. A tough call.

    How about Chakavian translations of Japanese manga? Publish online. You need young people involved if it’s to flourish long term. (Just a half-serious suggestion.)

  79. gwenllian says:

    a group of dialects that is on the defensive and has no strong consciousness of itself as being worthy of having a literary standard

    That about sums it up.

    It sounds like you want to establish a Literary Standard

    I think establishing a standard for Chakavian is impossible today. What would the standard look like? There is such diversity under the Chakavian label, it’s nothing like the relative uniformity of Shtokavian. People would have no reason to accept yet another standard that doesn’t at all reflect the way they speak. They already have that in Standard Croatian. Is it even possible to create a standard that would be intelligible to all Chakavians, let alone a standard which would be accepted among them? And even if a standard were created, how could it take hold when there is no mechanism to enforce it or even promote it. It might be promoted a bit on local TV channels nobody watches. Nothing much would happen.

    And from a language preservation point of view, the existence of a standard couldn’t do anything to stop the processes causing most of the deterioration – depopulation of rural areas located at a distance from the cities and urban Shtokavian migrations turning non-Shtokavian areas close to the cities into Shtokavian suburbs.

    I like your half-serious suggestion, but I don’t think there’d be much interest in that sort of thing. I don’t think there’s much interest in Standard Croatian manga translations either, my guess is people interested in manga would just read the English translations. I think the best thing for small and endangered languages is vigorous creation of original content.

  80. gwenllian says:

    Actually, now that I think of it, a mostly-Chakavian standard does exist. In Austria. The tiny community speaking Burgenland Croatian has a standard with a Chakavian basis, though many elements from Standard Croatian have been added, in an effort to increase intelligibility.

  81. Bathrobe says:

    Has it got a language code, though?

  82. per gwenllian :
    All the influence of Kajkavian or Chakavian on the language of books, newspapers, law courts and schools is a deviation from the standard (those words John Cowan listed excepted, of course). It is considered and treated as undesirable and almost always only ocurrs as an error on the part of the person speaking/writing.

    As a native štokavian speaker I shudder when I hear the kajkavian pronunciation of literary Croatian, but it is a fact that in Croatia a large proportion of the population speaks literary Croatian in that way. Such kajkavisms are taught to foreigners as well (eg. Lonely Planet’s Croatian book has “bok” as the Croatian greeting).

    As to the 15-word list, it is obvious that kajkavian has had more influence on the vocabulary of standard Croatian than the 15 words in that list. Some that spring to mind are peljati, otpeljati, peljar (pilot on ships), naputak, trsiti se, bedast, bedak, norijada (celebrations at the end of high school), pura (turkey – ie bird), steklič (member of the Croatian Party of Rights in 19th century), and any word that ends in –njak, eg. kulturnjak, privrednjak.

  83. per gwellian:
    while some Shtokavian dialects, likely in Dalmatian, might have had nacjun instead of nacija, I am almost certain that the overwhelming majority of Shtokavian dialects never did, including all of the Shtokavian dialects of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. I’d love to see a cite for this claim, zyxt.

    The pre-standardisation štokavian dialects in Bosnia, Hercegovina and Serbia did not likely use these words. For example, rather than “nacija” they used the native word “narod”. When the greco-latinate words were introduced into the vocabulary of the standard literary language at the end of the 18th and the start of the 19th century they did so through the medium of the kajkavian pronunciation of Zagreb (influenced by the Latin pronunciation) rather than the southern štokavian pronunciation of centres such as Zadar and Dubrovnik (influenced by Italian pronunciation). In summary:

    German-Hungarian pronunciation of Latin “natio” was something like “natsio” -> kajkavian pronunciation “nacija” -> standard Croatian pronunciation “nacija” -> enters other štokavian dialects through the medium of the literary language

    Italian pronunciation “nazione” or “naziun” in dialects -> southern štokavian “nacjun” -> non-standard dialectal word, possibly not even used now

  84. Bathrobe says:

    deviation from the standard

    I don’t believe this blog has ever entertained negative attitudes to “deviations from the standard”.

  85. No language code for Burgenland Croatian.

  86. David Marjanović says:

    An example of the influence of kajkavian is apparent in “internationalisms” ie. words of greco-latin origin, such as “nacija” (nation), “demonstracija” (demonstration) etc. These words had endings -cjun, rather than -cija in the shtokavian dialect before the standardisation of Croatian at the start of the 19th century.

    I’ll put it this way: The Istrian islands called Brioni in Italian are officially rendered as Brijuni. My dad, from Belgrade for linguistic purposes, says that’s a Dalmatian dialect form (probably chosen to introduce a difference to Italian) and even prefers saying Brioni.

    Speaking of my Y chromosome, my great-grandfather is buried in Niš in the same church as at least one Хаџи Hadži; I was told this title was officially granted to Christians who had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

  87. Brendan says:

    Had been wondering just recently where to start with the concept of identity and post-RE society. Thanks for this!

  88. Bathrobe says:

    At the OAPEN library mentioned by juha at the thread on open-access publishing, there is a book called Lak Chang: A reconstruction of Tai identity in Daikong. Page 12 of this book has a passage remarkably similar to the Wickham quote, including a caution against confusing linguistic grouping and the ethnic categories that may at different times be associated with it.

    “Many linguists seem now to have adopted the attitude that historical linguistics will tell us very little about the movements of people in Southeast Asia; and evidence is coming to light that surprisingly indicates not only the rapidity with which communities may change their language, but also the persistence of language in other circumstances” (quote from Wijeyewardene 1990).

    “The perplexing problem of shifting and changing ethnic boundaries among different groups in Southeast Asia has been noted by a number of ethnographers. The region is one of constant shifting of ethnic boundaries, their memberships and markers. Leach notes that any particular individual can be thought of as having a status position in several different social systems at the same time. Lehman similarly claims that entire communities might be faced at any time with a conscious choice about which ethnic group to belong to. Nicholas Tapp, in his study of the Hmong of northern Thailand, contends that it is useful to regard ethnic identity as an historical consciousness. Ethnicity is treated here as a matter of conscious choice. We select our own histories, which are the significant events for us now, isolated from the mass of events which we have truly encountered, and they become real to us. This is the constitution of a significant or a real history. What matters then is how any ethnic group defines its own ethnicity with reference to its sense of the past, and it is this sense of the past which ethnographers must try to uncover and present.”

    There is much more there on the issues involved.

  89. it is useful to regard ethnic identity as an historical consciousness.

    Very well put.

  90. A nice bit from Pollock & Maitland’s History of English Law, about the words serf and slave:

    In the main, then, all free men are equal before the law. Just because this is so the line between the free and the unfree seems very sharp. And the line between freedom and unfreedom is the line between freedom and servitude. Bracton [13C writer on English law] accepts to the full the Roman dilemma: Omnes homines aut liberi sunt aut servi. He will have no more unfreedom, no semi-servile class, no merely praedial serfage, nothing equivalent to the Roman colonatus. All men are either free or serfs, and every serf is as much a serf as any other serf.

    We use the word serf, not the word slave; but it is to be remembered that Bracton had not got the word slave. He used the worst word that he had got, the word which, as he well knew, had described the Roman slave whom his owner might kill. And the serf has a dominus ; we may prefer to render this by lord and not by master or owner, and it is worthy of observation that mediaeval Latin cannot express this distinction ; if the serf has a dominus, the palatine earl, nay, the king of England, so long as he is duke of Aquitaine, has a dominus also, and this is somewhat in the serf’s favor; but still Bracton uses the only words by which he could have described a slave and slave owner.

    True, that servus is neither the commonest nor yet the most technical name for the unfree man ; more commonly he is called villanus or nativus, and these are the words
    used in legal pleadings; but for Bracton these three terms are interchangeable, and though efforts, not very consistent or successful efforts, might be made to distinguish between them, and some thought it wrong to call the villeins serfs, still it is certain that nativus always implied personal unfreedom, that villanus did the same when employed by lawyers, and that Bracton was right in saying that the law of his time knew no degrees of personal unfreedom. Even in common practice and by men who were not jurists the word servus was sometimes used as an equivalent for nativus or villanus. The jurors of one hundred will call all the unfree people servi, while in the next hundred they will be villani. In French villein is the common word ; but the feminine of villein is nieve (nativa).

  91. Correction: mere unfreedom, not more unfreedom.

  92. gwenllian says:

    I’ve wanted to go back to this post for a while now. Can’t believe it’s been almost a year.

    It is useful to regard ethnic identity as an historical consciousness.

    Exactly!

    I don’t believe this blog has ever entertained negative attitudes to “deviations from the standard”.

    I haven’t really expressed any negativity about these deviations so far in this post, but I guess I do view them negatively in certain formal contexts. I have absolutely no objection to any kind of deviation from the standard in informal situations (although I do admit to a personal dislike of some of them, especially recent English-influenced ones). However, I believe that in conducting trials or writing documents, it should be avoided, so that as many people as possible can understand. I’m obviously not very happy that almost no Kajkavian and Chakavian was incorporated into the standard back in the 19th century, and in the extremely unlikely event some sort of change to the standard was proposed that could remedy this, I’d support it. As things stand, though, using non-standard expressions in documents should be avoided if possible, in the interest of clarity.

    No language code for Burgenland Croatian.

    I don’t think the speakers would want one. As a very small language minority, they’ve made efforts to bring their standard closer to Croatia’s, not assert it as a language of its own. There is a historical Shtokavian presence in Burgenland, but apparently the Chakavian-based standard’s closeness to Shtokavian largely comes from these efforts to be intelligible to speakers of the Croatia’s standard.

    Here’s a video with several speakers (the last three speakers are Shtokavians from Croatia).

    I’ll put it this way: The Istrian islands called Brioni in Italian are officially rendered as Brijuni. My dad, from Belgrade for linguistic purposes, says that’s a Dalmatian dialect form (probably chosen to introduce a difference to Italian) and even prefers saying Brioni.

