Dialect continuum

dialect chaincontinuumdialect continualanguage continuumdialectal continuumlinguistic continuumSouth Slavic dialect continuumcontinuum of dialectsdialect clusterdialectal continuity
A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a spread of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighbouring varieties differ only slightly, but the differences accumulate over distance so that widely separated varieties are not mutually intelligible.wikipedia
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Mutual intelligibility

mutually intelligiblemutually unintelligibleintelligible
A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a spread of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighbouring varieties differ only slightly, but the differences accumulate over distance so that widely separated varieties are not mutually intelligible.
It exists in differing degrees among many related or geographically proximate languages of the world, often in the context of a dialect continuum.

German dialects

German dialectdialectsdialectal
Historically, it also happened in various parts of Europe such as between Portugal, southern Belgium (Wallonia) and southern Italy (Western Romance languages) and between Flanders and Austria (German dialects). Dialectologists record variation across a dialect continuum using maps of various features collected in a linguistic atlas, beginning with an atlas of German dialects by Georg Wenker (from 1888), based on a postal survey of schoolmasters.
They are dominated by the geographical spread of the High German consonant shift, and the dialect continua that connect German to the neighbouring varieties of Low Franconian (Dutch) and Frisian.

Indo-Aryan languages

Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan languageIndic
That happens, for example, across large parts of India (the Indo-Aryan languages) or the Arab world (Arabic).
The Indo-Aryan languages of North India and Pakistan form a dialect continuum.

Norwegian language

NorwegianNeutralNorwegian:
The Scandinavian languages, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, are often cited as examples. The Germanic languages and dialects of Scandinavia are a classic example of a dialect continuum, from Swedish dialects in Finland, to Swedish, Gutnish, Elfdalian, Scanian, Danish, Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk), Faroese, Icelandic, with many local dialects of those languages.
Along with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a dialect continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional varieties, and some Norwegian and Swedish dialects, in particular, are very close.

Dialectology

dialectologistdialectologicaldialectologists
Instead, dialectologists map variation of various language features across a dialect continuum, drawing lines called isoglosses between areas that differ with respect to some feature.
Commonly studied concepts in dialectology include the problem of mutual intelligibility in defining languages and dialects; situations of diglossia, where two dialects are used for different functions; dialect continua including a number of partially mutually intelligible dialects; and pluricentrism, where what is essentially a single genetic language exists as two or more standard varieties.

Abstand and ausbau languages

dachspracheabstandausbau
Standard varieties may be developed and codified at one or more locations in a continuum, a process known as ausbau, until they have independent cultural status, or autonomy.
This framework addresses situations in which multiple varieties from a dialect continuum have been standardized, so that they are commonly considered distinct languages even though they may be mutually intelligible.

Macedonian language

MacedonianMacedonian CyrillicMacedonian spelling
Now known as Macedonian, it is the national standard of the independent Republic of Macedonia, but viewed by Bulgarians as a dialect of Bulgarian. Standard Slovene, Macedonian, and Bulgarian are each based on a distinct dialect, but the Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian standard varieties of the pluricentric Serbo-Croatian language are all based on the same dialect, Shtokavian.
Macedonian dialects form a continuum with Bulgarian dialects; they in turn form a broader continuum with Serbo-Croatian through the transitional Torlakian dialects.

Swedish language

SwedishSwedish-languageSwedish-speaking
The Scandinavian languages, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, are often cited as examples. The Germanic languages and dialects of Scandinavia are a classic example of a dialect continuum, from Swedish dialects in Finland, to Swedish, Gutnish, Elfdalian, Scanian, Danish, Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk), Faroese, Icelandic, with many local dialects of those languages.
Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish are thus from a linguistic perspective more accurately described as a dialect continuum of Scandinavian (North Germanic), and some of the dialects, such as those on the border between Norway and Sweden, especially parts of Bohuslän, Dalsland, western Värmland, western Dalarna, Härjedalen, Jämtland, and Scania, could be described as intermediate dialects of the national standard languages.

Standard language

standardstandardizedstandard dialect
Standard varieties may be developed and codified at one or more locations in a continuum, a process known as ausbau, until they have independent cultural status, or autonomy. A variety within a dialect continuum may be developed and codified as a standard language, and then serve as an authority for part of the continuum, e.g. within a particular political unit or geographical area. This continuum is sometimes presented as another example, but the major languages in the group have had separate standards for longer than the languages in the Continental West Germanic group, and so are not commonly classified as dialects of a common language.
Different national standards derived from a dialect continuum may become treated as different languages, even if they are mutually intelligible.

