Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 27, 2008

Rethinking the Ausbau–Abstand dichotomy into a continuous and multivariate system

Joshua A. Fishman
From the journal


There are several advantages to reconceptualizing Heinz Kloss's dichotomy “Ausbau vs. Abstand” as separate continuous variables, only the former of which (Ausbau) is needed for corpus planning studies. Such a reconceptualization would not only be preferable from the point of view of measuring the connectedness between degree of Ausbauization and various population attitudes and academy implementation successes, but also to furthering continuous variable measurement in general sociolinguistics and to appreciating the co-presence possibilities of various other measures of corpus planning efforts that have most recently been introduced. One of the greatest gifts of Heinz Kloss to macro-sociolinguistics was the formulation of a polar opposite distinction between any two contrasted languages or varieties such that they are each either (a) easily recognized (i.e., judged) to be functionally independent from one another due to the major and natural (that is, not man-made) differences have already transpired between them, referred to as being “independent by Abstand,” on the one hand, or (b) those whose functional independence is recognized only as a result of the human effort that has been expended in order to make them appear sufficiently different from one another, so that the smaller and weaker of the two can be recognized as independent from the larger and stronger one and, therefore, referred to as being “independent by Ausbau.” Thus, the major theoretical contribution of Kloss, initially made well before his Nazi days (see Hutton 1999) was essentially a tripartite one, one which was simultaneously (1) judgmental and perspectival, (2) focused upon the importance of organized human intervention into the natural language-change processes in order that prestige- and power-related societal functions for, as well as the independence of, the contextually weaker variety were to have a chance of being recognized at all, and (3) preoccupied with “dialect avoidance efforts” more generally as a major desideratum governing intervarietal comparisons in the realm of social power. The above-mentioned tripartite considerations may be highly interrelated but they are, nevertheless, sufficiently independent from one another to also be considered separately, rather than necessarily only jointly. Finally, Ausbau and Abstand, rather than being totally separate, are also independently related to various yet other language planning dimensions and it is these last-mentioned relationships that actually disclose the major importance of Ausbau to the entire language planning venture in various polities (Schiffman 1996; Kalogjera 1985).

Published Online: 2008-05-27
Published in Print: 2008-May

© 2008 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin