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Politics will decide the future of the Macedonian language

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Cyril and Methodius

In his work “The Languages of the New Europe” from 1928, Meillet leaves behind a thesis that is still truly correct from today’s point of view: “Politics will decide the future of the Macedonian language”!

How right he was, actually one would have to say how right he is, since the efforts of anti-Macedonian propaganda are still questioning the Macedonian language and denying its peculiarity.

Almost 20 years later after Meillet’s thesis, the Macedonian language received finally its literary recognition and was codified. Today, about 70 years after the recognition, there are still forces at work that would love to “erase” this fact from history. It is thanks to far-sighted authors like Antoine Meillet that historical evidence of the existence of the Macedonian language exists despite these efforts!

According to Millet, it will not be linguistics that will decide, but politics would decide Macedonia’s linguistic future.

Paul Jules Antoine Meillet (born November 11, 1866 in Moulins, Allier department; † September 21, 1936 in Châteaumeillant, Cher department) is considered one of the most important French linguists of the early 20th century.

In his work, regarding the Macedonian language, we read:

The dialects of Macedonia are a part of the South Slavic group; those who speak them may, according to the circumstances, take as their common language Serbian or Bulgarian. Their dialects, differing among themselves, are not truly Serbian nor truly Bulgarian, especially if one is thinking of written Bulgarian, which is based on dialects quite far removed from the Macedonian dialects. Without doubt the simplification of the nouns is the same in Macedonia as in Bulgaria, but this is the effect of a tendency which is manifested also in the Serbian dialects of the Balkan region. Headmasters in the Bulgarian or Bulgarized schools have, in the last third of the 19th century, taken strong action in Macedonia; and it is this which has given the Bulgarians cause to claim the country for their common language; but there was no continuous action in a language of civilization: in the middle ages influences varied depending on the political situation; and, since the Turkish conquest, the literary tradition has ceased to play an appreciable role. Thus, while the politicians have claimed the dialects of Macedonia for such or such a group, disinterested linguists cannot but reserve their opinions.

In reality these dialects do not properly belong to either the one or the other of the two groups under dispute. And, even if the linguistic data had a neatness which they do not have, any particular resemblance to another group would not be at all decisive. It is puerile to call in linguistics in questions of borders of this sort. It is politics which will decide the linguistic future of Macedonia.

Source used: A. Meillet, Les langues dans l’Europe nouvelle (Paris, 1928), pages 132-133 (in the online edition pages 167-168)

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