caleteu wrote:A linguistic would define Dutch as a dialect of Low German, because Dutch speakers and Low German speakers can usually converse. We call it a language because it is the state language of a state. By the same token Portuguese is a dialect of Spanish. Bavarian and Swabian, however, are not dialects of High German, they are languages.
There is no consistent scientific criteria for distinguishing "languages" from "dialects". Mutual intelligibility is inadequate for several reasons. For starters, it often isn't mutual: Portuguese speakers can generally understand Spanish, but many fluent Spanish-speakers struggle to understand Portuguese. (See the discussion currently taking place in the Romance Cafe thread.) One reason is that intelligibility is often closely tied to exposure and Lusophones in Europe generally have more exposure to Spanish than Hispanophones have to Portuguese. I've yet to meet a Scottish-English-speaker who couldn't understand American English, but I know scores of American-English-speakers who are baffled by Scottish English. (Not Scots, mind you, but English spoken with a heavy Scottish accent.)
To bring this back to the topic, have you actually heard Low German and dialectal Dutch speakers conversing with each other without switching to German, English, or ABN, caleteu? Books will still tell you there is a "dialectal continuum" covering the Northern European Plain, but practically speaking this hasn't been the case for generations. Moreover, there's a significant divide within the Netherlands between dialects classed as Franconian (including the Hollandic varieties providing the basis for Standard Dutch) and the Low Saxon varieties of the eastern Netherlands. Mutual intelligibility is reportedly still high between Dutch Low Saxon and German Low Saxon but low between Low Saxon and Low Franconian.
(The Netherlands in general has some truly impressive dialectal variation for such a small area. How much spoken Limburgs can you understand, for instance?)
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons