Pluricentric Languages and Non-Dominant Varieties Worldwide

New Pluricentric Languages - Old Problems

by Rudolf Muhr (Volume editor) Benjamin Meisnitzer (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 490 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Preface
  • Contents
  • Series Information
  • List of Contributors
  • Part I Theoretical aspects of pluricentricity and the description of variation
  • Misconceptions about pluricentric languages and pluricentric theory – an overview of 40 years,
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Misconception (MC) 1: The rejection of pluricentricity and its sources
  • 3 Misconceptions in the early period of pluricentricity – battling with deep-rooted monocentric views about language
  • 3.1 Misconception 2: The monocentric concept of languages as “mother” of all misconceptions about pluricentricity
  • 3.2 Misconception 3: Pluricentricity considered as nationalism and chauvinism
  • 3.3 Misconception 4: Pluricentricity considered to support purism and language policing
  • 3.4 The social costs of the rejection of pluricentricity – observations since the early 1980s
  • 4 Current misconceptions on PLCLs and NDVs
  • 4.1 MC 4: The “One language – one nation – concept”
  • 4.2 MC 5: Misleading terminology: The naming of national varieties: English in America or American English/Österreichisches Deutsch or Deutsch in Österreich
  • 4.3 MC 6: The definition of PLCLs
  • 4.4 MC 7: What is the description of PLCLs to be based on? Nations, states or regions – the pluriareal fallacy
  • 4.5 MC 8: The naming of linguistic varieties within pluricentric languages to describe “Second level pluricentricity”
  • 4.6 MC 9: Types of centres: Full, semi, quarter centre and rudimentary ones versus dominant and non-dominant ones
  • 4.7 MC 10: The codification: Monolingualism, fixation on the so-called “standard variety” and the concept of the “borderline cases of standard” (Grenzfall des Standards)
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Pluricentricity and identity in the Malay World
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 National variety: Indonesia (1945)
  • 3 National variety: Malaya/Malaysia (1957)
  • 4 National variety: Brunei (1985)
  • 5 National variety: Singapore (1965)
  • 6 Concluding remarks
  • Part II “New” and “old” Asian and African pluricentric languages and their varieties: Hindi, Somali, Persian and English in Cameroon, India and Australia
  • Somali as a pluricentric language: Corpus-based evidence from schoolbooks
  • 1 Basic facts about Somali
  • 2 Standardisation process
  • 3 Documentation of the standard
  • 4 Present situation in the Somali speaking areas
  • 5 The emergence of national standards
  • 6 Previous studies of Somali national standards
  • 7 Somali corpora
  • 8 Data illustrating the Somali situation
  • 9 Corpus data
  • 10 Summary
  • The sociolinguistic role of non-normative Pidgin English in the 2016 anglophone Cameroon social upheaval
  • 1 Introduction
  • 1.1 Cameroon’s sociolinguistic ecology
  • 1.2 Cameroon Pidgin English: Origin, function and status
  • 1.3 A perspective on “Models of pluricentricity: Nation, space and language”
  • 2 The problem and sociolinguistic role of CPE in the 2016 anglophone Cameroon social upheaval
  • 2.1 The problem
  • 2.2 The sociolinguistic role of CPE in the 2016 anglophone Cameroon social upheaval
  • 3 Methodology, data and analysis
  • 3.1 Methodology
  • 3.2 Data and analysis
  • 4 Outcomes, findings and conclusion
  • 4.1 Outcomes
  • 4.2 Findings and Conclusion
  • The development of Persian as a pluricentric language
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 General linguistic features of Persian
  • 3 The history of the development of the Persian language
  • 4 The decline of Persian as Lingua Franca
  • 5 Language policies and planning efforts in modern Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan during the 20th century
  • 5.1 “Farsi” in Iran as dominant variety
  • 5.2 “Dari” in Afghanistan as non-dominant variety
  • 5.3 “Tajik(i)” in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as non-dominant varieties
  • 5.4 Some general observations on Persian as PCL since the 1990s
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Politics of identity and pluricentrism – Contact Hindi in Bihar as a case of third level pluricentrism
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Colonialism – nationalism and language in North India
  • 3 Hindi the contact language
  • 4 Hindi in colonial Bihar-identity eclipse and evolution of Contact Hindi of Bihar (CHB)
  • 5 Hindi in Bihar after independence
  • 6 Evolution of Contact Hindi in Bihar (CHB)
  • 9 Contact Hindi in Bihar and identity
  • 10 Levels of pluricentricity
  • 11 Conclusion
  • A diachronic analysis of multiword constructions in Indian English and Australian Aboriginal English,
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Background
  • 3 Present study
  • 4 Corpora design
  • 5 Methodology
  • 6 Results and discussion
  • 7 Conclusions
  • Part III Battles in pluricentric languages about self-definition: Albanian, Hungarian, Romanian and Belarusian Russian
  • Pluricentric developments of Albanian between national unity and linguistic heterogeneity*
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Monocentrism as the savior of the nation
  • 3 The history of the standardization of Albanian
  • 4 First voices for linguistic diversity
  • 5 Pluricentric reality
  • 6 Pluricentric Albanian and pluricentric theories
  • 7 Conclusion
  • Albanian as a pluricentric language
  • 1 The ongoing struggle in defence of language and land
  • 2 The development of written Albanian and standardisation
  • 3 Albanian standard varieties
  • 4 Pluri-model of Albanian
  • 5 Conclusions
  • Hungarian as a pluricentric language and the attitude of Slovakian teacher trainees toward it
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The study and its methods
  • 3 Results and discussion
  • 4 Conclusion
  • A study of Hungarian language use in high schools in Slovakia,,
  • 1 The Slovak Hungarian variety
  • 2 A sociolinguistic investigation of Slovakia Hungarian language use
  • 3 Data and analysis
  • 3.1 Results of morphological universal variables
  • 3.2 The results of the universal morphosyntactic contact variable
  • 3.3 Results of the morphosyntactic/syntactic analogous contact variable (főnök után/főnökhöz megy)
  • 3.4 Results of the lexical contact variable
  • 4 Conclusion
  • Literary translation into Slovakia Hungarian?
  • 1 Hungarian as a pluricentric language
  • 2 Summary
  • The Hungarian language in Croatia
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The beginnings of Hungarian as a pluricentric language
  • 3 Centres of the Hungarian language
  • 4 The legal status of Hungarian in Croatia
  • 5 HC as a NDV of Hungarian – criteria for its description
  • 5.1 Occurrence
  • 5.2 Linguistic distance
  • 5.3 Phonological characteristics
  • 5.4 Morphological and morphosyntactic characteristics
  • 5.5 Acceptance of pluricentricity
  • 5.6 Significance for identity
  • 5.7 Codification
  • 5.8 Presence in public education
  • 6 Summary
  • Non-dominant varieties of Romanian in Serbia: Between pluricentricity and division
  • 1 Romanian as a pluricentric language
  • 2 Romanian varieties spoken in Serbia
  • 2.1 Vojvodina Romanian
  • 2.2 Vlach Romanian
  • 3 Conclusion
  • In search of identity: A corpus-based study of lexical variation in Belarusian Russian
  • 1 Introduction: The sociolinguistic situation in Belarus
  • 2 Materials and methods
  • 3 General description of Belarusian ethnonyms
  • 4 Neutral and expressive ethnonyms
  • 5 Codified and uncodified variants
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Part IV German and Luxemburgish in a trilingual setting
  • ‘Luxemburger Standarddeutsch’. On the future of the German language in Luxembourg
  • 1 Background: German in multilingual Luxembourg – ambiguities, controversies, perspectives
  • 2 Multilingual Luxembourg – role and function of the German language
  • 3 Luxembourgish German as a future perspective
  • 4 Luxembourgish German caught between nationality and sovereignty
  • 5 Luxembourgish standard German as a task
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Trilingualism in Luxembourg: The role of Lëtzebuergesch – upgrading a regional variety to a national language
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Luxembourg
  • 2.1 Country and population
  • 2.2 History
  • 3 The linguistic situation of Luxembourg
  • 3.1 Historical development
  • 3.2 The legal situation
  • 3.3 The use of the languages of Luxembourg
  • 3.4 Languages in legal matters and politics
  • 3.5 Languages at school
  • 3.6 The language of the media, culture and religion
  • 4 Lëtzebuergesch
  • 4.1 Historic developments until World War II
  • 4.2 Lëtzebuergesch as the national language
  • 4.3 Orthography
  • 4.4 Promoting Lëtzebuergesch
  • 5 Trilingualism
  • 5.1 The importance of trilingualism
  • 5.2 Luxembourg: A partially exoglossic nation
  • 6 Problems with Lëtzebuergesch
  • 6.1 Further status increase
  • 6.2 Is Lëtzebuergesch endangered?
  • 7 Conclusions
  • Part V The pluricentricity of Spanish in different contexts and in its history
  • Ayer he comprado un aire acondicionado
  • 1 Introduction and aims of the study
  • 2 Theoretical background
  • 2.1 PP vs. Preterit
  • 2.2 Subgoals of the present study
  • 2.3 Data and methodology
  • 3 Quantitative and qualitative analyses
  • 3.1 Peninsular Spanish
  • 3.1.1 CREA analysis
  • 3.1.2 CORDE analysis
  • 3.2 Other Spanish varieties
  • 3.2.1 CREA analysis
  • 3.2.2 CORDE analysis
  • 4 Conclusion and outlook
  • Anglicisms in the Spanish of Utica, NY: Unique and shared with worldwide varieties of Spanish
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Methodology
  • 3 Results
  • 4 Discussion
  • 5 Conclusion
