Of languages and dialects

Speech worked this way from village to village across Western Europe until recently, when unwritten, rural dialects started steadily disappearing. People now know this area as home to a few “languages” like Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Italian, but on the ground there once was basically a smudge of countless Romance “dialects” shading gradually into one another from Portugal to Italy. In each nation, the serendipities of history chose one “dialect” as a standard and enshrined it on the page…

– – – From What’s a Language, Anyway? by John McWhorter in The Atlantic, Jan 19 2016.