The term dialect (from the ancient Greek word διάλεκτος diálektos, "discourse", from διά diá, "through" + λέγω legō, "I speak") is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class. A dialect that is associated with a particular social class can be termed a sociolect, a dialect that is associated with a particular ethnic group can be termed as ethnolect, and a regional dialect may be termed a regiolect or topolect. The other usage refers to a language that is socially subordinate to a regional or national standard language, often historically cognate to the standard, but not a variety of it or in any other sense derived from it. Dialect: This is a complex and often misunderstood concept. For linguists, a dialect is the collection of attributes (phonetic, phonological, syntactic, morphological, and semantic) that make one group of speakers noticeably different from another group of speakers of the same language. COMMON SOURCES OF MISUNDERSTANDING:
1) DIALECT is NOT a negative term for linguists. . Often times, for example, we hear people refer to non-standard varieties of English as "dialects", usually to say something bad about the non-standard variety (and thus about the people who speak it). This happened quite a bit during last year's ebonics controversy. But, the term dialect refers to ANY variety of a language. Thus, by definition, we all speak a dialect of our native language. 2) DIALECT is NOT synonymous with accent. Accent is only a part of dialectal variation. Non-linguists often think accents define a dialect (or that accents alone identify people as non-native or foreign language speakers). Also, non-linguists tend to think that it's always the "other" people that have "an accent". So, what is "accent"? 3) ACCENT: This term refers to phonological variation, i.e. variation in pronunciation Thus, if we talk about a Southern Accent; we're talking about a generalized property of English pronunciation in the Southern part of the US. But, Southern dialects have more than particular phonological properties. Accent is thus about pronunciation, while dialect is a broader term encompassing syntactic, morphological, and semantic properties as well. A final note on accent. WE ALL HAVE ONE! There is no such thing as a person who speaks without an accent. This is not an exercise in political correctness, by the way. It is a fact. In sum, a dialect is a particular variety of a language, and we all have a dialect. Accent refers to the phonology of a given dialect. Since we all have a dialect, we all have an accent. Idiolect: Another term that we must be familiar with is idiolect. "What's an idiolect?" you ask, on the edge of your seat. An idiolect is simply the technical term we use to refer to the variety of language spoken by each individual speaker of the language. Just as there is variation among groups of speakers of a language, there is variation from speaker to speaker. No two speakers of a language speak identically. Each speaks her or his own particular variety of that language. Each thus speaks her or his own idiolect. Role of Dialect:
Language says a lot about our identity. Americans, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans all speak differently. When we meet somebody from a different part of the country, they may use different words, sounds or grammatical structures. A dialect is a variety of language that is characteristic of a certain area. For instance, in the Northern Cape, people refer to older people as grootmense and paper as pampier whereas in Pretoria they are called oumense and papier. If you hear colored people from Cape Town speaking Afrikaans, they sound different to Afrikaans spoken elsewhere. People from Natal speak English in...
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