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The term dialect (from Latin dialectus , dialectos , from the Ancient Greek word διάλεκτος , diálektos, "discourse", from διά , diá, "through" and λέγω , légō, "I speak") is used in two distinct ways to refer to two different types of linguistic phenomena:

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by medieval Greek.

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It involves analysing language form, language meaning, and language in context. The earliest activities in the documentation and description of language have been attributed to the 6th-century-BC Indian grammarian Pāṇini who wrote a formal description of the Sanskrit language in his Aṣṭādhyāyī.


In sociolinguistics, a variety, also called a lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include languages, dialects, registers, styles, or other forms of language, as well as a standard variety. The use of the word "variety" to refer to the different forms avoids the use of the term language, which many people associate only with the standard language, and the term dialect, which is often associated with non-standard varieties thought of as less prestigious or "correct" than the standard. Linguists speak of both standard and non-standard (vernacular) varieties. "Lect" avoids the problem in ambiguous cases of deciding whether two varieties are distinct languages or dialects of a single language.

Language Capacity to communicate using signs, such as words or gestures

Language is a system that consists of the development, acquisition, maintenance and use of complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so; a language is any specific example of such a system.

In linguistics, mutual intelligibility is a relationship between languages or dialects in which speakers of different but related varieties can readily understand each other without prior familiarity or special effort. It is sometimes used as an important criterion for distinguishing languages from dialects, although sociolinguistic factors are often also used.

For example, most of the various regional Romance languages of Italy, often colloquially referred to as Italian "dialects", are, in fact, not actually derived from modern standard Italian, but rather evolved from Vulgar Latin separately and individually from one another and independently of standard Italian, long prior to the diffusion of a national standardized language throughout what is now Italy. These various Latin-derived regional languages are, therefore, in a linguistic sense, not truly "dialects" or varieties of the standard Italian language, but are instead better defined as their own separate languages. Conversely, with the spread of standard Italian throughout Italy in the 20th century, regional versions or varieties of standard Italian have developed, generally as a mix of national standard Italian with a substratum of local regional languages and local accents. While "dialect" levelling has increased the number of standard Italian speakers and decreased the number of speakers of other languages native to Italy, Italians in different regions have developed variations of standard Italian particular to their region. These variations on standard Italian, known as regional Italian, would thus more appropriately be called "dialects" in accordance with the first linguistic definition of "dialect", as they are in fact derived partially or mostly from standard Italian. [12] [11] [13]

Languages of Italy languages of a geographic region

There are approximately thirty-four native living spoken languages and related dialects in Italy, most of which are indigenous evolutions of Vulgar Latin, and are therefore classified as Romance languages. Although they are sometimes referred to as regional languages, there is no uniformity within any Italian region, and speakers from one locale within a region are typically aware of the features distinguishing their local tongue from one of the other places nearby. The official and most widely spoken language across the country is Italian, a direct descendant of Tuscan.

Vulgar Latin Non-standard Latin variety spoken by the people of Ancient Rome

Vulgar Latin or Sermo Vulgaris, also Colloquial Latin, or Common Romance, was a range of non-standard sociolects of Latin spoken in the Mediterranean region during and after the classical period of the Roman Empire. It is distinct from Classical Latin, the standard and literary version of the language. Compared to Classical Latin, written documentation of Vulgar Latin appears less standardized. Works written in Latin during classical times and the earlier Middle Ages used prescribed Classical Latin rather than Vulgar Latin, with very few exceptions, thus Vulgar Latin had no official orthography of its own.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Italian Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal climate. The country covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

A dialect is distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation (phonology, including prosody). Where a distinction can be made only in terms of pronunciation (including prosody, or just prosody itself), the term accent may be preferred over dialect. Other types of speech varieties include jargons, which are characterized by differences in lexicon (vocabulary); slang; patois; pidgins; and argots. The particular speech patterns used by an individual are termed an idiolect.

Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in spoken languages and signs in sign languages. It used to be only the study of the systems of phonemes in spoken languages, but it may also cover any linguistic analysis either at a level beneath the word or at all levels of language where sound or signs are structured to convey linguistic meaning.

In linguistics, prosody is concerned with those elements of speech that are not individual phonetic segments but are properties of syllables and larger units of speech, including linguistic functions such as intonation, tone, stress, and rhythm.

Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The context is usually a particular occupation, but any ingroup can have jargon. The main trait that distinguishes jargon from the rest of a language is special vocabulary—including some words specific to it, and often different senses or meanings of words, that outgroups would tend to take in another sense—therefore misunderstanding that communication attempt. Jargon is sometimes understood as a form of technical slang and then distinguished from the official terminology used in a particular field of activity.