  • ¡Oye Siri! – pluricentricity in new media
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Pluricentricity in new media
  • 3 Siri
  • 4 ¡Oye Siri!: Hypothesis, methodology and corpus analysis
  • 4.1 Spanish varieties offered by Siri: A selection of expected characteristics
  • 4.2 ¡Oye Siri!: The corpus analysis
  • 4.2.1 Morphosyntax
  • 4.2.2 Lexis
  • 4.2.3 Phonetics and phonology
  • 4.3 Summary
  • 5 Conclusion and further perspectives
  • The history of perulero: A polysemous Spanish word and its endogenous and exogenous textual usage from the 16th century to the 19th century
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Peruleros – a brief lexicographic (and historiographic) approach. The historical perspective on peruleros
  • 3 The lexicographic perspective
  • 4 The textual presence of perulero – some preliminary corpus findings
  • 5 An early colonial pluricentric space? – some thoughts on the basis of the geographical provenience of texts
  • 6 Summary
  • Nineteenth-century Hispano-American lexicography: Functions and discourse
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The diccionarios de provincialismos as the first Hispano-American lexicography
  • 3 Functions of the diccionarios de provincialismos
  • 4 Common elements in the diccionarios de provincialismos’ lexicographical discourse
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Is there a standard pronunciation of Bulgarian Judeo-Spanish? Evidence from /e/-to-[i]‌ raising in read and spontaneous speech,
  • 1 Judeo-Spanish in Bulgaria: A brief introduction
  • 2 The phonology of (Bulgarian) Judeo-Spanish: A short overview
  • 3 Raising of unstressed /e/ to [i]‌ in Bulgarian Judeo-Spanish
  • 4 Concluding remarks
  • Part VI The pluricentricity of French outside Europe
  • Hexagonal French and Canadian/Québec French as two solitudes in Canada: Consequences at the societal, business and political levels
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Canadian agenda
  • 3 The two new solitudes
  • 4 Prejudices, prejudices and more prejudices …
  • 5 A picture is worth a thousand words
  • 6 Societal arena
  • 7 Political arena
  • 8 Business arena
  • 9 Conclusion
  • Twice removed from the centre: French in Acadia and its double peripheral status
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Acadia within North American French
  • 3 Historical perspective
  • 4 Linguistic practices
  • 5 Glossaries of Acadian French
  • 6 Acadianisms in Usito
  • 6.1 Geolinguistic marking
  • 6.2 Appendices
  • 6.3 Choice of nomenclature
  • 7 Conclusion
  • French-Creole in La-Reunion: Problems of defining a “language” for educational purposes
  • 1 Creoles and pluricentricity – a brief introduction
  • 2 A note on normativity in French-Creole language contact
  • 3 Methods
  • 4 Analysis and interpretation of results
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Part VII The pluricentricity of Portuguese worldwide
  • The implementation of endogenous syntactic features in Brazilian standard writing
  • 1 Introduction – the believes of monocentric language communities
  • 2 The implementation of non-salient features related to the pronominal system
  • 3 The implementation of other innovative Brazilian features
  • 4 Some consequences of the conflict between what we can speak and must write
  • 5 Resolving the gap between prescription and use
  • 6 Summary
  • The expression of the future tense in varieties of Portuguese spoken in Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and in São Tome and Principe
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Portuguese: A pluricentric language
  • 3 The inherent instability of the future tense
  • 4 Conclusions
  • Revisiting oblique relatives in the diachrony of Brazilian and European Portuguese: Interinfluence between BP and EP in the constitution of a norm?
  • 1 Previous studies on the oblique relatives in BP and PE – the problem
  • 2 The oblique relatives in the diachrony of Portuguese written in Brazil and in Portugal in the 19th and 20th centuries: what does empiria tell us?
  • 2.1 Brazilian personal letters from the 19th and 20th centuries
  • 2.2 Portuguese personal letters from the 19th and 20th centuries
  • 3 Loose ends: Is there a mutual influence between the two endonormative varieties of Portuguese regarding the oblique relatives?
  • From island to island: The variety of portuguese spoken by Madeirans in Montreal
  • 1 A brief explanation of the title: “From island to island”
  • 2 Introduction
  • 3 Montreal – an “island” between Canada and Quebec
  • 4 “A Comunidade” – the Portuguese “island” of Montreal
  • 5 The Portuguese “islands” within Little Portugal
  • 6 The Madeiran Portuguese in Montreal
  • 6.1 Methodology
  • 6.2 Overview of the Madeiran speakers in Montreal
  • 6.2.1 Features of Madeiran Portuguese in Montreal
  • 6.2.2 Phonetic features of Madeiran Portuguese in Montreal
  • 6.2.3 Structural Features of Madeiran Portuguese in Montreal
  • 7 Conclusion


