No Georgia in Georgia.

Another interesting passage from Kotkin’s Stalin (see this post):

In 1879, the year after Jugashvili had been born, two Georgian noblemen writers, Prince Ilya Chavchavadze (b. 1837) and Prince Akaki Tsereteli (b. 1840), had founded the Society for the Spread of Literacy Among Georgians. Georgians comprised many different groups—Kakhetis, Kartlians, Imeretians, Mingrelians—with a shared language, and Chavchavadze and Tsereteli hoped to spark an integrated Georgian cultural rebirth through schools, libraries, and bookshops. Their conservative populist cultural program intended no disloyalty to the empire. But in the Russian empire, administratively, there was no “Georgia,” just the two provinces (gubernias) of Tiflis and Kutaisi, and such was the hardline stance of the imperial authorities that the censors forbade any publication of the term “Georgia” (Gruziya) in Russian. Partly because many censors did not know the Georgian language—which was written neither in Cyrillic nor Latin letters—the censors proved more lenient with Georgian publications, which opened a lot of space for Georgian periodicals. But at the Tiflis seminary, to compel Russification, Georgian language instruction had been abolished in favor of Russian in 1872. (Orthodox services in Georgia were conducted in Church Slavonic and thus were largely unintelligible to the faithful, as they were even in the predominantly ethnic Russian provinces of the empire.) From 1875, the seminary in the Georgian capital ceased teaching Georgian history. Of the seminary’s two dozen teachers, all of whom were formally appointed by the Russian viceroy, a few were Georgian but most were Russian monks, and the latter had been expressly assigned to Georgia because of their strong Russian nationalist views.

The stupidity of tsarist policy on nationalities and nationalism never ceases to amaze me. (Quibble: Mingrelian, though related to Georgian, is actually a separate language.)

Comments

  1. Trond Engen says:

    Was the separateness of Mingrelian an established fact in 1879?

  2. I don’t know, but it hardly matters, since Kotkin is writing now (well, last year)

  3. I seem to recall reading somewhere (maybe in Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar) that whether Georgian and Mingrelian were different languages was a topic of “friendly” disagreement between Stalin and Beria. This was part of a larger pattern; Beria would have been a lumper and Stalin a splitter when it came to the languages of the Georgian region, but this had more to do with power politics than linguistics. Beria often spoke Georgian to the vozhd—playing up to Stalin while excluding the other lieutenants. Stalin, unsurprisingly, allowed this to a certain extent, but he also made the critical point of reminding Beria that they spoke different regional versions of Georgian. Beria seems to have decided that it was in his interest to de-emphasize the differences, among dialect of Georgian and, by extension, between Georgian and Mingrelian.

  4. This is partly a superficial preference of mine, stemming from an interest in historical maps and alternate history, but I hate it when any good, “venerable” land name is wiped off the administrative map. (So I appreciate that Poland still has Pomerania(s) and Silesia(s) among its voivodeships, and lament that Croatia hasn’t found a similar way to use Dalmatia.)

  5. Trond Engen says:

    He’s writing last year, but (as I read your excerpt) about the situation as perceived in 1879.

  6. But Mingrelian was a separate language then whether it was so recognized or not. You wouldn’t expect someone writing today to claim the sun revolved around the earth in ancient times, would you? I’m pretty sure he just didn’t investigate the linguistic situation very closely, and it may well be that Georgians he consulted said “Oh, Mingrelian is just a dialect of Georgian.”

  7. Georgian wikipedia page on Mingelian duly notes that “it’s even closer to Kartvelian than Svan” (~~ consider it a dialect)

  8. SFReader says:

    From Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedia:


    Due to the enclosed nature of the basin occupied, population of Kutaisi Governorate since ancient has been a kind of distinct race; most of them belong to Kartvelian group of the Caucasian peoples, but they differ in type and partly in language from their relatives – Georgians who are living mainly across the Surami ridge. In ethnographic respect population of Kutaisi Governorate which numbers 1,048,940 persons of both sexes (1892) and lives in 6 cities. 4 towns and 1613 villages. (1886), their composition is as follows: Russians 0.53%; Greeks 0.72%; Armenians 1.77%; Jews 0.76%; Georgians 1.48%; Imeretians 44.83%; Gurians 8.24%; Ajarians 6.43%; Mingrelians and Laz 23.23%; Svaneti 1.52%; Abkhazians 6.54%; Turks 3.0%; others – Poles, Persians, Kurds, Ossetians.

