Languoid, Doculect and Glossonym: Formalizing the Notion ‘Language’
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It is perfectly reasonable for laypeople and non-linguistic scholars to use names for languages without reflecting on the proper definition of the objects referred to by these names. Simply using a name like English or Witotoan suffices as an informal communicative designation for a particular language or a language group. However, for the linguistics community, which is by definition occupied with the details of languages and language variation, it is somewhat bizarre that there does not exist a proper technical apparatus to talk about intricate differences in opinion about the precise sense of a name like English or Witotoan when used in academic discussion. We propose three interrelated concepts—languoid, doculect, and glossonym—which provide a principled basis for discussion of different points of view about key issues, such as whether two varieties should be associated with the same language, and allow for a precise description of what exactly is being claimed by the use of a given genealogical or areal group name. The framework these concepts provide should be especially useful to researchers who work on underdescribed languages where basic issues of classification remain unresolved.
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