North Germanic languages

ScandinavianNorth GermanicScandinavian languages
The Scandinavian languages, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, are often cited as examples. The Germanic languages and dialects of Scandinavia are a classic example of a dialect continuum, from Swedish dialects in Finland, to Swedish, Gutnish, Elfdalian, Scanian, Danish, Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk), Faroese, Icelandic, with many local dialects of those languages.
The term "North Germanic languages" is used in comparative linguistics, whereas the term "Scandinavian languages" appears in studies of the modern standard languages and the dialect continuum of Scandinavia.

Linguistic map

linguistic atlasdialect atlaslinguistic atlases
Dialectologists record variation across a dialect continuum using maps of various features collected in a linguistic atlas, beginning with an atlas of German dialects by Georg Wenker (from 1888), based on a postal survey of schoolmasters.
A linguistic map is a thematic map showing the geographic distribution of the speakers of a language, or isoglosses of a dialect continuum of the same language.

Scanian dialect

Scaniandialects spoken in ScaniaEast Danish dialect
The Germanic languages and dialects of Scandinavia are a classic example of a dialect continuum, from Swedish dialects in Finland, to Swedish, Gutnish, Elfdalian, Scanian, Danish, Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk), Faroese, Icelandic, with many local dialects of those languages.
Scanian formed part of the old Scandinavian dialect continuum and are by most historical linguists considered to be an East Danish dialect group, but due to the modern-era influence from Standard Swedish in the region and because traditional dialectology in the Scandinavian countries normally has not considered isoglosses that cut across state borders, the Scanian dialects have normally been treated as a South Swedish dialect group in Swedish dialect research.

Wave model

wave theorywaves Wave model of language change
Dialect continua typically occur in long-settled agrarian populations, as innovations spread from their various points of origin as waves.
During the 20th century, the wave model has had little acceptance as a model for language change overall, except for certain cases, such as the study of dialect continua and areal phenomena; it has recently gained more popularity among historical linguists, due to the shortcomings of the Tree model.

High German consonant shift

second Germanic consonant shiftSecond Sound Shiftto varying degrees
From Central German to Southeastern Dutch (Limburgish) in the so-called Rhenish fan, an area corresponding largely to the modern Niederrhein in which gradual but geographically compact changes took place.
In historical linguistics, the High German consonant shift or second Germanic consonant shift is a phonological development (sound change) that took place in the southern parts of the West Germanic dialect continuum in several phases.

Ukrainian language

Ukrainianukrukr.
Examples include the boundaries between Dutch and German, between Czech, Slovak and Polish, and between Belarusian and Ukrainian.
The southwestern Ukrainian dialects are transitional to Polish.

Dutch language

DutchDutch-languagenl
Examples include the boundaries between Dutch and German, between Czech, Slovak and Polish, and between Belarusian and Ukrainian.
In most cases, the heavy influence of the standard language has broken the dialect continuum.

Leonese dialect

LeoneseLeonese propersouthern dialects
The western continuum of Romance languages comprises, from West to East: in Portugal, Portuguese; in Spain, Galician, Leonese or Asturian, Castilian or Spanish, Aragonese and Catalan or Valencian; in France, Occitan, Franco-Provençal, standard French and Corsican which is closely related to Italian; in Italy, Piedmontese, Italian, Lombard, Venetian, Friulian, Ladin; and in Switzerland, Romansh and other languages with fewer speakers.
The westernmost fringes of the provinces of León and Zamora are in the territory of the Galician language, although there is dialectal continuity between the linguistic areas.

Galician language

GalicianGalician speakingGallego
The western continuum of Romance languages comprises, from West to East: in Portugal, Portuguese; in Spain, Galician, Leonese or Asturian, Castilian or Spanish, Aragonese and Catalan or Valencian; in France, Occitan, Franco-Provençal, standard French and Corsican which is closely related to Italian; in Italy, Piedmontese, Italian, Lombard, Venetian, Friulian, Ladin; and in Switzerland, Romansh and other languages with fewer speakers.
In the past Galician and Portuguese formed a dialect continuum, which many scholars contend still exists today at the level of rural dialects.