    Note that lumping all Kartvelian peoples into single Georgian nation is 20th century Soviet invention.

    Predominant view in 19th century was that they were all different and separate ethnic groups who speak different languages. Georgians are just one of many Kartvelian peoples and not particularly numerous at that.

  9. SFReader says:

    Brockhaus article on Caucasian languages says:

    I. Kartvelian group. To this group belong four languages: Georgian, with its dialects, Mingrelian, Laz and Svaneti. Linguistic studies have found that these languages ​​are all related to each other, but all attempts to find relatives of this language family were unsuccessful. Georgian language (see. Georgia) is spoken by:
    a) the Georgians proper living in Tiflis province. who inhabit Kartalinia and Kakheti and the Ingiloys – Muslim Georgians living in Zakatala District;
    b) the Georgians-highlangers who also live in Tiflis province.: Khevsurs, Pshav and most of the residents of Tusheti;
    c) Imeretians and Gurians (in Kutaisi Province.);
    d) Ajarians, Kobuletians and all Georgians living in the former Batumi region.
    For manuals for learning the Georgian language – see. Prof. A. Tsagareli, “The grammatical literature of the Georgian language” (St. Petersburg,. 1873).
    Mingrelian language is spoken mainly by Kartvelian population of Kutaisi Province. Grammatical Literature: A. Tsagareli, “Mingrelian Etudes: I. Mingrelian texts with translation and explanation. II. Phonetics of Mingrelian language” (St. Petersburg,. 1880); cm. Also: “Mingrelian texts” (in the “Collection of materials for describing places and tribes of the Caucasus,” Vol. II, Dep. II, 1890, and vol. XVIII, 1894, Dep. I).
    Laz – language of the Laz occupying part of the Black Sea Coast and the left bank of the lower reaches of Chorokh in Batumi District and Kutaisi province. The bulk of the Laz live in Turkey, See: Lazistan. Tongues of the Laz and Mingrelians are closer to one another compared with other ​Kartvelian languages​.
    Svanetian language is spoken by a small mountain tribe living in the upper valleys of Inguri and Tskhenis-Tskhali rivers. Attempts for grammatical study of the Svaneti language were made by PK Uslar (seehis article Uslar: “Ethnography of the Caucasus”, Dep. II) and A. Gren (see. “The collection of materials to describe places and tribes Caucasus “, vol. X, 1890).

  10. Contemporary Russian media, directed by the state, tends to play up the differences between the Mingrelians and the speakers of Georgia proper. This is another instance of the old divide et impera strategy to weaken one’s neighbours. Russian attempts to ratchet up Mingrelian-Georgian tension may have worked had it not been for the arrival of thousands of refugees from Abkhazia in Mingrelia, which made many people in the region bitter of Russia’s influence, and of course the 2008 war didn’t help either.

    But having spent a lot of time in Mingrelia (my favourite part of the country), I’ve always been struck by how many Mingrelians firmly identify with a Georgian identity and don’t mind the national language being something different from their own. The comparison I’ve always thought of is Gheg and Tosk Albanian. Kosovars don’t seem to mind that the founding documents of their state are written in a language from rather far away, and if you were to suggest to Kosovars that the Albanians from south of the Shkumbin River are aiming to wipe them out, they’ll think you an idiot: they see other Albanians as brothers even if historically mutual intelligibility has been low.

    That said, it’s a pity that Mingrelian is clearly on the way out. The very negative attitude of many Mingrelians to writing their language down (“Mingrelian is just for speaking”) is enough to doom the language regardless of any pressures from a central government in Tbilisi.

