Measuring languageness: Fact-checking and debunking a few common myths


  • Mauro Tosco Università di Torino



languageness, measurability, dialects, postmodernism, intelligibility


The article critically discusses a few common objections to an intrinsic, language-internal definition of what constitutes a ‘language’ (and, conversely, a ‘dialect’). It argues that, contra postmodernism (1.), languages do exist, they can be counted and languageness can be measured independently and even notwithstanding the speakers’ beliefs and ideologies (2.). It further refutes as unsound all the common criticisms to intelligibility as a tool in assessing languageness: while deviations from common-sense assessments may be expected but are not really of concern to science (3.1.), intelligibility asymmetries (3.2.), apparent infinite graduality (3.3.) and dialect chains (3.4.) are only partial problems to be solved empirically. On the contrary, intelligibility can and is routinely measured in different sciences, and, when applied to language, it tends to dovetail with other criteria, such as dialectometry and the counting of isoglosses (4.).


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How to Cite

Tosco, M. (2021). Measuring languageness: Fact-checking and debunking a few common myths. DIVE-IN – An International Journal on Diversity and Inclusion, 1(1), 43–51.