Standard and non-standard dialect

A standard dialect (also known as a "standardized dialect" or "standard language") is a dialect that is supported by institutions. Such institutional support may include government recognition or designation; presentation as being the "correct" form of a language in schools; published grammars, dictionaries, and textbooks that set forth a normative spoken and written form; and an extensive formal literature that employs that variety (prose, poetry, non-fiction, etc.). There may be multiple standard dialects associated with a single language. For example, Standard American English, Standard British English, Standard Canadian English, Standard Indian English, Standard Australian English, and Standard Philippine English may all be said to be standard dialects of the English language.

American English Set of dialects of the English language spoken in the United States

American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. It is considered one of the most influential dialects of English globally, including on other varieties of English.

British English is the standard dialect of English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken, so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".

Canadian English is the set of varieties of the English language native to Canada. According to the 2011 census, English was the first language of approximately 19 million Canadians, or 57% of the population; the remainder of the population were native speakers of Canadian French (22%) or other languages. A larger number, 28 million people, reported using English as their dominant language. 82% of Canadians outside the province of Quebec reported speaking English natively, but within Quebec the figure was just 7.7% as most of its residents are native speakers of Quebec French.

A nonstandard dialect, like a standard dialect, has a complete vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, but is usually not the beneficiary of institutional support. Examples of a nonstandard English dialect are Southern American English, Western Australian English, New York English, New England English, Mid-Atlantic American or Philadelphia / Baltimore English, Scouse, Brummie, Cockney, and Tyke. The Dialect Test was designed by Joseph Wright to compare different English dialects with each other.

A nonstandard dialect or vernacular dialect is a dialect that does not have the institutional support or sanction that a standard dialect has.

In linguistics, syntax is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences in a given language, usually including word order. The term syntax is also used to refer to the study of such principles and processes. The goal of many syntacticians is to discover the syntactic rules common to all languages.

Southern American English or Southern U.S. English is a regional dialect or collection of dialects of American English spoken throughout the Southern United States, though increasingly in more rural areas and primarily by White Southerners. The dialect is commonly known in the United States simply as Southern, while formal, much more recent terms within American linguistics include Southern White Vernacular English and Rural White Southern English.

Dialect or language

There is no universally accepted criterion for distinguishing two different languages from two dialects (i.e. varieties) of the same language. [14] A number of rough measures exist, sometimes leading to contradictory results. The distinction is therefore subjective and depends upon the user's frame of reference. For example, there has been discussion about whether or not the Limón Creole English should be considered "a kind" of English or a different language. This creole is spoken in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica (Central America) by descendants of Jamaican people. The position that Costa Rican linguists support depends upon which University they represent.

Mutual intelligibility

The most common,[ citation needed ] and most purely linguistic, criterion is that of mutual intelligibility: two varieties are said to be dialects of the same language if being a speaker of one variety confers sufficient knowledge to understand and be understood by a speaker of the other; otherwise, they are said to be different languages. However, this definition becomes problematic in the case of dialect continua, in which it may be the case that dialect B is mutually intelligible with both dialect A and dialect C but dialects A and C are not mutually intelligible with each other. In this case, the criterion of mutual intelligibility makes it impossible to decide whether A and C are dialects of the same language or not.

Sociolinguistic definitions

Local varieties in the West Germanic dialect continuum are oriented towards either Standard Dutch or Standard German depending on which side of the border they are spoken. West Germanic dialect diagram.svg
Local varieties in the West Germanic dialect continuum are oriented towards either Standard Dutch or Standard German depending on which side of the border they are spoken.

Another occasionally used criterion for discriminating dialects from languages is the sociolinguistic notion of linguistic authority. According to this definition, two varieties are considered dialects of the same language if (under at least some circumstances) they would defer to the same authority regarding some questions about their language. For instance, to learn the name of a new invention, or an obscure foreign species of plant, speakers of Westphalian and East Franconian German might each consult a German dictionary or ask a German-speaking expert in the subject. Thus these varieties are said to be dependent on, or heteronomous with respect to, Standard German, which is said to be autonomous. [15] In contrast, speakers in the Netherlands of Low Saxon varieties similar to Westphalian would instead consult a dictionary of Standard Dutch. Similarly, although Yiddish is classified by linguists as a language in the Middle High German group of languages, a Yiddish speaker would consult a different dictionary in such a case.