  11. A better analogy might be Arvanites and Greeks, since Georgian and Mingrelian have a time-depth separation more like Albanic vs. Hellenic than Gheg vs. Tosk.

  12. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    ” Georgian and Mingrelian have a time-depth separation more like Albanic vs. Hellenic than Gheg vs. Tosk.”

    That’s interesting because the morphology and vocabulary given in the wikipedia article look highly similar, like two Slavic languages I would say. Either both languages are extremely conservative or that sample vocabulary is very unrepresentative of the whole.

  13. David Eddyshaw says:

    According to George Hewitt this question is very explosive politically.
    From his “Georgian, A Structural Reference Grammar”:

    “Any attempt to argue for the non-Georgian status of Mingrelians and Svans regularly excites a ferocious response in Georgia.”

    which he sets in the context of post-Soviet Georgian attempts to suppress internal linguistic diversity (ever the evil twin of modern attempts at nation-building.)

    Hewitt is apparently very much persona non grata in Georgia, and has a personal stake in the matter (specifically over Abkhazia.)
    It’s fairly easy to find the relevant stuff on-line, and as I know nothing about it myself I won’t comment. The Russian de facto annexation of Abkhazia on the pretext of protecting the locals has naturally made the entire issue very toxic.

    The actual linguistic facts certainly seem to speak for Mingrelian as a separate language from Georgian, albeit quite close (pace JC), with Svan quite a bit more distant. Laz seems to be in a subgroup along with Mingrelian (Hewitt’s book again.)

    “Beria” is IIRC, a Mingrelian name.

  14. David Eddyshaw says:
  15. Thanks to everyone, and SFReader and Christopher Culver in particular, for extremely enlightening comments!

  16. SFReader says:

    – non-Georgian status of Mingrelians and Svans

    There is some terminological confusion which perhaps was created deliberately.

    In Georgian, the country of Georgia is called Sakartvelo – land of Kartvelians (not land of Georgians proper!).

    Hence, it is simply impossible to argue in Georgian that Mingrelians and Svans are not Kartvelebi (word which can mean both Georgians and Kartvelians at the same time)

    For analogy, let’s analyze this sentence: “The Welsh and Scots are British, but they are not English.”

    This argument would be quite impossible to make if the same word was used for both English and British.

  17. SFReader says:

    The Georgian language is called Kartuli (Kartlian). The problem is that Kartlians are just one part of Georgians proper (or perhaps we should term them Kartuli-speakers?) who also include

    Imeretians
    Gurians
    Adjarians
    Meskhetians
    Lechkhumian
    Rachians
    Kakhetians
    Khevsurians
    Tushs
    Pshavians
    Mokhevians
    Javakhians

    and a few more.

    They all speak dialects of same language and their common name is Kartvelebi, term which can also apply to Mingrelians, Svan and Laz people who speak languages different from Georgian.

    And hence all the confusion.

    Similar difficult exists in Spain, I believe. Spanish language, called Castilian, is spoken natively not just by people of Castille region, but also in Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Canary islands, Cantabria, etc.

    The only common name for these people is obviously Spanish, but Catalans, Basques, Galicians, etc, are also Spanish!

    Perhaps they could be called Castilian-speaking Spanish or something.

  18. OT, languagehat, but I’m looking forward to your next post also being titled “No X in Y.”

  19. This argument would be quite impossible to make if the same word was used for both English and British.

    In the imperial language of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (an amazing novel I heartily recommend to anyone who has ever enjoyed science fiction), “Radch” means both ‘The Empire’ and ‘civilization’ (yes, I presume she had the Raj in mind), so it is impossible to say that a Radchaai (citizen) is not civilized, or that a non-Radchaai is civilized.

  20. OT, languagehat, but I’m looking forward to your next post also being titled “No X in Y.”

    Funnily enough, I didn’t even notice that until I was posting it and saw the title of the previous post. Reminds me of the time I posted three times in a row using Latin titles, entirely without premeditation.

  21. “The Welsh and Scots are British, but they are not English.”
    This stuff is making my head spin… I think there’s a big divide between what people identify with in their heads and “formal” identifications…

    This conversation reminds me a little of my childhood. When my family moved from Soviet Kiev to Chicago back in the early 1980’s – whenever I would tell my grandmother that I made a new friend in school, she would ask “Is he Russian?” To her that meant “Is he a non-Jew”, since that’s what she’d call gentiles in Kiev, regardless whether they were Russian or Ukrainian. But in school, Americans called us Russians – even though in our eyes we were Jews, or at best applying their logic – “Ukrainians”

  22. Most Georgian names ending in -ia are Mingrelian, including both Beria and Georgia’s first post-independence president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

    Most of the Georgians (sensu lato) in Abkhazia are Mingrelian, which may be one reason the Russian state (and Hewitt) are keen to push the line of Mingrelians as a separate nationality.

    The discussion of Mingrelian beginning on the penultimate page of this 2011 presentation on “The Caucasian Languages: Nation-building, alphabetization and Soviet language policy” by Kevin Tuite may be of interest. (Actually the whole thing is pretty interesting, although naturally being a series of slides it doesn’t go into as much detail as one would like.)

  23. I think there’s a big divide between what people identify with in their heads and “formal” identifications

    In this case, I think it’s a divide between Yanks (including ex-Soviet/Ukrainian/Russian/Jewish Yanks) and Brits/UKanians. I’m pretty sure few of the latter have problems processing “The Welsh and Scots are British, but they are not English,” but it’s always difficult for Americans.

  24. @languagehat,

    As an “ex-Soviet/Ukrainian/Russian/Jewish Yank” I had to watch this video to understand:

    The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNu8XDBSn10)

  25. An excellent video! My quibble is that he doesn’t know how to pronounce Akrotiri and Dhekelia, but that’s to be expected and quite forgiveable; I’m guessing that those who are from the places discussed will have more substantial complaints, but we’ll have to wait and see.

  26. The discussion of Mingrelian beginning on the penultimate page of this 2011 presentation on “The Caucasian Languages: Nation-building, alphabetization and Soviet language policy” by Kevin Tuite may be of interest. (Actually the whole thing is pretty interesting, although naturally being a series of slides it doesn’t go into as much detail as one would like.)

    That’s great, and I’ve already bookmarked it for future reference — lots of good detailed material. Do you (or does anyone) happen to know how Tuite is pronounced?

  27. My quibble is that he refers to the other countries that follow the queen as “the Commonwealth realm”, collectively. Each one of them is a Commonwealth realm.

  28. J. W. Brewer says:

    Just loosely on the topic of lumper/splitter approaches to ethnicity and self-identification I just saw via social media a post by a young lady of my acquaintance with a picture of some intake form she had had to fill out as a new patient at some medical office. The form asked her “race,” and she filled in the blank with “Slav.” Which is probably not what they were looking for . . .

  29. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Mingrelian/Georgian issue seems to be analogous to the question of Chinese languages/dialects. Mingrelian speakers by the sound of it are (nowadays, anyway) perfectly happy to self identify as Georgians, almost as Cantonese speakers would be mystified at the idea that they might be anything but Chinese.

    Modern nationalist ideology does not readily accommodate a mismatch between language and ethnicity; so much so, that rather than admit that fellow-nationals may indeed speak different first languages, it is ever more loudly proclaimed that they are all IN FACT speaking the same language (even if they can’t actually understand one another.) Or (more rationally, I suppose) efforts are made to wipe out the aberrant languages, an effort which always starts by calling them “dialects.’

    And conversely, of course; Serbs and Croats are different “nations”, so of course they must speak different languages.
    “I am actually speaking Rigellian. By an astonishing coincidence both of our languages are exactly the same.”

    “British.”

    Non-English Brits do indeed dislike being labelled as English, though they may be either too polite or too wearily resigned to say so.

