Can you recommend some books on the connection between language features and (historical) features of the society or circumstances?

Obvious examples: A homogeneous language without dialects would go with a centralized state and open geography. A language with a single form of address would go with a rather egalitarian society.

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    Your question presupposes that: 1) there is a connection between the quality of a society and the quality of its language, and 2) this connection is also non-arbitrary. These assumptions could fall under the rubric of "The Sapir-Whorf" hypothesis, or Neo-Whorfianism, which are both rather controversial and disfavored by modern linguists/psychologists.
    – JoFrhwld
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 15:12
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    I don't think that the examples I mentioned have anything to do with the Sapir-Whorf thesis, and the general question might well have as answer a book that explains why there is no influence from language on society.
    – Phira
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 19:50
  • This question also presupposes that the language came before the 'society', if 'society' is taken to mean the organizational structure or social norms of a group of people. And it's very hard to go far back enough to know whether certain linguistic features arose before or after certain features of a society, unless you're lucky enough to have a lot of written records. Regardless, this question certainly is closely related to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, even if you're just trying to find evidence that the hypothesis is unfounded. Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 2:47

1 Answer 1


I've seen many books on this topic over the years in Galicia, perhaps due to its strong diglossic history and present. Off the top of my head, I can recall Diglossia and Power: Language Policies and Practice in the 19th Century Habsburg Empire by Rosita Rindler Schjerve.

  • Language policy and its effect on society is not the same thing as the actual linguistic features of a language, and their potential influence on a society. Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 2:50
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    @FloatingTone: Indeed. The interesting thing is, some language policies have been put into practice because of the linguistic characteristics of the language, and their expected effects on society. Point in case, the pronome de solidariedade ("solidarity pronoun") in Galician (a linguistic property) and the ban of the Galician language in North-West Spain (a policy) in order to obtain a more submissive society.
    – CesarGon
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 5:52

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