Herausgegeben von Rudolf Muhr


List of Contributors

Jussara Abraçado

Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil

e-mail: mjabracadoalmeida@id.uff.br

Rita Calabrese

Università degli Studi di Salerno, Italy

e-mail: rcalabrese@unisa.it

M. Conceição Paiva

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

e-mail: paiva@club-internet.fr

André Cyr

UQTR, Trois-Rivières, Canada

e-mail: andre.cyr@uqtr.ca

Danielle E. Cyr

York University, Toronto, Canada

e-mail: dcyr@yorku.ca

Gerhard Edelmann

Universität Wien, Austria

e-mail: gerhard.edelmann@univie.ac.at

M. Eugênia Duarte

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

e-mail: eugenia@brazilmail.com

Kelen Ernesta Fonyuy

University of Bamenda, Cameroon

e-mail: efkelen@yahoo.com

Christoph Gabriel

Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany

e-mail: christoph.gabriel@uni-mainz.de

Angelika Gál

Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia

e-mails: kozmacsistvan@gmail.com; palova.angelika@gmail.com

Karine Gauvin

Université de Moncton, Canada

e-mail: karine.gauvin@umoncton.ca

Christina A. Gomes

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

e-mail: christina-gomes@uol.com.br

Olga Goritskaya

Minsk State Linguistic University, Belarus

e-mail: goritskaya@gmail.com

Jonas Grünke

Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany

e-mail: jgruenke@uni-mainz.de

Sabiha Hashami

Centre for Linguistics, SLL&CS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

e-mail: sabihahashami@gmail.com

Anja Hennemann

Universität Potsdam, Germany

e-mail: anja.hennemann@uni-potsdam.de

Monica Huțanu

University of Belgrade, Serbia

e-mail: monica.hutanu@e-uvt.ro ←11 | 12→

István Jánk

Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia

e-mail: jankisti08@gmail.com

Lumnije Jusufi

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

e-mail: lumnije.jusufi@hu-berlin.de

Fabienne Klos

Saarland University, Germany

e-mail: fabienne.klos@uni-saarland.de

István Kozmács

Constantin the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia

e-mail: kozmacsistvan@gmail.com

Piero Costa León

Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Peru

e-mail: pcosta@pucp.edu.pe

Marco Antonio Martins

Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil

e-mail: marco.martins@ufsc.br

Benjamin Lucas Meisnitzer

University of Mainz, Germany

e-mail: bmeisnit@uni-mainz.de

Albana Muco

Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy

e-mail: albana.muco@unimi.it

Rudolf Muhr

Austrian German Research Centre Graz, Austria

e-mail: rudolf.muhr@uni-graz.at

Sydney Müller

Saarland University, Germany

e-mail: mueller.sydney@web.de

Morgan Nilsson

University of Gothenburg, Sweden

e-mail: morgan.nilsson@gu.se

Asmah Haji Omar

University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

e-mail: hajiomarasmah@gmail.com

Beatrix Oszkó

Research Institute for Linguistics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary

e-mail: oszko.beatrix@nytud.mta.hu

Katherine E. Russo

Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”, Italy

e-mail: kerusso@unior.it

Mehrdad Saeedi

Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

e-mail: saeedimehrdad@yahoo.de

Fabio Scetti

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle / Clesthia, France

e-mail: fabio_scetti@yahoo.fr

Grazielle Helena Scheidt

Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil

e-mail: graziellescheidt@gmail.com

Nicole Schröder

University of Heidelberg, Germany

e-mail: nicole.schroeder@rose.uni-heidelberg.de ←12 | 13→

Heinz Sieburg

University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg

e-mail: heinz.sieburg@uni.lu

Annemarie Sorescu-Marinković

Institute for Balkan Studies, Serbia

e-mail: annemariesorescu@gmail.com

José Carlos Huisa Tellez

Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany

e-mail: huisaj@uni-mainz.de

Juan A. Thomas

Utica College, Utica, NY, USA

e-mail: juantomas329@yahoo.com ←13 | 14→←14 | 15→

Rudolf Muhr

Misconceptions about pluricentric languages and pluricentric theory – an overview of 40 years1,2

“In Science truth always wins.”

