Talk:Dialect continuum

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Language cluster[edit]

Why does Language cluster redirect here? If it is a related concept or a synonym, it should be mentioned in the article, right?-- (talk) 16:46, 10 July 2013 (UTC)

Should add something on evolutionary linguistics[edit]

This would be very important to language evolution.--Ollyoxenfree (talk) 14:29, 28 August 2010 (UTC)


Would the languages of the former Yugoslavia (Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin etc.) form a dialect continuum? I am aware that the other two Macedonian and Slovenian are slightly more divorced from the main four. Macedonian being closer to Bulgarian. - FrancisTyers 12:05, 6 Jun 2005 (UTC)

AFAIK, they might even be considered a single language. Allegedly, the differences between the languages are minimal, and they were classified as a single language before the war.
Not true. Most definitely Slovene, BCSM, and Macedonian and Bulgarian are at least four very different languages. There are huge syntactical differences between Slovene, Croatian/Serbian and Macedonian, and Bulgarian. But they do form a language continuum, true. Dialects exist dialects on both sides of linguistic borders (Slovene-Croatian, and Serbian-Macedonian, see Kajkavian, Torlakian), that are closer than the respective standardized languages.
Yes they most definately would. Not only just BCSM but dialectal continuum spreads from Slovenia down to Bulgaria. You have obvious transitional dialects from Slovenia through Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and all the way to Bulgaria. BCSM only present even tighter dialectal continuum within that group as are Bulgarian-Macedonian.--Factanista 10:04, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

There is definitely a dialect continuum from Slovenia to Bulgaria, with all the intermediate dialects alive and well. Zocky | picture popups 22:16, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

LOL, its wierd coming back to things you wrote before. For those who didn't know, that above was me before starting a degree in Linguistics, before I'd even applied in fact :) And now I can answer myself — yes, undoubtedly they do. BCSM are part of the Western South Slavic dialect continuum (along with Slovenian) and Macedonian and Bulgarian with attendant dialects form the Eastern South Slavic dialect continuum. - FrancisTyers · 22:27, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

... and, there isn't much of a break between eastern and western groups either. Zocky | picture popups 00:39, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

Well, they're split into East and West for various reasons, but you're right, there are always dialects that are a bit of both :) viz. Torlakian - FrancisTyers · 00:58, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

So, how about adding the new-found linguistic knowledge to the article? :) Zocky | picture popups 01:32, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

East and West Slavic[edit]

This article had grouped East and West Slavic together into a single dialect continuum, as if simply because Poland borders Belarus, a dialect continuum must necessarily exist. I thought that, without any evidence, this could not remain. On the one hand, most linguists consider Proto-West Slavic to have diverged from the other dialects prior to Proto-South Slavic (meaning that South Slavic is actually genetically closer to Russian than is Polish, even given the geographic division. Linguistically speaking, this is entirely possible.) Belarussians, as I understand it, cannot understand Poles, and vice versa, with out training. On the other hand, it is true that East and West Slavic have shared features/words as a result of areal contact. This would be analogous to the the phenomenon of Danish showing shared features with Low German in Schleswig due to contact. This is NOT, however, evidence of dialect continua - a genetic phenomenon - but of dialect convergence, a sociolinguistic phenomenon. My question is: is it even accurate to say that Polish and Czech/Slovak exist in the same dialect continuum? More specifically, are the isoglosses of West Slavic isomorphic, such as between Finnish and Estonian (in which case I would argue a dialect continuum either doesn't exist, or our definition of "dialect continuum" is only trivially distinct from language family), or not isomorphic, such as among the South Slavic dialects (a true dialect continuum)? David —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:28, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

What does isomorphic mean here? —Tamfang (talk) 06:47, 12 February 2010 (UTC)

Wrong example[edit]

I am going to remove the following:

"A more or less similar interaction takes place between a creole language which lacks prestige, and its more prestigious relative. The relationship between Gullah and African American Vernacular English on the one hand, and standard American English on the other, is a good example of this. Some speakers can glide throughout the continuum depending on the subject and the context. There are many other examples throughout the world."

This was added by anon. contributor from (12:02, 29 January 2004) who apparently did not understand the notion of dialect continuum ("gliding throughout the continuum" ?! clearly the author intended to say something about switching between 2 languages and that has nothing to do with our topic).

Please get a consensus before deleting chunks of text. Thank you. David Cannon 22:40, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
You must be joking! This is pure editing, no consensus required if changes are explained. I have clearly stated my reasons and preserved the text on the talk page. You instead have reverted the text only because there was no discussion and no consensus... David, for your information, most edits in Wikipedia are done without lengthy discussions and voting. I am deleting the erroneous section again; I have stated my reasons; if you wish you can revert, but tell us why the text in question is right and I am wrong. 19:39, 28 August 2006 (UTC)


I think someone made a mistake here. Istro-Romanian isn't the closest surviving language related to Dalmatian, that is Istriot. Istro-Romanian and Istriot are two different languages.--Factanista 10:04, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Coordinate with Sprachraum Article[edit]

Cross-reference or merge with Sprachraum article.

are you cree?[edit]

if smoebody is cree talk back —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 19:01, 15 March 2007 (UTC).

Low Saxon and High Alemannic[edit]

I have deleted the following sentence as an unsourced claim, even though the whole article consists of nothing more but unsourced claims: Although part of the same dialect continuum, the northernmost Low Saxon dialects are actually farther from High Alemannic/ Swiss German than from English. My personal and equally unsourced view is that a conversation between a (monolingual) speaker from, say Aurich and a (monolingual) speaker from Zurich will be utterly and completely impossible. I have personally witnessed occassions where dialect speakers from rural Hesse were unable to converse with dialect speakers from rural Suabia. But the English language has been separated from continental West Germanic for some 1600 (sixteen hundred) years. Moreover, both grammar and vocabulary of the English language have changed dramatically since 400 A.D., mainly through the influence of Norman French, which has not exerted any influence at all on any of the continental dialects. On the other hand, continental West Germanic dialects have continually been influencing each other without having much contact with the English language (up to the beginning of the 20th century). So, if you can source your claim, I will gladly accept it. But otherwise I cannot let it stand like that. Unoffensive text or character 11:48, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

How about "Although part of the same dialect continuum, the northernmost Low Saxon dialects are in many ways actually farther from High Alemannic/ Swiss German than from English."? Not only is this true "genetically" (see North Sea Germanic) but also in terms of grammatical innovations. Although as you point out English grammar has simplified, so has that of Low German in many ways not seen in High German. These include a trend toward analytic grammar, loss of inflectional endings, and word order. Concerning sound changes, there is the Anglo-Frisian nasal spirant law, and of course the absence of the High German consonant shift, whose effects become greater and greater the farther south one goes. It further acts to remove the Upper German varieties away from Low Saxon, which is untouched like English. There are also many cases where High German uses entirely different words from Low German/Frisian/English/Dutch, and yet others where the sounds are shifted in other ways in Upper German.
Added to that, there are varieties of Swiss German that are so isolated and surrounded by mountains that they are mutually unintelligible with even the other Swiss German dialects. Also see South Germanic.
English Low German / Low Saxon High German
late laat spät
to fight vechten (Dutch) kämpfen
heaven heven Himmel
many mennig viel
brain brägen Gehirn
busy besig beschäftigt
he is he is er ist
simple past tense (preterite) used commonly simple past tense (preterite) used commonly no simple past tense (preterite) in Swiss German, restricted to written language in the southern and central dialects of Germany
No prefix used on past participles No prefix used on past participles Prefix ge- on past participles of verbs

-User: Nightvid

Even though some may argue that "in many ways" is a weasel phrase, I agree.
Kind regards Unoffensive text or character 07:41, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

Turkic language dialect continuum[edit]

I added this section based on the information in

Language Policy in the Soviet Union By Lenore A. Grenoble

Language Policy in the Soviet Union Series: Language Policy , Vol. 3 Grenoble, L.A. 2003, 248 p., Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4020-1298-3 AverageTurkishJoe (talk) 00:43, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Could someone knowledgeable clarify the sentence: "There are four varieties of Turkic which are geographically outside this continuum: Chuvash, Yakut and Dolgan.", which makes sense only partially. I wonder whether there is indeed a fourth variety that was not mentioned, or whether only three (rather than four) varieties were intended to be mentioned. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Redav (talkcontribs) 01:38, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

Continental West Germanic[edit]

Surely Afrikaans cannot be considered part of the Continental West Germanic language continuum for the simple reason that it is geographically isolated from the related languages of Europe? Due to geographical isolation there are no surviving intermediates between Afrikaans and Dutch and therefore a "continuum" cannot exist in any meaningful sense of the term, though of course the two languages are still closely related. Booshank (talk) 17:27, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

I think Afrikaans can be considered part of the continuum, as for example Latin American Spanish is part of the Romance continuum, because it's mutually understandable with varieties of Spanish in the continuum in Europe. Anyway, it's true that the mention of Afrikaans can be a bit confusing, so removing it won't really make the page any bad. --Jotamar (talk) 02:55, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
Removed Afrikaans and Yiddish: both are languages in their own right and not part of a geographical continuum. Also removed "Nevertheless, Frisian does form a part of the continental West Germanic continuum (via Town Frisian and Dutch)", as Town Frisian is essentially a creole of Dutch and Frisian, and creoles don't count for continuums. Jalwikip (talk) 14:35, 25 February 2009 (UTC)
I count no fewer than three egregious linguistic misconceptions in the last comment. - David, Chicago —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:31, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian[edit]

Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian are closely related and there is mutual intelligibility. But it is important to know that the level of intelligibility varies.

Swedish and the Norwegian that is spoken in the eastern part of Norway (compare with Bokmål) is very similar. There is for instance no problem for a person from Stockholm to talk with a person from Oslo. On the other hand it is a little more complicated for a Swede to understand a person from the western part of Norway (e.g. from Bergen). At the same time Norwegians sometimes have difficulties understanding people from Skåne in the southern part of Sweden.

It is not so easy for Swedes to understand Danish, because the pronunciation is so different. It is somewhat easier for Danes to understand Swedish though. Swedes and Danes are however able to talk to each other. It is not common, but it sometimes happens though that Swedes and Danes speak English with each other. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:52, 21 July 2008 (UTC)


This section needs some work, work that I'm not really qualified to do. Describing the written standard of Chinese prior to baihua as "Classical Chinese" is questionable, the descriptions of baihua, putonghua, and Mandarin are confusing (putonghua is based on baihua??), and it's only true to a limited degree that Chinese writing obscures the differences between different Chinese languages. Excalibre (talk) 20:33, 22 December 2009 (UTC)


the development of the divergent Chinese languages was made much easier because the characters used for writing Chinese are not tied closely to pronunciation as alphabetic or syllabic scripts are

needs a citation at least. Chinese characters do give phonetic hints, but what they hint at varies between Mandarin and Cantonese for example. To me it's not obvious that using characters rather than an alphabet has freed the languages to drift to some unusual degree. (talk) 17:39, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

Does Chinese really form a true continuum throughout? Are there no language boundaries separating the larger dialect groups anywhere? Are there really transitional dialects to be found within any two adjacent dialect groups (even with Min)? I find that hard to believe. Mandarin is certainly a continuum, so are probably the other primary subgroups of Chinese, but I suspect that the Chinese/Sinitic-speaking territory is criss-crossed by boundaries, and has been for quite some time. Sometimes there may be transitional (and thus ambiguous for the classification endeavour) dialects, but in many other cases, or at least some cases, there may well be not. Contrast Sami, which is of a similar age: its western portion (from South to North Sami) used to be a true continuum (at least in the 19th and perhaps early 20th century) as far as I know, but between North Sami and Skolt/Inari/Kemi Sami, there was a clear break (perhaps a result of a spread of North Sami eastwards from northernmost Sweden/Norway into Finland, which eradicated transitional dialects between Western and Eastern Sami formerly spoken in Finnish Lapland, without new transitional dialects arising). --Florian Blaschke (talk) 14:59, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

Continental West Germanic continuum[edit]

Frisian is generally included in the Dutch-Low Saxon-Middle/High German dialect continuum? That's news to me. Frisian and Danish linguistic areas are where the German continuum abruptly breaks off. Should Frisian be taken out? Leasnam —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:15, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

Indeed, that is nonsense for all I know, at least historically (in the 19th century) and probably still today (wherever the influence of the standard languages has not been too strong, at least). Dutch (i. e., Low Franconian as opposed to Low Saxon, which is also spoken in the territory of Netherlands with Dutch as Dachsprache) is clearly part of the continuum, while Frisian is not, having been surrounded by language boundaries on all sides for a long time. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 15:05, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
I also question the research concerning Dutch/German border dialects cited there; it seems to be misleading. At least historically, there was a true continuum, without a noticeable break: this is the accepted result of 19th century dialect research. The isoglosses running between Low Franconian and Low Saxon (more precisely, taken as defining that distinction) have never corresponded to the state borders in the least: As mentioned, there are Low Saxon dialects spoken in a large part of the Netherlands, and analogously there are Low Franconian dialects spoken in a part of Germany.
Contemporary dialects, however, are a quite different beast: They are heavily influenced by the standard languages, which does create new boundaries along the state borders, but the entire notion of dialect continuum is probably mostly not applicable anymore anywhere in the world in the modern age (as opposed to the 19th century), with radically increased education and mobility, as strongly localised rural dialects are disappearing everywhere in favour of colloquial "regiolects" spanning larger areas, as well as standard languages. Except perhaps parts of India or China, and a few developping countries (Spanish and Portuguese in Latin America?). --Florian Blaschke (talk) 15:47, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

'Indo-Aryan '[edit]

Why not somebody add a chapter on the continuum spanning form Sindhi and Kashmiri in the west all the way to Assamese and Oriya/Odia in the east. This may well be one of the largest areas of dialect continua within the Indo-European language family. GB —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:28, 6 April 2010 (UTC)


Kashmiris generally speak Kashmiri at home. It's just that Muslims and some Hindus use the Perso-Arabic script while other Hindus use the devanagiri script. And all Sikhs are originally from Punjab, so they speak Punjabi at home. Those who have settled for many years in Kashmir also speak Kasmiri or Hindi/Urdu (to communicate with others) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:36, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

Mutual intelligibility[edit]

The definition attributed to Bloomfield, viz.: "A dialect continuum, or dialect area, was defined by Leonard Bloomfield as a range of dialects spoken across some geographical area that differ only slightly between neighboring areas, but as one travels in any direction, these differences accumulate such that speakers from opposite ends of the continuum are no longer mutually intelligible" has, I think, a problem.

There may be "a range of dialects spoken across some geographical area" that exhibit cumulative differences, without the extremes necessarily being mutually unintelligible. For example, take the Western Desert Language (WDL) or "Wangka Yuti" ("clear speech") of the central and western Australian deserts. According to the Wikipedia article: "For native speakers this language is mutually intelligible across its entire range".

Importantly, the notion of a dialect continuum presents the idea that language may change gradually and progressively over a wide geographic area. This is the core of the phenomenon that Bloomfield pointed out. Only in extreme cases are the geographically extreme variants no longer mutually intelligible.

