Showing posts from March, 2014

Language, dialect and census

I have to chime in on what's going on the Facebooksphere about the recent census in Burma. Different feelings about it are showing up on Facebook regarding the list of 135 ethnic groups in Burma : angry --- " why are there so many Karen groups? The government is trying to disunite us." confused --- " what do I have to check? Asho? Zo? Chin? " politicized --- " every Chin subgroup should just say Chin. " " every Kachin subgroup should say Kachin. " A lot of these confusions, anger, and politicization root from the lack of studies in humanities in the past few decades in Burma (in addition to the fact that the list is very controversial). Let me chime in from a linguistic perspective (ONLY from linguistics and nothing else). In linguistics, the differentiation between languages and dialects is a way of starting heated debates. There is no exact way to distinguish a language from a dialect. Some say , " When dialects diverge to the