Alexander Maxwell - The “Political” and the Language-Dialect Dichotomy, or Fact-Checking Noam Chomsky

Raf Van Rooy's picture
June 21, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Humanities, Intellectual History, Linguistics, Modern European History / Studies, Political History / Studies

Dear colleagues,


You are all cordially invited to attend the following talk on a recent episode in the history of linguistics, to take place on Monday 21 June 2021, 11:00am CEST.


The “Political” and the Language-Dialect Dichotomy, or Fact-Checking Noam Chomsky

Alexander Maxwell (Victoria University of Wellington)


This paper suggests that linguists pondering the language-dialect dichotomy fall into two schools: apolitical agnostics who view the dichotomy as something political and therefore not linguistic, and objective assertionists, who declare the dichotomy ought to be analyzed on linguistic grounds to the exclusion of political factors. Since Noam Chomsky seems to straddle both schools, the paper then examines his comments on the dichotomy at length, fact-checking assertions concerning the linguistic diversity of Romance and Chinese and the putative scholarly consensus about Dutch and German. The extraordinary role of “the political” as a bugbear in linguistic thought also informs how scholars invoke the Weinreich witticism, and why it generates so much cognitive dissonance.


If you fill in this form, you'll receive the Zoom coordinates in due course. Please do spread the word!


This talk is organized by Raf Van Rooy (University of Oslo & KU Leuven Center for the Historiography of Linguistics), and partly frames in the course "The history of western linguistics: A survey in myths", taught at the University of Graz this spring.


I hope to see many of you there!

Contact Info: 

Raf Van Rooy

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