Linguo-traditionalist country

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Linguo-traditionalist country

Post by Porphyrogenitos »

Don't really know what to call this thread, I don't have a name for this country. This is just a collection of speculations I've had about a government that operated to preserve its country's language based on the ideas of Peter Trudgill. These all started out as essentially humorous, absurd ideas about a government whose main goal was to preserve morphological complexity, but putting them together, I think a picture emerges of a rather interesting society.

If you're not familiar with the work of Peter Trudgill, he argues in his Sociolinguistic Typology that linguistic complexity (in particular morphological complexity) is both preserved and innovated anew within small, tight-knit linguistic communities with dense social networks; while linguistic complexity is not preserved and not innovated anew within large, loose social networks (such as those characteristic of modern societies with sigificant internal migration aided by transportation networks, and social ties mediated by telecommunications and mass media); furthermore, that mass adult acquisition of a language actively destroys linguistic complexity, seen in the koinés, trade languages, and standard varieties characteristic of empires and modern nation-states, with the most extreme and thoroughgoing products of this process being creoles.

So, I suppose just as a temporary measure, I will call this country "Udgilla". To be clear, Trudgill does not advocate for any of the things in the following descriptions - this is a hypothetical example of a country taking Trudgill's ideas and using them to further a policy of linguistic isolation/preservation. Moreover, I do not advocate for these policies either, to be very clear.

Actually, in the world of this country, it wouldn't be Trudgill's ideas, really - Trudgill began his work in the 70s, and this country would be implementing these policies from as early as the 19th century onwards. So really it would just be that they arrived at similar ideas (from a very different, non-ideologically-neutral perspective).


I have not yet thought of a defined location for "Udgilla" (henceforth no longer in quotes). I think I have mainly been imagining it as a country somewhere in the north Atlantic, like Iceland, but really it could be anywhere - it might make a bit more sense in a European milieu, but the language ideologies described below could have potentially emerged in other contexts, as well.

Social policies

The government of Udgilla is very strongly concerned with preservation of the nation's traditional culture. This includes language as well as other aspects of culture, though I'm going to spend more time talking about the linguistic aspects. Though there is little I have decided on in detail about Udgilla's history, I can say that one political controversy that emerged during the 20th century - probably coming to a head c. 1940-1960 - is the debate about whether "preservation of culture" includes preservation of demographics, i.e. preservation of the nation's racial character. The outcome of this debate, somewhat inevitably given the dramatic fall from grace of racial ideology in the Western world after World War II, resulted in the sidelining of those who were openly concerned with the "racial purity" of the nation, in favor of those who took a political and social view of national culture. Nonetheless, it was a compromise, and that compromise which is still essentially in place to this day involves heavily restricted but race-neutral and nation-of-origin-neutral immigration.

Linguistic policies

I will begin by describing the present-day linguistic situation in Udgilla, with the present-day motivations behind those policies. The historical background is not something I have described in detail yet, but assuming a European setting, emerges from concerns similar to those of other early modern and 19th/20th century nation-builders and language planners.

The one and only official and recognized language of Udgilla is "the Udgillan language". This is ideologically accurate, but covers up a much more complex situation.

The Udgillan language actually consists of a number of different dialects, more or less situated along a dialect continuum. There is some degree of intelligibility between all Udgillan dialects; however, speakers some of the more distant ones may have considerable trouble understanding each other.

However, the language used in official and legal contexts is not any one of the Udgillan dialects - it is an archaic form of Udgillan, something I might call "Old Udgillan" or "Classical Udgillan." It is based on a diachronically older stage of the language, however, it may not even be a direct ancestor of modern-day Udgillan - it may be more akin to Bible Gothic's relationship with Old Saxon and Old High German, or Old Church Slavonic's relationship with Russian. Thus, Udgillan society is diglossic.

However, the Udgillan government does not ignore the Udgillan dialects, or intentionally marginalize them or seek to replace them with Classical Udgillan. The dialects are strongly valued and have a recognized place in language policy. The Udgillan government's attitude towards the dialects is based on the attitude of 19th century nationalist dialectologists - the dialects are regarded as the living embodiment of the authentic folk spirit of the Udgillan people and the storehouse of rustic tradition, and are promoted in their appropriate context. The government is thus not opposed to evolution and change in the dialects (*with reservations!) - they are viewed as free-flowing and spontaneous, and receive treatment in descriptive grammars and sociolinguistic studies. Classical Udgillan, on the other hand, is regarded as the crystallized, essentially unchanging literary and sacred tradition passed down from the nation's ancestors, and is meant to be accorded reverence and respect.

