Thursday, 11 May 2017

Sever Pop's Dialectology (La dialectologie, 1950) - Introduction, Part 1 (1088-1799)

This is the first part of Sever Pop's introductory outline of the history of dialectology, covering the eight centuries from the founding of the first medieval university in Bologna, until just after the French Revolution. For most of this period, it is really the history of linguistics in general that Pop is describing. He takes special care to point out important developments outside of France and Germany: in Spain and Portugal; Denmark, Sweden, and Norway; England, Wales, and Ireland; and, of course, his native Romania. Pop also reallocates the credit for some famous discoveries to earlier scholars: Filippo Sassetti "underlined the identity of Sanskrit and many European languages" in the 16th century, that is, "well before William Jones"; Gregorio Mayans y Siscar laid out, albeit "in rudimentary fashion, the laws which determine the evolution of the [Spanish] language, preceding Friedrich Diez by a century"; and so forth. Similarly, sociolinguists may be pleasantly surprised to learn, for example, that as early as the 18th century, the linguists Jeronimo Contador de Argote (in Portugal) and Martín Sarmiento (in Spain) were recommending that children first be taught the grammar of their own native language, before applying this knowledge to learn a standard language (Latin). The second part of Pop's introduction will also contain surprises, for example, the fact that as early as 1884, an urban dialect was the object of a linguistic investigation (C. Salvioni's study of Milan), or that Gaston Paris was not the first to call for the study of very localized differences in speech varieties: the Swedish linguist J. A. Lundell preceded Paris, writing that "it is not enough to study dialects province by province; we must study them canton by canton, parish by parish, sometimes even village by village". But leaving aside the issue of who wrote what first, the great achievement of this initial part of Pop's introduction is his evocation of the whole ambit of European linguistic scholarship, starting with the curiosity of medieval travelers, leading through the grammatical rediscoveries of the Renaissance, and gradually evolving into modern linguistics. The section closes with Pop describing a fascinating three-way political contrast just before the close of the 18th century: in France, the leaders of the new Republic had declared war on the patois, which symbolized the counter-revolution and were thought to stand in the way of equality; in Germany, local dialects were seen as merely "boorish and incorrect"; but in Scandinavia, dialectology was supported politically, as "a movement of national awakening, directed against German influence, reinforced the spirit of Scandinavian unity". And all these observations are truly only introductory; at every turn, Pop refers to the place where a given topic will be addressed in great detail, later in his book.


Romanism is the domain that lends itself best to an illustration of linguistic developments, and the one where the methods appropriate for the history of languages allow for the best discussion. (Antoine Meillet, Bulletin de la Societé de Linguistique de Paris (1910), v. XXIV, n. 74, p. 80).

It was only at the end of the 18th century that dialects retained the attention of linguists in a consistent manner; previously, research focused mainly on the problem of the formation of literary languages ​​and the evolution of language (1), as the theories of antiquity in this area no longer satisfied scholars (2). For centuries, solutions to these questions were relentlessly sought. It would be unfair not to give at least an overview of the work and events that paved the way for modern linguistics. We will mention, of course, only the most important ones.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the first universities were founded in Bologna (1088), Paris (1150), and Padua (1222). These became important centers for the study of law and history. Every researcher considered it a sort of duty to go and study in Italy (p. 475). (Unless otherwise indicated, I refer in this chapter to the corresponding pages of my study.)

In the twelfth century, Giraldus Cambrensis (Girald Barry or Gerald of Wales), nephew of the bishop of St. David's and chaplain to Henry II [of England], undertook a voyage to Ireland and thus had the opportunity to collect materials for his Topography of Ireland, which in 1187 was read publicly at Oxford over the course of three days (Biographie Universelle). He made three trips in his lifetime to Italy, and affirmed, in his work Descriptio Cambriæ [A description of Cambria] (Cambria being the Latinized form of Cymru, Welsh for Wales)] (1194), that he observed an intimate relationship among Welsh, Greek, and Latin. He was led to express this thesis, Victor Tourneur affirms, because, like Gildas and Nennius, he believed in the Trojan origin of the Bretons (Esquisse d'une histoire des études celtiques (1905), p. 10) (pp. 928-929).

In 1246, the Society of Notaries of Bologna made the first attempts towards the unification of Italian: it required candidates for the notary degree to have public knowledge of the Scriptures in the vernacular (pp. 474, note 3).

At the beginning of the 14th century, Dante demonstrated the linguistic unity of Europe and the Romance-speaking countries; he reviewed the Italian dialects, which he divided into fourteen categories, and founded, upon them, the written language of which he is the principal creator. Thanks to him, Italian underwent focusing earlier than the other Romance languages, and served as an example for the others (pp. 474-475).

The attempts of the bourgeoisie of Toulouse, also at the beginning of the 14th century, to defend the langue d'oc (3), had no appreciable result (see page 283).

The Renaissance taught the peoples of Europe and, above all, grammarians, how the Greeks, and then the Romans, were able to impose their language on conquered peoples, and that it is necessary to codify a language for it to become a means of national expansion (L. Kukenheim Ez., Contribution à l'histoire de la grammaire italienne [Contribution to the history of Italian grammar], p. 202. From then on, grammarians considered themselves capable of directing the development of languages by imposing rules on them, rules which were often supported by the authority of the State.

King Edward [or Duarte] of Portugal, in his work O Leal Conselheiro [The Loyal Counselor], gave indications of how to translate [Latin] into Portuguese (pp. 441-442), and recognized, for example, that the Portuguese term saudade "regret" has no equivalent in other languages.

In the same period, the Italian Flavio Biondo da Forlì (who signed his name Blondus Forliviensis) held that spoken Italian is nothing other than a normal continuation of ancient Latin (cf. Encyclopedia Italiana) and that it is possible to prepare a grammar of the "vulgar" language [or vernacular] (p. 475).

The Spaniard Elio Antonio Nebrija published in 1492, after a ten-year-long trip in Italy, the first grammar of a Romance language; for this reason, the scholar A. Griera considers him as the father and founder of modern philology (pp. 387-388).

At the end of the 15th century, the Lord's Prayer (Oraison dominicale) was first used to reveal aspects of languages that were almost unknown at that time. This was the case in The Travels of Johannes Schiltberger of Munich in Europe, Asia and Africa from 1394 to 1427 [Reisen des Johannes Schiltberger aus München in Europa, Asia und Afrika von 1394 bis 1427], which achieved considerable success; it had six editions in the 15th century, the latest of which was dated Frankfurt, 1494. (Cf. the edition published by Valentin Langmantel, Hans Schiltbergers Reisebuch nach der Nürnberger Handschrift herausgegeben (Tübingen, 1884, in 8º, pp. v-197), which contains specimens of the Lord's Prayer in Tatar (p. 38) and Armenian (p. 157).)

In the 16th century, the impulse of the Renaissance clearly showed itself in the field of grammar. Over the course of this century, Italy produced nearly sixty grammars, France more than thirty-five and Spain some twenty (p. 475). The number of foreigners frequenting Italian universities was remarkable (p. 475).

The Italian cardinal Pietro Bembo, one of the most famous writers of the 16th century, methodically taught, in his work Prose della volgar lingua [Writings on the vulgar tongue] (1st edition, Venice, 1525), the rules of the Tuscan language, and strongly influenced the activity of Baldassare Castiglione, whose Book of the Courtier [Il cortegiano] (printed in 1528) would serve as a sort of model for the Spaniard Juan de Valdés. The latter considered the language of the Court as the supreme norm, and discovered Pre-Roman, Germanic and Arab elements in Spanish, beside the prevailing Latin elements. Juan de Valdés, moreover, recognized certain phonetic evolutions, and the role of homonymy in language economy (4); he also raised questions about the borrowed words that must have enriched Spanish (pp. 388-389).

In the first half of the 16th century, the first measures were taken against the use of dialects. In effect, the Acts of Union of England and Wales (of 1535) contained, in its third clause, a provision that stipulated that "from henceforth no person or persons that use the Welsh speech or language, shall have or enjoy any manner of office or fees within this realm of England, Wales, or other of the King's Dominion...unless he or they use and exercise the English speech or language" (p. 928). Three years later (in 1539), identical measures were taken in France by François I in his Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts (p. 9).

The Hebraist, geographer, and mathematician Sebastian Münster, in his work Cosmographia Universalis (in Latin and German, 1544), mentions some words belonging to the speech of the Transylvanian Saxons, in order to shed light on the linguistic commonality between those varieties and the German varieties of Moselle Franconian (p. 783).

The Welshman William Salesbury founded Welsh lexicography, first composing (c. 1546) a collection of proverbs and later (in 1547) a Welsh-English dictionary allowing the Welsh to acquire knowledge of English (p. 929). He also edited a treatise on Welsh pronunciation for the use of Englishmen living in Wales (p. 929)

In 1549, Joachim du Bellay published his Défense et illustration de la langue française [A defense and an illustration of the French language], considered the manifesto of the school of Ronsard or the Pléiade, where he demonstrated ways of enriching French: the borrowing of Greek and Latin words, the formation of compound words, as well as the use of dialect terms. A good part of his work is a literal translation of Dialogo delle lingue [Dialogue on languages], composed seven years earlier by Sperone Speroni, which proves the importance of the Italian example in the formation of the French language (H. Scheidegger).

A Swiss doctor and naturalist, Conrad Gessner or Gesner (1516-1565) (who took courses with the famous French legal counselor Jacques Cujas, studied philology and Hebrew, and under the direction of the Swiss Jean Frisius, Eastern languages, and who was the author of books on medicine and zoology) published the first collection of 22 specimens of the Lord's Prayer. For him, establishing the relationships among languages was one of the researcher's most important tasks; like all his contemporaries, he considered Hebrew to be the purest language. From this date on, versions of the Lord's Prayer [in different languages] increased, and every scholar took on the duty of gathering such specimens. The way was also opened for investigations by correspondence (cf. pp. 783-784).

The Italian merchant and man of letters Filippo Sassetti (1540-1588) traveled from Lisbon to India and sent letters from there to Italy, where he gave valuable information on the languages of that country. In his second letter (1585), he highlights the identity of Sanskrit and many European languages, thus exhibiting an empirical intuition of linguistic relationships well before William Jones at the end of the 18th century (Enciclopedia italiana).

In 1584, Leonardo Salviati undertook the translation of twelve Italian dialects of Italy and the ninth story of the first day of Boccacio's Decameron, in order to shed light on the differences between written and spoken language (pp. 477-478). The vocabulary published by the Accademia della Crusca, whose publication was due to Salviati's proposal, would have a large influence on similar works appearing later (p. 475).

At the beginning of the 17th century, the educated Welshman Edward Lhuyd affirmed that all the languages called Celtic are closely related; for this reason Victor Tourneur considers him the first founder of comparative Celtic philology.

In 1630, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden recommended, in an official resolution, the study of dialects and place names (p. 852, note i).

In the second half of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th, the philosopher G. W. Leibniz sought to enrich the literary German language with words of dialect origin, according great importance to all the languages of the Germanic language family; he often obtained more precise information by correspondence (p. 783).

In his work Atlantica (Uppsala, 1675), the Swedish scholar Olof Rudbeck the Elder (1630-1702), distinguished doctor and botanist, claimed to have found Plato's Atlantis in Sweden. His son, Olof Rudbeck the Younger (1660-1740) traveled in Lapland and pursued medicine and philology; he supported the idea of a relationship between the Hebrews, Lapps, Goths, Chinese, etc.

At the end of the century, the English philologist and antiquarian George Hickes (1642-1715) affirmed, throughout his book Institutiones Grammaticae Anglo-Saxonicae et Moeso-Gothicae [Grammatical Institutes of Anglo-Saxon and Moeso-Gothic] (Oxford, 1689), that English, Saxon, etc. derive from Moeso-Gothic, and Icelandic, Swedish, Danish, etc. from Suevo-Gothic; Hicks made a table of the relations between these languages and Greek, Latin and franco-théodisque [Old High German]. He also treated the dialects of Anglo-Saxon [Old English] (cf. Ch. Pougens, Essai sur les antiquités du Nord [Essay on Norse (5) antiquities], 2nd edition, Paris, 1799, pp. 22-33).

In the course of the 18th century, works concerning dialectology, either directly or indirectly, were numerous. I can only mention those which seem to me the most characteristic.

In 1711, the Orientalist Johann Joachimus Schroeder (1680-1756) published, in Amsterdam, an Armenian grammar, entitled Thesaurus linguae Armenicae Antiquae et Hodiernae [Thesaurus of the Armenian language of antiquity and today] (in quarto).

The Portuguese Jeronimo Contador de Argote supported the idea of teaching students the grammar of the vernacular first, before making them understand Latin grammar (6); he devoted, four years later (in 1725), a chapter to Portuguese dialects (p. 442).

The Minim Sauveur-André Pellas published, in 1723, a Provençal-French dictionary (p. 283).

In Sweden, Archbishop Erik Benzelius engaged his priests (and earlier, his students in Uppsala) to make note of provincialisms, thereby inaugurating investigation by correspondence in that country (p. 852, note).

The monk Martín Sarmiento undertook, from 1730, field investigations in [Iberian] Galicia; he carefully made note of the names of objects, and affirmed the need for young people to learn Latin through the intermediary of their mother tongue. (6) He recommended the preparation of a general dictionary of the Romance languages and envisaged phonetic laws to determine the origin of words, as well as the history of things and their properties (pp. 390-391).

The scholar Spaniard Gregorio Mayans y Siscar published, in 1737, a book on the Origins of the Spanish language [Orígenes de la lengua española], which may be considered a sort of historical grammar: he lays out, in rudimentary fashion, the laws which determine the evolution of the language (1), preceding Friedrich Diez's La grammaire des langues romanes [History of the Romance languages] by a century (p. 389-390).

In 1743 M. Richey published his Hamburgisches Idiotikon [Hamburg Idioticon] (p. 738) (7). In Denmark, Det kongelige danske Selskab for Fædrelandets Historie og Sprog [Royal Danish Society for Fatherland History and Language] was founded in 1745 (p. 880).

Erik Pontoppidan, court pastor in Copenhagen, published in 1749 the first lexicological work, recording Norwegian dialect words that the Danes did not understand. He proposed to clarify and improve the common language, and considered the dialects the authentic remnants of the ancient Norse common language (p. 880).

From 1751 on, botanists practiced the correspondence method in order to better know the popular names of plants (pp. 106-107).

The abbot Pierre-Augustin Boissier de Sauvages described, in 1756, the difficulties experienced by Provençal people when they had to express themselves in French (pp. 283-284). N. Desgrouais published in 1766 his book Les Gasconismes corrigés [Gasconisms Corrected], which went through many editions (p. 284) (8).

In 1758, Élie Bertrand examined, for the first time, the formation of the Romand (9) language of Western Switzerland, trying to delimit its principal dialects and to establish its limits with respect to [Swiss] German (p. 161).

Martin Felmer tried, in 1764, to determine the origins of the Transylvanian Saxons, supported by data offered by toponymy [the study of place names] (p. 784). Two German researchers, E. Tiling and Dreyer, published, from 1767 on, the work Versuch eines Bremisch-Niedersächsichen Wörterbuchs [Attempt at a Bremen-Low Saxon Dictionary], considered one of the first dialect dictionaries (p. 738).

The most remarkable work of this period, however, was the Glossarium Suiogothicum (Uppsala, 1769, 2 volumes, in folio), where Johan Ihre gives not only a reasoned explanation (explication raisonnée) of the Swedish language, but also observations on analogies and etymologies in language in general. He not only recommended the study of Icelandic, which he considered to be, out of all the ancient Norse languages, the one which was best conserved in its original purity, but also the study of German and Anglo-Saxon dialects (C. Pougens, Essai sur les antiquités du Nord, 2nd edition, 1799, pp. 74-113; cf. also my book, p. 852).

Jacques le Brigant published, in 1799, his book Élements de la langue des Celtes Gomérites, which contained the text of the Parable of the Prodigal Son translated into Breton, a text which would serve in future investigations by correspondence (p. 932).

The Romanian abbot Samuil Micu (Klein) published, in 1780, his Elementa Linguae Daco-Romanae Sive Valachiae [Elements of the Daco-Roman or Wallachian Language], in order to show the Latin origin of the Romanian language (p. 671).

Father Lorenzo Hervas y Panduro (1735-1809), the famous philologist, extended his research further than any other scholar had yet attempted: he wanted to give a comprehensive view of all the known languages of the world, with specimens in Latin characters. The realization of such a vast piece of work was only possible thanks to his prolonged stay in America, where he learned many local languages to teach the Indians the truths of Christianity. One part of the material was collected either by the author in person, or by other missionaires. Hervas profited from the literary treasures of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith [ Collège de la Propagande] and those of the Vatican Library, where he worked as a librarian. The works of Hervas related to dialectology are the following: 1) Catologo delle lingue conosciute e notizia della loro affinità [Catalog of the known languages and notes on their relationships] (1784, 6 vol., in quarto; translated into Spanish, Madrid, 1800-1805); 2) Vocabolario poliglotto con prolegomeni sopra più di CL lingue [Multilingual vocabulary with prolegomena on more than 150 languages] (1787; the book contains 150 words); 3) Saggio pratico delle lingue con prelegomeni e una raccolta di Orazioni dominicali in più di trecento lingue e dialetti (1787) [Practical essay on languages with prolegomena and a collection of the Lord's Prayer in more than 300 languages and dialects]. This volume is better drafted than any that had been published prior to that date (cf. Adeluna, Mithridates, p. 15, note, in my book). Hervas arranges languages according to the country in which they are spoken, and according to their degree of affinity. The specimens of the Lord's Prayer are followed by hymns in Latin characters. The texts are accompanied by literal translations and grammatical remarks. One can consider the contribution of Father Hervas as an inexhaustible mine of information on the most diverse languages, dialects, and patois, as well as the origin of peoples and their migrations. It was the first large linguistic investigation on a global scale, which surely influenced the words of Pallas and Adeluna.

In 1787, Pierre-Simon Pallas began the publication of his Vocabulaire comparatif des langues de la terre [Comparative vocabulary of the world's languages], accomplished according to the recommendations of Leibniz and under the auspices of Catherine the Great, empress of Russia (pp. 14-15).

In 1789, P. Bridel, a pastor in Montreux, published a book where he briefly described the state of the Swiss Romand patois (9), regretting the fact that a barrier was beginning to establish itself between the upper social class, who more often spoke French, and the people who still used the speech of their grandparents (p. 162).

In 1790 (10) in France, Abbé Grégoire undertook an investigation with the aim of understanding the state of the patois (pp. 6-7).

In 1791, the Spaniard Gaspar Melchior de Jovellanos established, following the ideas of the monk Sarmiento, a plan for the preparation of a Vocabulaire des Asturies [Vocabulary of Asturias]; he gave instructions to correspondents (who had to live in the country, not in cities) and expressed very clear ideas on the evolution of language (1) and on the importance of dialects (pp. 391-394).

