Ausbausprache, Abstandsprache, and Dachsprache

Heinz Kloss in 1967 formulated a framework used to describe the linguistic relationship between intra/supraregional varieties. Kloss’s framework is particularly useful when trying to describe linguistic relationships without alluding to politically and culturally sensitive terms such as ‘dialect’. He proposes a model formed of Ausbausprache (upgrade languages), Abstandsprache (languages by development), and Dachsprache (umbrella languages) languages.

Ausbausprache, or simply ausbau languages, are linguistic varieties which possess shared linguistic characteristics to the extent that they are most likely mutually intelligible, yet operate with a certain degree of social and cultural autonomy and have a standardised form of language. Kloss argues that ausbau languages ‘have deliberately been reshaped as to become vehicles of variegated literary expression’ (1967: 30). Understood this way, Valencian can be seen to be an ausbau language in relation to Catalan.

Abstandsprache, or simply abstand languages, are linguistic varieties which are mutually unintelligible within the same continuum, or varieties which are ‘intrinsically distant to others’ (Kloss 1967: 29), as for example, Basque in relation to Spanish.

According to Kloss, ausbau and abstand languages are not mutually exclusive, as some varieties fit both criteria. He argues: ‘Many of the leading tongues of the world, among them English, French, and German are both abstand and ausbau languages, i.e., they are called languages both because of having been made over and because of their intrinsic distance from all other languages’ (1967: 30).

Dachsprache languages are different linguistic varieties that share the same standard, regardless of geographical proximity, such as Modern Standard Arabic.



Kloss, H., (1967) ‘Abstand languages and Ausbau languages’. Anthropological Linguistics 9 (7): pp. 29-41.

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