Language in Society 26:3 (1997), p.469
This saying, long part of oral tradition among sociolinguists, was quoted in a review by Alan Kaye in _LiS_ 26:484 (1996). In his manuscript, Kaye had attributed the quote to Max Weinreich; the editor of this journal changed the attribution to his sonUriel Weinreich [from whom I first heard it in 1957 -- WB].
Recent e-mail correspondence involving Christina Paulston and Ellen Prince, as well as Kaye and Fishman, has brought out the following points:
Avrohom Novershtern (Jerusalem) found for me the source of Max Weinreich's saying that _A shprakh iz a diyalekt mit an armey un a flot_ ['A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.']
This is found in Weinreich's "YIVO and the problems of our time," _Yivo-bleter_, 1945, vol. 25, no. 1, p. 13.
Weinreich attributes this formulation to a young man who came to his lectures, and he decided, "I must bring to a large audience this wonderful formulation of the social fate of Yiddish." Congratulations to our good friend Novershtern and to all Mendele-subscribers who helped look for the largely forgotten source of a famous saying that is relevant to Yiddish and to all "one-down" languages.
From: Cary Karp Director of Internet Strategy and Technology, Swedish Museum of Natural History 9/05
"The attribution of the army-navy statement to Joshua Fishman is unlikely to be correct. In his 1945 article, Max Weinreich says that his informant immigrated to the USA as a child. Since Prof. Fishman was born there, he does not fit that part of the description. He was also no older than 18 at the time and in school elsewhere, thus not likely to be a teacher at a Bronx high school. Finally, the unnamed source of the saying knew little about the history and linguistic status of Yiddish. Joshua Fishman's knowledge of both was already significant.