Udgillan regionalism and diglossia

The Udgillan government is well-aware of the regional variation within Udgillan language and culture, and is concerned with its preservation. One function of diglossia in Udgilla is to ensure that no dialect is elevated above any other, and that no dialect begins to encroach on or replace another. There is a strong concern about the proper place of Classical and dialectal Udgilla - Classical Udgillan is not to be become an everyday language; that is the place of the dialects. The vernacularization of Classical Udgillan would result in the displacement of the dialects, and the "contamination" and "degrading" of both Classical Udgillan and the dialects.

Use of Classical Udgillan as a vernacular language is not a truly serious concern - it is essentially a non-possibility, considering the great difference between Classical and spoken Udgillan. It would be absurd, pedantic at best, to order a coffee or talk about the weather in Classical Udgillan - the classical language is for writing essays in school, scientific papers, the courtroom, legislation, political speeches, scripture and religious services, monuments, fine literature, nationwide news, historical dramas, etc. Nonetheless, education in Classical Udgillan does not begin until after age 10, and focuses on reading and writing, to ensure that it remains a second language. Dialects are used in vernacular and everyday contexts, especially local and regional contexts, but are also used in primary education. There is a publishing industry in dialect books, as well, but they generally consist of novels on lighter topics and so on. Most dialect TV tends to be local news and local programming, but some nationwide TV programs do feature dialect, mainly frivolous things like soap operas that would be absurd to perform in the Classical language.

When a person moves to a different region, they generally have two options: Speak the local dialect, or stick to your own dialect (in which case you'll still be understood). However, it's considered rude to butcher the local dialect, especially by mixing it with one's own or the Classical language, so it may be better to stick to your own dialect if you can't master the local one. If your dialect is not easily comprehended by the locals, you may use Classical as a stopgap measure until you have a firm grasp of the local dialect. This is one of the few contexts in which Classical Udgillan might be used in a vernacular context.

Nonstandard forms and the big picture of Udgillan language policy

So, surely this means that the Udgillan government is very accepting of all forms of the Udgillan language, just as long as they're used in their proper context? Right? - No, not at all!

The language policy of Udgilla is based on a conscious choice to reject the model of France, Italy, China, etc - i.e. to have a vernacular standard, a standard form of the language that is based on an everyday, spoken variety, or which is used as an everyday vernacular. Why avoid this? Because as with the aforementioned countries, this very often leads to the marginalization, dilution, and extinction of local dialects - the exact opposite of what the Udgillan government wants.

Not only does the Udgillan government not pursue a vernacular standard through official means, they also try to avoid the formation of an unofficial vernacular standard - their greatest linguistic enemy is dialect leveling and koineization. Udgillan is an inflecting language, and typical of groups that hold conservative and preservationist ideas about language, the Udgillan language authorities are very concerned about proper grammar, and the maintenance of grammatical distinctions. The loss of a grammatical case would be a disaster! Knowing the casual, mixed manner of speech that is likely to form when people, especially young people, gather in cities, and how lax and sloppy this speech tends to be, the government does its best to marginalize and sideline any such variety.

Again, the language authorities are not opposed to change categorically - but with the regional dialects, there is a heavy emphasis on rural life and "local authenticity". If a dialect begins to lose a grammatical case in the speech of long-time rural residents, that is a "natural" change, to be noted and accepted. But if it occurs in the speech of young transplants from the provinces to the capital city, that is regarded with suspicion and disapproval.

With the actual on-the-ground sociolinguistic situation, no dialect has significantly more prestige than any other; however, the capital city does have a traditional dialect of its own, and it is regarded as useful and possibly a sign of status to be able to speak it - and perhaps not coincidentally, the traditional dialect of the capital is not one that preserves the maximum number of grammatical distinctions.

Population management

Okay, so really, how does this differ all that much from an Arabic-speaking country with diglossia between dialect and Modern Standard Arabic, or from pre-1970s Greece with Katharevousa? Aside from, perhaps, the government having a rather disapproving attitude about urban vernaculars?

Well, this is where it gets a bit weird. The Udgillan government goes to considerable length to ensure the preservation of traditional dialects and the grammar of the Udgillan language.

Now, this idea here is the latest one I tacked on, so it's not very-well developed - but in short, in Udgilla, there's some kind of household registration or internal passport system. You can't just move wherever you want whenever you want. The Udgillan government generally encourages populations to stay put - if not within their home village, at least within their region.

Most likely, however, this internal passport system has been loosened considerably since the mid-20th century.

Immigration policies

The unique immigration policy of Udgilla is the crown jewel of its policy of cultural preservation and isolationism - however, it is not uncontroversial. There has been extensive debate over it since it was instituted in its present form in the late 1950s, with debate intensifying in recent years, but overall it has remained intact - there is little political will to risk a big change to the status quo.

The immigration policy is tailored to ensure cultural and linguistic assimilation, and prevent the formation of ethnic and immigrant enclaves.

There are two main ways to immigrate to Udgilla, and two less significant ways:

Guest worker program

This isn't exactly a guest worker program, but there is a temporary element to it, as will be outlined below. Udgilla has often needed extra workers, and every year it allows a certain number of foreign workers into the country for employment in select industries. The catch: You have to be single to qualify for the program. Married people need not apply.

Once in Udgilla, a worker may stay for nine years, after which they must return to their home country. However, there are two ways they can qualify for Udgillan citizenship and stay permanently at the end of their nine years: They may pass an extensive citizenship test, demonstrating fluency in a regional Udgillan dialect, basic proficiency in reading and writing Classical Udgillan, knowledge of Udgillan history and culture, and assimilation into Udgillan culture and values. Or, they may marry a native-born Udgillan (people born in Udgilla to immigrant parents are counted as native-born). However, as discussed below, it is still highly advisable for the immigrant spouse of an Udgillan citizen to pass a citizenship test, since in the event of a no-fault divorce or a divorce with the immigrant being at fault, their "guest clock" kicks back into action, with an added bit of time, after which they must leave the country again unless they have passed at citizenship test.

However, there is one thing that automatically disqualifies an immigrant from staying in Udgilla - marrying a foreigner who does not reside in Udgilla. You are required to leave at once if that happens. Two immigrants residing in Udgilla who have not yet passed a citizenship test may marry each other, but they are still required to both pass a citizenship test if they wish to stay at the end of their nine years.


A citizen of Udgilla - native-born or naturalized - is totally free to marry a foreigner, who gains permanent residency in Udgilla for as long as the marriage lasts. But as mentioned above, if they want their right to stay in Udgilla to be guaranteed in the event that the marriage ends, they must pass a citizenship test.

Job visa

The Udgillan government may grant residency to specific individuals who have been offered jobs in Udgilla, outside the regular guest worker program. However, this occurs on a much more limited scale. Individuals who gain Udgillan residency in this way are permitted to bring their spouse and children. Both the employee and their spouse will need to pass a citizenship test to stay after the job ends, although the details of how this works are somewhat different from the guest worker program.


Udgilla grants asylum to a fairly limited number of refugees and foreign political dissidents each year. Because this form of residency is granted on a humanitarian basis, the requirements to pass a citizenship test is not so strict, but the government still applies measures to encourage assimilation.

In short, all of these policies are designed to ensure that virtually all foreigners who move to Udgilla will marry a native-born Udgillan who speaks Udgillan natively and is a full participant in Udgillan culture, and that the immigrant themself is also fully immersed in Udgillan culture and language, so that their children will also grow up to be fully "culturally native" Udgillans. Udgillan immigration also generally does not allow immigrants to bring any of their family members with them, with certain exceptions for elderly parents and so on.

Additionally, the vast majority of workers who arrive via the guest worker program are male. When the government does permit the entry of female guest workers, it generally avoids admitting significant numbers of male and female guest workers from the same country, and when it does have to do that, it tries to place them in different parts of the country.

These policies inherently involve isolating immigrants from their home countries and to some degree from each other, and have been criticized as cruel. Nonetheless, they remain in place to this day and enjoy consistent support by a modest majority of Udgillans - or, at least, there is no consensus on how they should be changed.

