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Southwestern and Great Basin Languages

  • C. F. Voegelin
  • F. M. Voegelin

Abstract

Those who have not been faced with the task of giving a reasonable account of languages whose varieties do not include a standard may fail to appreciate the difficulty of the task. The linguistic varieties within different native languages in the Great Basin and in the Southwest of America are easier to account for than those of aboriginal Australia, for example, because the Australian languages are virtually all related, and because any language may consist — or have consisted — of a chain of dialects such that the dialect of a given small area is intelligible to the dialects in the flanking small areas, while the dialects at the geographical ends of the linguistically interlocking or intermeshing small areas are separated by as much of a language barrier as could be expectable between any two separate languages that are in fact related, but most distantly so. Any non-contiguous dialect is apt to be not quite intelligible to its once removed neighbor; yet since adjacent dialect links in the chain are mutually intelligible, the dialect chain as a whole can be claimed to constitute a single language — though one which is not amenable to the usual criterion of intelligibility based on sharing a high percentage of cognates. The correlation alleged to exist between percentage of same or recognizable lexical items and some degree of intelligibility in dialect distance testing would yield an increase in ‘separate’ language count — but, paradoxically, would isolate ‘separate’ languages which are never separated by a language barrier at any particular point along the unbroken dialect chain. Furthermore, where the dialect chain is broken by relocation of societies in the historical or the protohistorical period, the distinction between separate languages and dialects of the same language would be impossible to attest even with the dubious definiteness of dialect distance testing of unbroken chains of dialects.

Keywords

Language Barrier Language Group Major Branch Language Family Small Nationality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. F. Voegelin
  • F. M. Voegelin

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