Broad vs. localistic dialectology, standard vs. dialect

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Dialectology in large part is about drawing boundaries and charting the diffusion of linguistic features. Such pursuits have varied applications in the Balkans, where the spread of features, generally on a very localistic basis, often transcends the traditional distinctions between dialects and separate languages, due to the effects of contact among speakers. Yet at the same time, there are attempts to subsume the Balkan contact area within a larger European contact zone, taking a very broad view of dialectology. In this paper, I examine various phenomena in the Balkans, mostly focusing on phonology, to show that a localistic approach to Balkan dialectology is especially revealing, suggesting that the broad approach is too broad to be of value. I also document the value of turning one’s attention away from standard language phenomena and towards regional dialect varieties. These two issues are related, of course, in that regional features tend to be highly localised in nature. In addition, in the course of this investigation, I explore some of the factors that play a role in localistic phonological convergence in the Balkans, including bilingualism, familiarity with contact language, ideology and attitudes, and degree of social integration.


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