(Max Perutz, Nobel Laureate, 1962)

“I’ve never met a British person who understood what Australian English is.”

(Michael Clyne, 2010)3

Abstract: The paper presents an overview about misconceptions surrounding the concept of pluricentricity and the description of pluricentric languages (PLCLs) during the past 40–50 years and up to the present time. It is shown that among others the one-nation-one-language concept is still a basic concept, which is shared by many dominant varieties. Other misconceptions concern the misrepresentation of pluricentricity as nationalist, as supporting purism, as an attempt to police language police etc. Misleading approaches about the definition of PLCLs, the naming of national varieties, and the concept of nations are also addressed. The misconceptions are discussed and contrasted with concepts that are actually in accord with the basic idea of pluricentricity, which is to represent the identity of language communities in sovereign countries and to cope with different types of pluricentricity around the world.


This paper is an attempt to collect and reflect common conceptions – and in particular misconceptions about pluricentric languages (PLCLs) and the theory ←17 | 18→around it. The reason for doing so is that after 40 years of research in PLCLs4 there are still substantial differences on how PLCLs should be defined and described. It seems necessary to give an overview about the different approaches to pluricentricity, to reflect them critically and to relate them to the theoretical framework that has been developed since 2010 within the “Working Group on Non-dominant Varieties of Pluricentric Languages” (WGNDV).5 A majority of the misconceptions I am going to address come from publications about the pluricentricity of German, as I have been working on that for more than 40 years now and know the discussion about that language best. I hope that this will not diminish the value of this paper, as many misconceptions found with respect to German (but not alone to German) might be relevant for other PLCLs, too.

2Misconception (MC) 1: The rejection of pluricentricity and its sources

The most basic misconception in PLCLs is the rejection of pluricentricity as a valid concept for languages that are indeed pluricentric. The rejection of the concept of pluricentricity has mostly faded among linguists working on the major PLCLs during the past 20 years. In some language communities, despite being part of a pluricentric language, the pluricentric concept is however still strongly rejected. This can be particularly observed in two types of languages: (1) New PLCLs that came into existence only recently: e.g. through the split of former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union as well nations that underwent a transformation after the end of the communist system in Eastern Europe; (2) Highly centralized PLCLs that often follow the “one language-one nation” notion of their identity. Such a situation can actually be observed in Albanian,6 Arabic,7 Catalan,8 French, Russian9 and (particularly strong in) ←18 | 19→Romanian,10 only to name a few.11 The “old” linguistic and political elites of the D-nations in these types of languages are often unwilling to accept the “new” linguistic norms (and the political circumstances) that are developing in independent nation(s), which they cannot control (any more).

The intensity of the “battles” about pluricentricity and self-definition seems to be directly related to the force that links language, nation and identity. The more a certain language is thought to be the sole base for the definition of individual, collective and national identity, the more is its pluricentricity rejected as it is thought to separate the unity between (the imagined) nation and the language that is at its base. This causes “passions of the tongue” as Ramaswamy (1997) calls the devotion towards the mother tongue that exists in some language communities (Tamil is one of them) and even leads to people immolating themselves for the sake of the preservation of their language.12 The preservation of a status quo of a (seemingly unified language) is also the key word for Arabic, which is a striking example for the rejection of pluricentricity. The concept of pluricentricity is thought to be damaging to the idea of pan-Arabism and not compatible with the notion that Arabic is the holy language of the Quran. Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is therefore believed to be the “best” variety even though its use is marked by diglossia and rarely used in daily conversation and sometimes even not even a key to getting a better job.13 There are, however, about 30 (mainly uncodified) national varieties in the different Arabic speaking countries, yet they are generally perceived as “debased forms, deviations or corruptions of MSA.”14 Ever since Abd-el-Jawad wrote his paper in 1992 there has been little change in this general ←19 | 20→attitude in the Arabic speaking world – except maybe in Tunisia,15 Morocco16 and partly also in Algeria.

A third major source for the rejection of pluricentricity is the fear of loss of social status when adopting the norms of the ND-variety. M. Clyne (1992: 459) stated that “Cultural elites in the O-nations tend to defer to norms from the D-nation(s). This is related to the fact that the more distinctive forms of national varieties are dialectally and sociolectally marked.” It is by now common knowledge that the elites of the non-dominant varieties (NDVs) tend to prefer the norms of the D-nation (as an act of linguistic cringe/opportunism). This gives them a symbolic and (in the end also a) financial advantage against the rest of the population that is not mastering the formal norm in the same way, as it is not their norm of everyday conversation and has to be learned extra in school (thus leading to widespread diglossia and linguistic schizophrenia17.) The repudiation of native NDV-norms by the social elites is also supported by misconceptions about the nature of the national varieties NV, which is falsely and exclusively associated with the regional varieties of the NV and not with the standard variety of the NDV. A participant of the internet-forum of the Austrian newspaper “Der Standard” put it like this18:

Was soll denn das sein, “Österreichisches Deutsch”? Vorarlbergerisch? Kärntnerisch? Meidlingerisch? [What’s that supposed to be, “Austrian German”? Vorarlbergerisch?19 Carinthian?20 Meidlingerisch?21]

Such mislead attitudes are mainly caused by the lack of information about the nature of the native NDV and its linguistic features that are not made aware in schools and often not codified in dictionaries and books of reference. The negligence is the immediate effect of linguistic cringe by the elites who often do not ←20 | 21→care about the codification of their own variety, as they rather prefer to practise the norms of the DV (or a norm close to it).

3Misconceptions in the early period of pluricentricity – battling with deep-rooted monocentric views about language

The early period of pluricentricity was the decade of the late 1970s and 1980s when the concept was gaining ground via the discussion on the pluricentricity of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese (and, to a degree, French). It was consolidated in the 1990s through M. Clyne’s publications about German (1984, 1995) his semial volume of (1992) and publications about World Englishes. The following section is a summary of the most important early counter-arguments for readers who are new to this field. Most of it will be known for those familiar with the concept and the development of the debate. Many examples come from German and English but are, in principle, representative for other PLCLs too.

3.1Misconception 2: The monocentric concept of languages as “mother” of all misconceptions about pluricentricity

At the forefront of political and language policy misconceptions about PLCLs is the notion that NDVs of PLCLs are mere “dialects”, “substandard”, “peripheral elements” that can only be considered as “regional varieties/diatopic varieties”, and in a very restricted way as standard language. This approach can be found (among others) in publications by Hugo Moser on German (such as 1959 and 1985) for German where he coined the terms “Hauptvariante Bundesrepublik” [main variety “Federal Republic of Germany”], “Binnendeutsch” [Core German] and “Außengebiete der deutschen Hochsprache22 [external areas of the German standard (“high”) language] that considered German as a monocentric language. This urge for the centralization of norms can be conceived to a certain degree as a reverberation of the strong pan-Germanism (ethnic conception of nation) that took hold after the foundation of the German Reich in 1871 and lasted until 1945. The author of an Austrian school dictionary published in 1941 put the unity of language and nation which is underlying the one language-one nation concept into the following words:23 ←21 | 22→

Die deutsche Sprache hat viele und sehr verschiedene Mundarten (Dialekte)… Über allen diesen Mundarten aber lebt die deutsche Gemeinsprache, d.h. die gemeinsame Sprache der ganzen Nation, das sogenannte gute, reine Deutsch, auch „Hochdeutsch” oder „Schriftdeutsch” genannt. … Wer nicht bloß ein Wiener, ein Kärntner, ein Schwabe, ein Sachse usw. sein will, sondern ein wirklicher Deutscher, der sich überall in deutschen Landen daheim fühlt, ein Gebildeter, der muß auch die Sprache des ganzen großen Volkes beherrschen, eben das „gute Deutsch”, das Hochdeutsch. [The German language has many and very different dialects … Above all these dialects, however, lives the German common language, i.e. the common language of the whole nation, the so called good, pure German, also called “High German” or “Written German”. … Someone who does not want to be just a Viennese, a Carinthian, a Swabian, a Saxon, etc., but a real German, who feels at home in German lands everywhere, an educated man, he must also speak the language of the whole great people, just that “Good German”, the High German.]

This was the language ideology up to and including the period 1933–1945. It existed already since the early 19th century and prevailed a long time after WWI and it was difficult to overcome. Michael Clyne’s work of 1984 and 1995 successfully challenged and replaced the old monocentric notion (for German), showing that German is a PLCL. The underlying “core-periphery notion” of the old monocentric model is however still in use to some extent in English sociolinguistics until today via Kachrus model of circles (Inner Circle, the Outer Circle and the Expanding Circle) that tries to describe the pluricentricity of English.24 Both Moser and Kachru have been criticised criticised for the direct or indirect monocentricity of their models that obviously are not adequate to describe PLCLs.25

The above quote is however, a first-hand exemplification of central notions of monocentrism, summed up in Muhr (2005: 13) under the following terms: “centralist, elitist, monolingual, mono-normative and derogatory towards non-core-norm speakers.” It equates language and nation and considers the standard variety as the only “pure” expression of the language and its command as a precondition for being educated. It also differentiates between high (standard language) and low (regional language), unity (standard) and fragmentation/split (regional), belonging to and being a member of a powerful political entity (achieved through standard language) versus being an outsider, who is only part of an insignificant political unit (adhering to a regional language/not unified national standard). The underlying (political) objective of monocentric conceptions of language is ←22 | 23→to achieve and exercise power via the centralization of norms and the control of the social behaviour its speakers purporting that this approach is advantageous for everybody speaking this specific language. The monocentric argumentation runs in detail as follows:26

1.There is only one language with a certain name (French, German etc.) and there is only one language norm for it. If there is another norm of this language, it can’t be correct because that it would reduce the status of the variety.

2.A specific nation is represented by that language and the nation represents that language as its most valuable asset and symbol. This nation pretends to be in “possession” of this specific language.

3.Any person belonging to that nation is assumed to speak only one variety of that language – the norm – which is the only correct one. This has to be done in all communicative situations – private or official ones. The perfect monolingual speaker is the idol that is aspired.

4.The “good and correct usage” of the language is only achieved by a (small) minority. The correct norm is not available to everyone.

5.The majority of the speakers are not in command of this kind of language which makes the norm the élite’s social dialect. Anyone wanting to belong to the social élite has to adopt and to adapt to this norm and their social “habitus”.27

6.The norm of the language is decided at the centre of the nation – in and around the economic/demographic centre (capital city) and thus denying any participation to the periphery of the language. This leads to the second level of pluricentricity which is present both in dominant and NDVs.

The central objectives of monocentric language policies are to fight moves, which potentially endanger the unity of the language (and the standard norm). Strategies to achieve this are: The linguistic characteristics of NDVs are denied the status of being an appropriate standard and/or not codified or selectively codified. The elitist approach fights every move to narrow the gap between the official standard norm and the “actual” everyday norm. (This strategy is also applied in the NDVs in order to avoid their linguistic self-determination and self-definition.) ←23 | 24→

Most misconceptions about PLCLs found in scientific literature and among non-professionals are basically variations of the six arguments. These attitudes are by no means the exclusive result of a ferocious dictatorship. They can be well observed in several PLCLs of today that battle with their pluricentric status and the split of the language area into several independent nation states.

3.2Misconception 3: Pluricentricity considered as nationalism and chauvinism28

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, all kinds of (academic) battles were fought on whether certain languages are to be considered as pluricentric – one of them being German. Those supporting the pluricentricity concept were accused by conservatives and also by left-leaning people of dividing people, supporting the exclusion of people, stirring up emotions, leading to xenophobia and was therefore inciting nationalism (or even chauvinism).29 Their arguments were falsely hinged on the term national variety and in particular on the term national. The critics on the political left and right maintained that it had been used by the Nazis during 1933–1945 and was therefore linked to chauvinism, xenophobia etc. It was of course a far-fetched argument as the term has been used for a long time in English linguistics where the concept of state-nations is used and where nobody would arrive at such a reference.

In view of the larger European Union and the dissolution of borders, (as an example) the idea of considering Austrian German (AG) as a NV was deemed to be outdated, isolationist, separatist, demarcating and attempting to declare it an independent language by turning dialect into standard language.30 A younger professor of German linguists explained to me in 1995 that he considered himself not as an Austrian citizen (which he was) but as a “South-German” as borders in Europe in his view were “artificial constructs”. Ironically, this colleague did not ←24 | 25→appear to be aware that what he so proudly perceived as leftist internationalism meshed seamlessly with the century-old dream of pan-Germans to unite the German speaking areas in Central Europe and to abolish the Austrian nation – a dream successfully pursued by the Nazis.

As recent political events in different parts of Europe show, the ethnically based concept of nations is not only threatening the concept of pluricentricity but also the very existence of the European Union and of the nations within it. While such accusations as the ones mentioned above are not heard any more in serious academic discourse (with respect to German), the battles are still waging in other PLCLs. One could say that inadequate arguments that have become obsolete over time in “older” PLCLs may resurface in “new” PLCLs and also stir up trouble there for a while. They need to be countered with well-founded arguments.

3.3Misconception 4: Pluricentricity considered to support purism and language policing

An important allegation against pluricentricity was also that it was supporting “purism of national varieties” and “language police-like” measures. These charges came up with the question how elements of other NVs of German should be treated in Austrian dictionaries (whether they should be marked as non-Austrian) and in textbooks for schools and which variety should be used by children of German immigrants in Austrian schools (the Austrian variety or a “neutral” one). The allegation of “national variety purism31 was levelled against the national dictionary of AG (Österreichisches Wörterbuch) by Ammon (1995: 181ff.). He devoted a whole paper in his book about the fact that the AG-dictionary hat marked German German (GG) vocabulary (a mere 147 items) with an asterisk and by that denoting them as “alien” to AG. Ammon criticizes this as “purism”. This is of course completely unjustified as it is absolutely normal that dictionaries add information about the use of words by their language community. The reproach is even more unjustified as German dictionaries like the “Duden” have always marked linguistic items of AG and Swiss German (CHG). Why the marking in the dictionary of AG was “purism32 can probably only explained ←25 | 26→if one considers this as an attempt to bully a NDV into not becoming to different – an attempt that has been successful as the Austrian dictionary stopped the marking of GG vocabulary and has only been reintroduced in a marginal way in the last (42nd) edition of the dictionary.

Quite in line with this strategy were accusations of two professors of German linguistics who accused me supporting language police like measures when I suggested that Austrian expressions should have priority in textbooks for schools and GG vocabulary should be avoided in newspapers and public texts. Here again this was nothing more than an attempt to interfere in the linguistic self-definition of AG. Accusation like these might seem strange for other PLCLs where the power relation between the varieties is not so one sided as in German. They show however, a consistent pattern that is always directed against the self-definition of NDVs and are therefore worth noting.

In all, there was a total of eight arguments that were leveled against the existence and self-definition of AG, which in my view are the complete arsenal of opponents of pluricentrism and probably relevant for most other NVs of PLCLs too33:

(1)The nationalism argument (Pluricentricsm is nationalism, excluding other varieties);

(2)The outmoded argument (Given the European unification, the small languages and the national varieties are no function awarded);

(3)The separation argument (The activities around the definition of AG will split the German language);

(4)The creation of a distinct language argument (The creation of a national language independent of German is the secret objective of the supporters of the pluricentric concept);

(5)The language police argument (Language police like measures are put up to secure the establishment of AG);

(6)The dialect appreciation argument (Dialectal expressions are turned into standard);

(7)The inconsistency argument (NDVs like AG are internally so fragmented, that there is no real national norm);

(8)The overlapping argument (There are almost no native features of AG as they are also found in neighbouring areas of Germany and Switzerland and seen from this point of view there is no AG national variety). ←26 | 27→

3.4The social costs of the rejection of pluricentricity – observations since the early 1980s


This book comprises 30 selected papers that were presented at the 5th World Conference of Pluricentric Languages and their Non-Dominant Varieties (WCPCL) held at the University of Mainz (Germany). The conference was organized by the Working Group on Non-Dominant Varieties of Pluricentric Languages (WGNDV). The authors come from 15 countries and deal with 14 pluricentric languages and 31 (non-dominant) varieties around the world. The number of known PLCLs has again been extended. There are now 43 PLCLs in all. Apart from a large number of papers on Spanish, French and Portuguese, «new» and little researched PLCLs are also presented in the contributions: Albanian, Hungarian, Malay, Persian, Somali and Romanian.

Biographical notes

Rudolf Muhr (Volume editor) Benjamin Meisnitzer (Volume editor)

Rudolf Muhr is Sociolinguist, retired Professor of Linguistics, Founder and Head of the Austrian German Research Centre at the University of Graz and Initiator and Coordinator of the Working Group on Non-Dominant Varieties of Pluricentric Languages (WGNDV). Benjamin Meisnitzer is Full Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Linguistics at the University of Leipzig. He was Assistant Professor of Romance Linguistics at Johannes-Gutenberg University/Mainz and Research Assistant at Ludwig-Maximilians University/Munich. He is member of the Steering Committee of the WGNDV, Vice President of the German Association of Catalanists and Vice President of the German Association of Lusitanists.


Title: Pluricentric Languages and Non-Dominant Varieties Worldwide