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What is a dialect?

A dialect is a form or variety of a language, which usually refers to regional speech, but can extend to cover differences according to class and occupation. There are class dialects, occupational dialects, regional dialects, rural dialects, social dialects, urban dialects, etc. There are also distinct varieties of language spoken by an individual or group, such as acrolet (a prestigious dialect), basilect (a socially stigmatized dialect), or mesolect (a dialect that it socially in the middle). Most languages have dialects - each with a distinctive grammar, idiom, morphology, phonology/pronunciation, syntax, and vocabulary. Dialects have typically been regarded as socially lower than the standard or formal form of the language. Philologists and dialectologists regard a dialect as an historical subordinate of a language, and a language as the aggregate of the dialects. Dialects are often studied and described as an evolution and their distribution is studied. By the way, the word dialect comes from Greek dialektos 'conversation, way of speaking, local language'. There are a number of fine dictionaries about dialects, such as the Dictionary of American Regional English series (Cassidy, Frederic G., chief editor, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985-2002.)

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