    For anaplastic individuals like myself, it is convenient that there is a handy label for those who do not identify with any of the four “nations” fully. (Well, I have sadly no claim on Irishness, as I have remarked before.)

    There is also a somewhat fraught question regarding assimilation: while there is no difficulty with the concept of an immigrant becoming “British”, not everyone would accept that it is actually possible to become “English.” The concept is much more blood-and-soilish (unjustifiably; I’m describing, not approving.)

  30. Greece is another example; as I wrote here:

    The Greek government announced [after the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey] that Greece was now ethnically homogeneous, and from then on ethnic minorities (principally Turks, Macedonian Slavs, Albanians, Vlachs, and Romá [Gypsies; note that Romá is the plural of Rom]) were either ignored or repressed, depending on the political situation. The official attitude is that everyone in Greece is Greek; attempts to discuss, say, the Slavic minority will be met with a denial that there is such a thing—people in the villages you mention may speak with a distinct accent, but certainly not in a different language.

  31. Just for more fun – there’s a video out there where some joker took clips from Shrek and put them to a song (pretty good actually, seems to kind of match the lyrics when I read the translation). The video is called Chechen Shrek ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7UWpLgsQe0 ). But then the commenters started complaining that it’s not Chechen, but Ingush, But then another video of the same song ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1PJCfdVCS4 ), people are saying that although the song is Ingush, the words are actually Circassian. Are the languages all that similar that people can’t agree what they’re hearing?

  32. Crap, I just found another version of the song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEfnP7H2Oj8) – this one sounds very different, but the commenter says it’s Adyghe (which apparently is a type of Circassian).

  33. As I understand it, Chechen and Ingush are closely related, but I don’t think either could be mistaken for Circassian.

  34. There’s some discussion of Circassian/Adyghe here and here.

  35. Indeed, the time is coming (if it has not already) when “British” will be a nationality in the UK, comprising people who no longer identify with any foreign ethnic origin but who are neither English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, nor Cornish. That time has long since come in the U.S.: a friend of mine, when asked “Where do your ancestors come from?”, replies “Kansas City”, since that is as far back as he can trace them (his name is not ethnically identifiable).

    It has been possible in the fairly recent past to become English: Tolkien was very proud to be not only English but a Worcestershire man, though he was born in Bloemfontein and bore a German surname < tollkühn ‘foolhardy’, about which he said:

    My great-great-grandfather came to England in the 18th century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject — which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war [1914-18], in which I served in the English army.

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    According to Johanna Nichols’ grammar of Ingush, Ingush and Chechen are not mutually comprehensible, but “because of widespread passive partial knowledge of standard lowlands Chechen by Ingush, they function to some extent as a single speech community. (Highland Chechen varieties are quite distinct.)”

    It has always been possible to become English, of course. If (absit omen) the UK does break up with the secession of Scotland, then presumably naturalisation in England will become thought of pretty automatically as “becoming English”; the current situation is a peculiar artefact of the nature of the UK.

    TS Eliot comes to mind as the most thoroughgoing example of becoming English (as opposed to British) imaginable. Possibly to the degree of becoming more Catholic than the Pope (so to speak.)

  37. J. W. Brewer says:

    I thought I’d test the assimilation-to-Englishness-v.-Britishness question for one U.K. minority group that is on average of not all that recent vintage of arrival via the google books n-gram viewer. But the n-gram viewer tells me that singular “English Jew” remains more common than singular “British Jew,” although not by nearly as great a margin as was true a century ago, but that plural “British Jews” is more common than plural “English Jews” and those trendlines crossed circa 1945. This seems rather puzzling, although I suppose further investigation might reveal that singulars and plurals tend to be used in different sorts of contexts?

  38. Trond Engen says:

    I agree on the parallels with Greek and Albanian: Both are examples of the national ambitions gaining force at that time, and both have been suppressing internal diversity that make them language families rather than single languages. I’ll also invoke the models of Germany and Italy. Just in those years, both achieved national unity after centuries of language unification. For nationbuilders of the 19th century it was very clear that by forging a national language, they defined a center of gravity. Did the Georgian nationbuilders, of any linguistic variety, consider their internal diversity to undermine the idea of the nation? Apparently not. Or they saw it as somehing that could, and should, be overcome, since that’s what great nations do.

    The descriptions of lingusitic distance are all over the place. I like that, it’s interesting. I’m in no position to judge, but I’ll say that “as different as Greek and Albanian” sounds very improbable unless the speech communities have been shuffled around so that continuity was broken for a long time and well beyond repair when speakers came back in contact. And counting diverging features is no way to decide the question of dialect or language anyway. If speakers act as a community, they are a community. I’ll repeat my definition that a language is a group of speech varieties that (diachronically) share a common ancestor and (synchronically) converge on the same set of ideals.

  39. David Eddyshaw says:

    I suspect recentness-of-arrival is quite an important determinant, along (alas) with “recognisably different-looking.”

    To be a bit more charitable to my fellow-countrymen, I think part of it is cultural rather than “racial”; lovers of warm beer and cricket with lukewarm attachment to any organised religion, of whatever appearance, probably get to be “English” pretty rapidly. (TS Eliot must have had a special exemption, or perhaps just a prize for determined effort.)

    In general I think this is all changing for the better; my own Sprachgefuehl may well be obsolete by now. Although the Young are foolish and irresponsible and generally a menace who should get off my lawn, in matters like these they are happily a great improvement on their elders.

    The rise in use “British Jews” could be due to the war and the contrast of the situation of all UK Jews with all European Jews. A crossover around 1945 is maybe suggestive.

  40. David Eddyshaw says:

    Japan and France are good examples of nation-states that quite consciously, as official policy, set out to eliminate linguistic diversity as part of nation-manufacturing.

    “Pour l’unité linguistique de la France, la langue bretonne doit disparaître”

  41. TS Eliot must have had a special exemption, or perhaps just a prize for determined effort.

    But did the English actually think of him as English, or did they smile wryly behind his back at his affectations? That’s something I’ve wondered about.

  42. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Hat:

    Good question. I don’t know. Personally I have to do a sort of mental wrench to remember that he was, in point of fact, American.

    But I suspect that he managed to pass as a perfectly normal English – poet. To a traditional Englishman, I would think that mere Americanity would fade into invisibility as an eccentricity compared with Poetry.

  43. J. W. Brewer says:

    The “Afro-Caribbean” incomers after WW2 tended to like cricket quite a lot (but see the “Tebbit test”) although I can’t say I know much about the temperature at which they drank their beer. Maybe that’s something Enoch Powell could have talked to them about if they weren’t assimilating well, beer-temperature-wise? (And of course sometimes you want something a bit stronger if you are following tropical norms — Jamaica-brewed Dragon Stout is exactly twice as alcoholic as Yorkshire-brewed Tetley’s, although I like them both in their proper place.)

  44. SFReader says:

    -“Pour l’unité linguistique de la France, la langue bretonne doit disparaître”

    If Italo-Celtic theory is right, Breton and French could be as close to each other as Mingrelian and Georgian…

  45. Trond Engen says:

    I learn that the estimates of age of the splits are based on glottochronology. How did they calibrate the measure? And aren’t there reasons to suspect that lexical replacement at times can be significantly faster in a multi-lingual region like the Caucasus? Wikipedias tables of morphological correspondences seem to be telling a different story. For Mingrelian-Georgian I’d say we’re well within the range of Italian or German. Svan obviously represents a deeper split, but based on geography it might well be the conservative highland variety(-ies) of (say) “West Kartvelian”, while “Lowland West Kartvelian” kept innovating as part of the greater Kartvelian language community. It would be interesting to see how internal variation in the three modern languages compare to the classification.

  46. Trond Engen says:

    Svan obviously represents a deeper split

    Than Mingrelian from Georgian, I mean, not necessarily than German or Italian internal splits.

