Studies of “Failed Languages” sought for a special issue of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language. This project investigates the politics of “languages vs. dialects” by looking at rejected paths. Contributors should introduce a failed linguistic concept in its social and political context. Who imagined or promoted the failed language, and from what motives? When and why did the failed concept lose support?
Heinz Kloss memorably differentiated “Ausbau” languages from “Abstand” languages; in Kloss’ terminology, this issue examines unsuccessful Ausbau and unsuccessful resistance to Ausbau. A study of failed Ausbau might examine an abortive separatist movement, e.g a movement to promote a Min, Wu, or Hakka as a separate language distinct from Chinese, movements for Austrian or Bavarian linguistic separatism, and so on. Alternatively, studies may examine a case of successful Ausbau from the perspective of its opponents, e.g. Ukrainians or Belarussians who believed they spoke dialect of Russian; Catalans who saw Catalan as a dialect of Spanish, etc. Authors should propose their own case studies.
Struggles over linguistic status frequently reflect competing national concepts; the editor expects that many (most?) contributors will examine the failed language alongside a failed national movement. However, linguistic struggles are not simple proxies for national struggles, and national and linguistic loyalties do not always go hand in hand. Nationalism in former British colonies, for example, often lacks any linguistic counterpart: Australians, Americans, Canadians, and New Zealanders claim distinct nationhood, yet are happy to speak “English.” Conversely, linguistic divisions between Tamil-speakers and Hindi-speakers do not necessarily impede a common Indian nationalism. Contributors should not equate linguistic and national concepts, even if the two correlate strongly in their particular case.
Please note that language policies in a multi-ethnic state are beyond the scope of this project. The editor would welcome a study about the relationship between Swiss-German and German, for example, but German-French relations inside Switzerland are not relevant. Similarly, this volume is not interested in advocacy. The project starts from the assumption that linguistic concepts are most profitably analyzed not as ‘correct’ or ‘false,’ but in terms of the political claims that they imply. Contributions should not reveal which national language concept, if any, the author supports. Since the volume seeks to explain failure, finally, ongoing language-dialect conflicts are beyond the scope of this project.
We are also looking for book reviews relevant to this theme, particularly reviews of books written in languages other than English.
Final papers must be ready by May 2009. Authors should follow the style guide of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language, which is available at http://www.degruyter.de/files/down/instructions/ijslins.pdf
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