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Ausbau and Abstand languages

Some other useful notions: Kloss's criteria of Ausbau vs. Abstand languages.

  1. Ausbau languages are languages because they have been developed or `built-up'; they contain all the useful vocabulary they need and are recognized for all domains and registers of a language---technical, religious, etc. But they may be very close to some other, even mutually intelligible lect: The Scandinavian ``languages", Czech and Slovak, Lao and Thai, etc. But they may depend on different classical (or other) languages as a source of learned vocabulary ...
  2. Abstand languages are definitely languages by `distance', i.e. there is no close relative with which they can be confused, or are mutually intelligible with: Japanese, Korean, Icelandic, etc. No chain of mutually intelligible lects merging with some other `language'. Thus many African languages, Amerindian languages, Malayo- Polynesian languages, Australian languages are so by Abstand, but not by Ausbau.
  3. Many languages are languages by both criteria of Ausbau and Abstand, e.g. Japanese, English, French, etc. but some are languages by only one criterion, though some are attempting to become useful for all registers by developing their own Ausbau procedures;
  4. Some languages that are so by Ausbau but not by Abstand may try to increase the distance by resorting to purism or some other distancing mechanism (borrowing from some other source). Urdu and Hindi try to distance themselves, the former by borrowing from Persian and Arabic, the latter by borrowing from Sanskrit. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Croatian, Serbian and "Bosnian" are now trying to distance themselves--from each other: Croatian (mostly "Catholic") by borrowing from Latin and western European languages, Serbian (mostly Orthodox) by borrowing from other Slavic languages, and "Bosnian" by borrowing from Arabic or Turkish.

Harold Schiffman
last modified 01/10/05