It's generally more informative to measure the degree of mutual intelligibility, e.g. by comparing the lexicons of two variants.

yoyo (talk) 14:54, 29 January 2011 (UTC)

Although your reasoning sounds basicly correct, in practice I think that dialect continuum is typically used for an area where there is no intelligibility for some of the linguistic varieties. Most of the examples in the article are like that. Otherwise, you wouldn't typically speak about a dialect continuum, but about a language with dialects. Anyway, if you have a source where the expression is used for an area with intelligibility, just add a clarification in the heading. --Jotamar (talk) 17:27, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

Unclear on concept.[edit]

If you have enough borrowing of words between languages, it becomes fairly simple for a listener to understand across. Nevertheless a speaker may have to choose the syntax of one language or the other. For example English is fundamentally Germanic, with a huge admixture of French vocabulary. By choosing French vocabulary over German, I suppose I could make it much easier for a French speaker to follow what I'm saying, but I still have to choose between English and French pronouns, word order and conjugation schemes so to me it seems that a continuum doesn't quite exist.

Perhaps nobody is claiming a continuum between French and English, but in Wikipedia I am seeing claims of a continuum in Indic languages, yet from personal experience I know that Hindi and Nepali have different pronouns and different conjugation systems. Although Nepali borrows a lot of words from Hindi, and Hindi words not found in a Nepali dictionary are nevertheless readily understood, ultimately a speaker has to choose a Hindi or Nepali framework for each sentence. To me, this also suggests a continuum doesn't quite exist. LADave (talk) 13:18, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

A dialect continuum is not about standard languages, but rather about rural vernaculars, often including varieties on the brink of disappearing. Jotamar (talk) 16:31, 19 July 2011 (UTC)

Italian language varieties -- edit war[edit]

There has been a recent cycle of reverts regarding Lombardi and other northern forms of speech. I suspect that that Jotamar is right, but the claims need sources cited. Pete unseth (talk) 13:37, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

Hi. That sentence is a POV linked to political purposes. The attitude of the first Italian governament was similar to the French one in the way it helped the diffusion of the Italian language but on the contrary there has never been a plan of suppression of the regional languages of Italy. Moreover all the Italian states before the unification had already adopted Italian as official language. It is not my will to start an edit war but it would be better to tell the truth. If you need sources for what I wrote, I will be able to provide them.-- (talk) 14:07, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
Two sources have been provided for the language policy in Italy since 1861: 1.Italy/ 5.1 General legislation. Language laws (today)., 2.Languages of Italy: History. Moreover, it's also a matter of fact that the regional languages of Italy have never been fought by the Italian government; today about half of the Italian population is able to speek also its regional language while in France less than one quarter is able to speak the local language. This difference is due to the fact that French government stopped with hard measures the regional languages; this didn't happen in Italy. Greetings.-- (talk) 14:54, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
I may be wrong, as English is not my mother tongue and I am not particularly good at reading Italian, but you claim that in the 19th century Italian language policy was more or less the same as in France (the above attitude of the French government was reflected in Rome by the Italian government). I do not find that the sources support the claim, i.e. that the sources show that there was a repressive language policy in Italy. Unoffensive text or character (talk) 17:15, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
You are right. the above attitude of the French government was reflected in Rome by the Italian government means that Italy helped the spread of the Italian language (national language) by using similar measures with one big difference that in Italy the regional languages were allowed to be spoken while in France there was also a repressive policy against its regional languages.-- (talk) 18:30, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
So at the moment we have a sentence and two footnotes that seem to support it but really contradict it. We should delete the claim and replace it by something that makes sense and is well sourced. Unoffensive text or character (talk) 08:03, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
My reasons to revert the IP were just that the shortened text was kind of ambiguous and less understandable than the original one. Anyway, the question of language policy in Italy is only marginally relevant to the page. On the other hand, I'm not sure of the meaning of A less arguable example .... Does it refer to the La Spezia-Rimini isogloss, breaking the continuum? This should be clarified. --Jotamar (talk) 17:35, 4 March 2014 (UTC)