Beliefs and attitudes of dominant varieties and monocentrism

Beliefs and attitudes of dominant varieties and monocentrism

Many of the following ideas and attitudes are shared by the dominant varieties to a greater or lesser degree and can be summed up by the following terms: (1) centralist; (2) elitist; (3) monolingual (= mono-varietal); (4) mono-normative and (5) derogatory towards non-core-norm speakers.

Key attitudes and concepts of monocentrism/dominant varieties

  1. There is only one language with a certain name (French, German etc.) and there is only one language norm for it. If there is another norm of this language, it can’t be correct because that it would reduce the status of the (dominant) variety.
  2. A specific nation is represented by that language, and the nation represents that language as its most valuable asset and symbol. This nation pretends to be in ‘possession’ of this specific language.
  3. Any person belonging to that nation is assumed to speak only one variety of that language – the norm – which is the only correct one. This has to be done in all communicative situations – private or official. The perfect monolingual speaker is the idol that is aspired to.
  4. The ‘good and correct usage’ of the language is only achieved by a (small) minority. The correct norm is not available to everyone.
  5. The majority of the speakers are not in command of this kind of language, which makes the norm the élite’s social dialect. Anyone wanting to belong to the social elite has to adopt and to adapt to this norm and their social ‘habitus’.
  6. The norm of the language is decided at the centre of the nation – in and around the economic/demographic centre (capital city), thus denying any participation to the periphery of the language. This leads to the second level of pluricentricity which is present both in dominant and non-dominant varieties.
  7. The central objectives of monocentric language policies are to fight moves which potentially endanger the unity of the language. Strategies to achieve this are: the linguistic characteristics of non-dominant varieties are denied the status of being an appropriate standard, and/or not codified or selectively codified. The elitist approach fights every move to narrow the gap between the official standard norm and the ‘actual’ everyday norm. (This strategy is also applied in the NDVs in order to avoid their linguistic self-determination and self-definition).
  8. A further central objective of monocentric language policies is to spread the language to other countries and regions of the world in those cases where the language is backed by a demographically and economically powerful nation. This intensifies the dominant status even more as the norm of the dominant variety is perceived as the default norm.

(Excerpt from Muhr, 2012)

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