At the beginning of the year 1794, it was decided, in France, to establish a teacher (instituteur) in each municipality (commune) who was required to teach the French language (pp. 9-10). The same year, [the authorities] condemned the use of patois (p. 12), which was considered clear proof of provincial resistance to the National Convention, and as a means of preserving inequality (pp. 282-283).

In Germany, at the end of this century, the idea dominated that the language of the people was a uncouth and incorrect form of speech.

In Denmark, a movement of national awakening, directed against German influence, reinforced the spirit of Scandinavian unity and favored dialectological studies (p. 880)

(1) As in the Foreword, the phrase evolution du langage can mean either the evolution of human language (in the sense of origin; cf. Darwin's "evolution": The Origin of Species), as here, or the historical development of (a) language (language change), as later in the introduction.

(2) I have translated both the nouns savant and érudit as "scholar".

(3) Here, langue d'oc refers to Provençal, the literary language of Southern France (this language, and related dialects, are referred to today as Occitan.

(4) The "role of homonymy in language economy" is associated primarily with the Swiss scholar Jules Gilliéron, the founder of linguistic geography - understood sometimes as one form of dialectology, but often as a separate, even opposing, discipline. Gilliéron liked to use vivid metaphors in his work, as the following titles suggest: La faillite de l'étymologie phonétique [The bankruptcy of phonetic etymology], Mirages etymologiques [Etymological mirages], Pathologie et thérapeutique verbales [Verbal pathology and therapeutics], Thaumaturgie linguistique [Linguistic thaumaturgy], and the very Labovian Les étymologies des étymologistes et celles du peuple [The etymologies of etymologists and those of the people]. He is also known for his ideas about the luttes des mots [battles of words]: how words fight back when threatened with homonomy. Also attributed to Gilliéron is the motto chaque mot a son histoire [each word has its own history] – but see Yakov Malkiel (1967), "Each word has a history of its own", Glossa 1:137–49).

(5) I have translated du Nord as "Norse" or "Scandinavia(n)" according to the context.

(6) Compare this to the long-running debate over the use of African-American English (Ebonics) in teaching Standard English. See also William Labov (1982), Objectivity and commitment in linguistic science: The case of the Black English trial in Ann Arbor, Language in Society 11(2):165-201.

(7) The term "idioticon" refers to "a dictionary of a peculiar dialect, or of the words and phrases peculiar to one part of a country; a glossary" (Wiktionary).

(8) In the British Isles, similar works were published in the 18th century, marketed mainly to Scots and Irishmen who wanted and/or needed to learn "correct" English pronunciation. I am trying to track down the amusing title of the book I have in mind.

(9) The adjective romand refers to the Romance language varieties spoken (or formerly spoken) in Western Switzerland, or to that part of the country or anything pertaining to it. This is a useful term, because it can refer to Swiss varieties of French, or to the local dialects (patois). Within la Suisse romande (awkwardly rendered as Romandy in English), the varieties of the cantons of Jura and the district of Moutier (Bern) – which will vote this year on whether to join Jura – belong to the langue d'oïl branch of Gallo-Romance. The patois of Fribourg, Neuchâtel, Valais and Vaud are dialects of Franco-Provençal (Arpitan). The patois have survived better in the traditionally-Catholic cantons of Fribourg and Valais than they have in Neuchâtel and Vaud, where literacy in French was supported by the Protestant Reformation (Claudine Brohy, p.c.). In the canton of Geneva, also Protestant, patois has not been used for some time. As is usually the case, these local languages – perhaps a better term than dialects, especially in the case of Franco-Provençal, which has no standard language counterpart – are, relatively speaking, more alive in rural areas.

(10) That is, one year after the outbreak of the French Revolution (see timeline).

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