The distinction between a language
and a dialect
is somewhat ambiguous
. Suzette Haden Elgin
wrote that while she would consider Navajo
) and Apache
to be dialect
s of the same language, she feels sure that no native speaker
of either language would agree. Similarly, Laotian
seem like dialect
s to outsider
s, but for various reasons are thought of as separate language
s by their native speakers.
Linguists often say, attributing the idea to Max Weinreich, that the difference is that
a language is a dialect with its own army and navy.
Of course, this would exclude many landlocked languages from the definition. On a less literal level, however, it rings true. Nationalism can contribute strongly to a sense of linguistic identity.
SOURCE: Suzette Haden Elgin, "The Language Imperative"