    It’s Standard Croatian, too (bataljun, milijun, etc.), but I don’t know exactly which regions share this and which don’t. It’s definitely not just Dalmatian, and it definitely is present in Croatian dialects in Istria, too. I’m not sure what names the Croats in that part of Istria used for the islands historically, but that ultimately doesn’t really matter here, since there was just no need to change the islands’ name (and the Italian names of some of Brijuni/Brioni’s smaller individual islands). Also, Istrians, regardless of nationality, opposed it.

    I’m always against the standard-compliant version being chosen instead of the locally preferred one, but it was even worse in this case. Like trying to scrub away the traces of Italian presence. What I don’t understand is why, even with that mindset, bother with such a name change in a place like Istria. Croatia is bound by international treaty to maintain (some level of) official bilingualism in Istria. The Italian language is everywhere in Istria, even if Italians are nowadays a small minority. Why go through with name changes trying to scrub the Italian presence from these islands, when so many placenames all over Istria, including that of its biggest city, are bilingual? Not sure what they thought Brijuni would accomplish.

  93. gwenllian says:

    As a native štokavian speaker I shudder when I hear the kajkavian pronunciation of literary Croatian, but it is a fact that in Croatia a large proportion of the population speaks literary Croatian in that way.

    But the way people speak in their everyday lives doesn’t reflect the standard.

    Such kajkavisms are taught to foreigners as well (eg. Lonely Planet’s Croatian book has “bok” as the Croatian greeting).

    Bok is also not standard, but I’m very glad to hear it’s taught to foreigners. As likely the most common informal greeting in Croatia, it’s the obvious choice. And while bok is a kajkavism and has become as popular as it has due to Zagreb’s influence, Shtokavian purists and others opposing a perceived creeping dialectal threat spreading from the capital might find it at least somewhat comforting that it’s close to bog and boh, which many Shtokavians and Chakavians have used traditionally.

    As to the 15-word list, it is obvious that kajkavian has had more influence on the vocabulary of standard Croatian than the 15 words in that list. Some that spring to mind are peljati, otpeljati, peljar (pilot on ships), naputak, trsiti se, bedast, bedak, norijada (celebrations at the end of high school), pura (turkey – ie bird), steklič (member of the Croatian Party of Rights in 19th century)

    Was peljati with this standard meaning adopted from a non-Shtokavian dialect? I wish you’d given some sort of source. Either way, it’s not allowed in the standard with the most common meaning it has in non-standard speech. Peljati in its standard meaning and peljar are so rare that they might qualify as obscure.Stekliš definitely does. I don’t think of norijada as standard, and my dictionary apparently agrees.

    Without some sources, it’s hard to say much about the other words you list. Naputak is a neologism, and comes from naputiti. Is naputiti a kajkavism? Or was the neologism first used in a Kajkavian text? I’ve found a source describing trsiti se as originally Kajkavian. I haven’t been able to find anything that lists bedak or pura (which, apparently, comes from Italian peruano) were adopted into the standard from Kajkavian, but I also can’t find anything that says they weren’t. They’re not used in Serbian, for what that’s worth. And I’ve just learned that in Serbian bedak, from English bad, is a bad mood. Croatians just use bed.

    and any word that ends in –njak, eg. kulturnjak, privrednjak.

    These words are used in Bosnia and Serbia as well. Is the claim that not only the Croatian standard, but Serbian, too, feature words like stručnjak because of Kajkavian?

    The pre-standardisation štokavian dialects in Bosnia, Hercegovina and Serbia did not likely use these words. For example, rather than “nacija” they used the native word “narod”. When the greco-latinate words were introduced into the vocabulary of the standard literary language at the end of the 18th and the start of the 19th century they did so through the medium of the kajkavian pronunciation of Zagreb

    kajkavian pronunciation “nacija” -> standard Croatian pronunciation “nacija” -> enters other štokavian dialects through the medium of the literary language
    Italian pronunciation “nazione” or “naziun” in dialects -> southern štokavian “nacjun” -> non-standard dialectal word, possibly not even used now

    So are you saying that ultimately all South Slavic languages got their rendering of this Latin suffix as -ija from Kajkavian? I find that really hard to believe, but I’m way too uninformed to claim with certainty that it’s impossible. In any case, if you ever see this belated reply, I’d be interested in reading more about this if you’ve got a source.

  94. gwenllian says:

    Like trying to scrub away the traces of Italian presence. What I don’t understand is why, even with that mindset, bother with such a name change in a place like Istria. Croatia is bound by international treaty to maintain (some level of) official bilingualism in Istria. The Italian language is everywhere in Istria, even if Italians are nowadays a small minority. Why go through with name changes trying to scrub the Italian presence from these islands, when so many placenames all over Istria, including that of its biggest city, are bilingual? Not sure what they thought Brijuni would accomplish.

    I think the main goal was to dissociate the islands from Tito, but even if they decided to go through with that silly and unnecessary name change, why bother changing the names of all the small island and islets, too? To provide some sort of cover for the main motivation? The reason that was given was that it was to bring them in line with “the spirit of the Croatian language”. I can’t remember if there were other, less notorious, changes of “non-Croatian” place names at the time that this could be compared to.

    At some point, years ago, there was some talk of reversing the changes, but it never went anywhere.

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