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The Sociolinguistics of the Neo-Latin Word dialectus

From the book Cognitive Sociolinguistics Revisited

  • Raf Van Rooy


In this paper, I explore the sociolinguistics of the Neo-Latin word dialectus, definitively borrowed from Greek dialektos (διάλεκτος) in the sixteenth century. This exploration involves sketching the profiles of the early adopters of this word in the years 1485-1530, and the way in which the diffusion of the term dialectus relates to (1) geographical-social background, (2) religious persuasion, and (3) area of expertise. Lectal factors (2)-(3) are especially relevant for this timeframe due to the Reformation, and the fact that linguistics was not yet an autonomous discipline. The evidence suggests that although the Neo-Latinization of dialectus was a product of scholars from the pan-European Republic of Letters, it is possible to trace the regional and confessional diffusion of the word in greater detail. I also elaborate on the methodological challenges involved in this type of research, hampered by a lack of easily searchable Neo-Latin corpora, which makes accurate quantification impossible at this stage.

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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