  47. Trond Engen says:

    None of this is to say that I reject the languageness of Mingrelian, or that I find merit in the argument either way. I’m a nobody with no way to judge. I just think the default position should be shades and continuums rather than sharp edges. And when there is a sharp line between closely related languages, like between Danish, Frisian and Low German, or between Catalan and Castillian, that’s an anomaly in need of an explanation.

  48. Trune, stop being so humble. You’re not that great.

  49. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, you. <blush>

  50. Indeed, the time is coming (if it has not already) when “British” will be a nationality in the UK, comprising people who no longer identify with any foreign ethnic origin but who are neither English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, nor Cornish.

    A substantial fraction of Northern Irish Unionists have fit this description for decades; the other populations for whom it is well-established are the llanitos and probably the Falkland Islanders.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if many people fitting this description, of Subcontinental or Afro-Caribbean background, developed Englishness on moving to Scotland or Ireland.

  51. I’m not surprised about the people from the British Overseas Territories, though some might have a nationality of their own. The Channel Islanders and the Manx surely do. I am surprised that even Unionists wouldn’t think of themselves as Irish or Scots as the case might be.

  52. David Marjanović says:

    The very negative attitude of many Mingrelians to writing their language down (“Mingrelian is just for speaking”) is enough to doom the language regardless of any pressures from a central government in Tbilisi.

    That alone is not enough – or there wouldn’t be any German dialects left. Mine “is just for speaking” and lives in stable diglossia in a city of 200,000 people.

    For Mingrelian-Georgian I’d say we’re well within the range of Italian or German.

    But then, Slavic is well within the range of Italian or German…

    […] the default position should be shades and continuums rather than sharp edges. And when there is a sharp line between closely related languages, like between Danish, Frisian and Low German, or between Catalan and Castillian, that’s an anomaly in need of an explanation.

    Yep.

  53. David M.—I thought you’d said somewhere Viennese is in retreat, no?

  54. David Marjanović says:

    Yes. My native dialect isn’t Viennese; I’m from Linz (some 200 km to the west of Vienna), and Vienna has 1.6 million inhabitants. I was very surprised when we moved to Vienna when I was 11 and didn’t find the same diglossia there.

  55. “Radch” means both ‘The Empire’ and ‘civilization’ (yes, I presume she had the Raj in mind), so it is impossible to say that a Radchaai (citizen) is not civilized, or that a non-Radchaai is civilized.

    This seems a little thick, not to say pop-Whorfian, to me. The U.S. manages to have citizens who don’t live in cities, and I know that barbarians don’t have to behave barbarically or speak barbarously, though my linguistic ancestors obviously thought the three concepts were correlated if not identical.

    Although the Young are foolish and irresponsible and generally a menace who should get off my lawn

    This seems to be a good place to bring up a theory I’ve been nurturing about the development of peevery in the old: that it is a matter of mistaking language change for age-grading. An example from my own experience: when my daughter was six or seven, I heard her saying real quick a lot, and although I am all for flat adverbs, this double flat adverb seemed like the kind of mistake (for really quick(ly)) that kids make. Consequently, when I hear it now from late-twentysomething colleagues, I think (but don’t say, to be sure): “Real quick, indeed! What are you, six?” But of course my daughter is herself a late-twentysomething now, and this is simply a change that for me continues to seem childish because I first heard it from a child (another example of the above: not all childish persons are children nor vice versa).

  56. Funny, I don’t think of real quick that way at all — it seems perfectly normal, if a tad dialectal (I guess I associate it with the Ozark half of my family), and I haven’t noticed any increase in use lately. But then I haven’t been hanging out with twentysomethings.

  57. Yes, it was dialectal, but apparently has gone mainstream, so that is the change, rather than its creation from scratch.

  58. Alon Lischinsky says:

    [real quick] was dialectal, but apparently has gone mainstream

    It’s certainly become more common, but it was certainly well-established 20 years ago. The expression is attested in print since the 19th century (though typically in dialogue), and it was already considered acceptable (if “at the outer edge of acceptability”) by pretty prescriptive sources in 1946.

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