Dialect

dialect clusterdialectslanguage cluster
This continuum is sometimes presented as another example, but the major languages in the group have had separate standards for longer than the languages in the Continental West Germanic group, and so are not commonly classified as dialects of a common language.
One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. Under this definition, the dialects or varieties of a particular language are closely related and, despite their differences, are most often largely mutually intelligible, especially if close to one another on the dialect continuum. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class or ethnicity. A dialect that is associated with a particular social class can be termed a sociolect, a dialect that is associated with a particular ethnic group can be termed as ethnolect, and a regional dialect may be termed a regiolect. According to this definition, any variety of a given language constitutes "a dialect", including any standard varieties. In this case, the distinction between the "standard language" (i.e. the "standard" dialect of a particular language) and the "nonstandard" dialects of the same language is often arbitrary and based on social, political, cultural, or historical considerations. In a similar way, the definitions of the terms "language" and "dialect" may overlap and are often subject to debate, with the differentiation between the two classifications often grounded in arbitrary and/or sociopolitical motives.

Romansh language

RomanshRomanschRhaeto-Romance
The western continuum of Romance languages comprises, from West to East: in Portugal, Portuguese; in Spain, Galician, Leonese or Asturian, Castilian or Spanish, Aragonese and Catalan or Valencian; in France, Occitan, Franco-Provençal, standard French and Corsican which is closely related to Italian; in Italy, Piedmontese, Italian, Lombard, Venetian, Friulian, Ladin; and in Switzerland, Romansh and other languages with fewer speakers.
These dialects form a dialect continuum without clear-cut divisions.

Aragonese language

AragoneseAra.Aragonese-language
The western continuum of Romance languages comprises, from West to East: in Portugal, Portuguese; in Spain, Galician, Leonese or Asturian, Castilian or Spanish, Aragonese and Catalan or Valencian; in France, Occitan, Franco-Provençal, standard French and Corsican which is closely related to Italian; in Italy, Piedmontese, Italian, Lombard, Venetian, Friulian, Ladin; and in Switzerland, Romansh and other languages with fewer speakers.
The union of the Catalan counties and the Kingdom of Aragon which formed the 12th-century Crown of Aragon did not merge the languages of the two territories; Catalan continued to be spoken in the east and Navarro-Aragonese in the west, with boundaries blurred by dialectal continuity.

Serbo-Croatian

Serbo-CroatSerbo-Croato-SlovenianCroatian
Standard Slovene, Macedonian, and Bulgarian are each based on a distinct dialect, but the Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian standard varieties of the pluricentric Serbo-Croatian language are all based on the same dialect, Shtokavian.
South Slavic dialects historically formed a continuum.

Shtokavian

ŠtokavianŠtokavian dialectikavian
Standard Slovene, Macedonian, and Bulgarian are each based on a distinct dialect, but the Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian standard varieties of the pluricentric Serbo-Croatian language are all based on the same dialect, Shtokavian.
It is a part of the South Slavic dialect continuum.

Standard German

StandardGermanHigh German
From Low Saxon to Northwestern Dutch (Hollandic). This sub-continuum also included West Frisian dialects up until the 1600s, but faced external pressure from Standard Dutch and, after the collapse of the Hanseatic League, Standard German which greatly influenced the vocabularies of these border dialects.
In Northern Germany, there is no continuum in the strict sense between the local indigenous languages and dialects of Low German ("Plattdeutsch") on the one hand, and standard German on the other. Since the former have not undergone the High German consonant shift, they are too different from the standard for a continuum to emerge. High German and Low German can be considered to be separate languages, since they are so different, but because High, Middle and Low German form a dialect continuum and Standard German serves as dachsprache for all forms of German, they are mostly seen as dialects of German. Under a socio-linguistic approach to the problem, even if Low German dialects are Abstandsprachen (linguistically quite different), they are dialects of German, because they lack Ausbau. However, Low German did influence the standard-based vernaculars spoken today in Northern Germany by language transfer (in pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and syntax), and it continues to do so to a limited degree. High German heavily influenced by Low German has been known as Missingsch, but most contemporary Northern Germans exhibit only an intermediate Low German substratum in their speech.

Limburgish

LimburgianliLimburgan
From Central German to Southeastern Dutch (Limburgish) in the so-called Rhenish fan, an area corresponding largely to the modern Niederrhein in which gradual but geographically compact changes took place.
The Limburgish group belongs to the Continental West Germanic dialect continuum.