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Summary Details

Query:   Weinreich quote
Author:  Donn Bayard Anthropology Dept., Univ. of Otago, Dunedin, NZ
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   General Linguistics

Summary:   On January 24th I posted a query trying to find an accurate source
and Yiddish original for the famous quote "a language is a dialect with an
army and navy", usually attributed to Max Weinrich. I had seen a source in a
journal giving both of these while on sabbatical at ANU in 1994, but then
lost the piece of paper I copied it down on.
Six people responded to my listing, and I thank
Andre Eliseu <>
Marina Yaguello <>
Peter Daniels <>
Peter Paul <>
Robert Hoberman <>
Michal Ephratt <>

Three of these people wanted the answer as well if I found it; Peter
Daniels said he thought it was quoted by Max's son Uriel in *Languages in
Contact* (1954). Robert Hoberman has neither seen nor heard of the quote in
Yiddish. Michal Ephratt has "searched all Weinreich's books looking for
that quote" with no success. I also tried a search on the Web (using
+Max+Weinreich+dialect), which revealed not only the quote in at least two
compendia of quotations, but also got me onto correspondence in the earlier
LINGUIST dialogue on this question. There it was revealed that Chomsky had
referenced the quote to Weinreich on p. 15 of his *Knowledge of Language*.
Sure enough, there it is, but only "attributed to Max Weinreich", with no
reference supplied.
The most interesting response came from my earlier query (July 1996)
on our local NZLINGUIST list; Richard Benton <>

I have it on good authority that the originator of the metaphor was
actually Joshua Fishman, but he (Joshua) doesn't know where/whether he
published it -- he used it in his lectures which Max W attended, and has
seen it attributed to Max and once heard him actually use it. But if you
do find the Max quote that you once had, please let me know -- I'd like
to have it too!!!

As Peter Daniels sugggested, I very likely saw my reference and
Yiddish version in *The International Journal of the Sociology of Language*,
since I was reading all the 1980s volumes held by ANU but not by the Otago
library. I certainly wish I hadn't lost that piece of paper! But if
someone out there has access to all numbers of IJSL, I and many others would
be grateful if they could post it. It is odd that such a well-known and
commonly used quote isn't better sourced.
Donn Bayard

LL Issue: 8.306
Date Posted: 02-Mar-1997
Original Query: Read original query


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