Religious policies

This section particularly assumes that Udgilla is Europe-adjacent, although I suppose not necessarily.

Udgilla is a Protestant country with its own national church - probably in the Lutheran or Reformed traditions, having separated from the Catholic church under the influence of other northern European countries. Or maybe England or the Huguenots played a role. I don't know.

In any case, although the state church enjoys a higher status than in some other European countries with an established religion today - if an immigrant converts to the state church, it's regarded as a positive sign of assimilation on their citizenship test - there is still freedom of religion in Udgilla. There were formerly church attendance laws and restrictions on those who did not subscribe to the state church, but those laws were abolished in the 1950s at the latest. All residents of Udgilla pay a church tax; by default, it goes to the state church, but since reforms in recent decades, individuals may opt to send their tax money to a state-recognized religious entity or charity of their choice.

However, there are a number of laws in place that, according to some fairly fierce critics, do unjustly place restrictions on religious freedom. Since the late 1800s or early 1900s, with subsequent modifications, legislation has heavily restricted foreign clergy in Udgilla. This was probably a reaction to the reestablishment of Catholicism, which caused a panic and was perceived as a foreign incursion. After laws were passed that forbade foreign clergy from taking posts in Udgilla, Catholics in Udgilla established their own seminary. Native-born Udgillans may sometimes travel abroad to receive training as clergy, and return to take posts in Udgilla, but the government is not shy about refusing permission for this.

The general goal of this law is to ensure that religious communities and institutions develop in an Udgillan cultural environment, with all religious communities participating in the Udgillan value system - in particular, it was hoped that Udgillan culture and values would "moderate" and "temper" foreign religions. The original target of this law was Catholicism, but these days this justification is most often discussed in the context of Islam.

The primary Christian religious communities of Udgilla, along with the small Jewish community, are generally well-established enough that this law is not a problem. However, in recent years this law has stirred controversy within the small Muslim community. There have been efforts to establish an Islamic legal institute in Udgilla (and this has been fraught with controversy within and outside of the community for various reasons), but generally the community has not been large enough to train its own clerics. The Udgillan government has been very restrictive about enforcing the "no foreign clerics" rule, deporting several individuals who arrived via the guest worker program but ended up serving as imams in local mosques, and has also refused to permit local Muslims to study at a number of foreign institutions - there has been a particular concern about Wahhabi influence, although some say that this is not a justified concern with regard to the small and fairly well-assimilated Muslim community.

There are cultural debates typical of other European countries with recent Muslim immigration. When a controversy about the call to prayer flared up, some proposed that the call to prayer be permitted with low-powered speakers, but only if it was performed in the Udgillan language.

Government and ideology

To be honest, I am not quite sure how the government of Udgilla works. Clearly, it is in general quite culturally conservative, with a view of the "authentic folk spirit" of the Udgillan people and the "cultural purity" of Udgilla that is straight out of 19th-century romantic nationalism, and quite reminiscent of some much more odious 20th-century movements. How do all these restrictive policies remain in place? Is it a democracy?

I think that, yes, it probably is a democracy - or a republic, at least - but with a quite conservative constitution that strongly emphasizes elite decision-making, featuring an indirectly-elected president, a rather undemocratic upper house, and so on. And all of this would be buttressed by conservative cultural institutions.

As I vaguely referenced several times throughout this, I think there was some event in the mid-20th century that led to this crystallization of cultural conservatism. One theory I have is that during and immediately after World War II, large numbers of foreign refugees arrived on Udgilla, with a fair amount of them staying. Combined with economic depression following World War II, this led to a time of great uncertainty and change. In the 1950s, there was probably a debate between people who wanted to extend the refugee policy and have more open borders in general, versus people who wanted to shut it all down and turn back the clock and go back to a more stable, simple era. The current policy is a compromise between the two, brokered by national elites who were highly concerned with preservation of national culture, but found overt racialism distasteful and recognized that complete isolationism was not possible.
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Re: Linguo-traditionalist country

Post by Pabappa »

Interesting idea. I remember growing up thinking that Russian had so many noun cases because the Soviets had an advanced communications network that kept the language from decaying the way English had. Maybe I read some of his work as a kid?
I'll take the theses, and you can have the thoses.
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