Within this framework, W. A. Stewart defined a language as an autonomous variety together with all the varieties that are heteronomous with respect to it, noting that an essentially equivalent definition had been stated by Charles A. Ferguson and John J. Gumperz in 1960. [16] [17] Similarly, a heteronomous variety may be considered a dialect of a language defined in this way. [16] In these terms, Danish and Norwegian, though mutually intelligible to a large degree, are considered separate languages. [18] In the framework of Heinz Kloss, these are described as languages by ausbau (development) rather than by abstand (separation). [19]

Dialect and language clusters

In other situations, a closely related group of varieties possess considerable (though incomplete) mutual intelligibility, but none dominates the others. To describe this situation, the editors of the Handbook of African Languages introduced the term dialect cluster. Dialect clusters were treated as classificatory units at the same level as languages. [20] A similar situation, but with a greater degree of mutual unintelligibility, has been termed a language cluster. [21]

Political factors

In many societies, however, a particular dialect, often the sociolect of the elite class, comes to be identified as the "standard" or "proper" version of a language by those seeking to make a social distinction and is contrasted with other varieties. As a result of this, in some contexts, the term "dialect" refers specifically to varieties with low social status. In this secondary sense of "dialect", language varieties are often called dialects rather than languages:

The status of "language" is not solely determined by linguistic criteria, but it is also the result of a historical and political development. Romansh came to be a written language, and therefore it is recognized as a language, even though it is very close to the Lombardic alpine dialects. An opposite example is the case of Chinese, whose variations such as Mandarin and Cantonese are often called dialects and not languages in China, despite their mutual unintelligibility.

Modern nationalism, as developed especially since the French Revolution, has made the distinction between "language" and "dialect" an issue of great political importance. A group speaking a separate "language" is often seen as having a greater claim to being a separate "people", and thus to be more deserving of its own independent state, while a group speaking a "dialect" tends to be seen not as "a people" in its own right, but as a sub-group, part of a bigger people, which must content itself with regional autonomy.[ citation needed ] The distinction between language and dialect is thus inevitably made at least as much on a political basis as on a linguistic one, and can lead to great political controversy or even armed conflict.

The Yiddish linguist Max Weinreich published the expression, A shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot ("אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמײ און פֿלאָט": "A language is a dialect with an army and navy") in YIVO Bleter 25.1, 1945, p. 13. The significance of the political factors in any attempt at answering the question "what is a language?" is great enough to cast doubt on whether any strictly linguistic definition, without a socio-cultural approach, is possible. This is illustrated by the frequency with which the army-navy aphorism is cited.


By the definition most commonly used by linguists, any linguistic variety can be considered a "dialect" of some language—"everybody speaks a dialect". According to that interpretation, the criteria above merely serve to distinguish whether two varieties are dialects of the same language or dialects of different languages.

The terms "language" and "dialect" are not necessarily mutually exclusive, although it is often perceived to be.[ citation needed ] Thus there is nothing contradictory in the statement "the language of the Pennsylvania Dutch is a dialect of German".

There are various terms that linguists may use to avoid taking a position on whether the speech of a community is an independent language in its own right or a dialect of another language. Perhaps the most common is "variety"; [22] "lect" is another. A more general term is "languoid", which does not distinguish between dialects, languages, and groups of languages, whether genealogically related or not. [23]



When talking about the German language, the term German dialects is only used for the traditional regional varieties. That allows them to be distinguished from the regional varieties of modern standard German.

The German dialects show a wide spectrum of variation. Some of them are not mutually intelligible. German dialectology traditionally names the major dialect groups after Germanic tribes from which they were assumed to have descended. [24]

The extent to which the dialects are spoken varies according to a number of factors: In Northern Germany, dialects are less common than in the South. In cities, dialects are less common than in the countryside. In a public environment, dialects are less common than in a familiar environment.

The situation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein is different from the rest of the German-speaking countries. The Swiss German dialects are the default everyday language in virtually every situation, whereas standard German is only spoken in education, partially in media, and with foreigners not possessing knowledge of Swiss German. Most Swiss German speakers perceive standard German to be a foreign language.

The Low German varieties spoken in Germany are often counted among the German dialects. This reflects the modern situation where they are roofed by standard German. This is different from the situation in the Middle Ages when Low German had strong tendencies towards an ausbau language.

The Frisian languages spoken in Germany are excluded from the German dialects.


Italy is home to a vast array of native regional minority languages, most of which are Romance-based and have their own local variants. These regional languages are often referred to colloquially or in non-linguistic circles as Italian "dialects", or dialetti (standard Italian for "dialects"). However, the majority of the regional languages in Italy are in fact not actually "dialects" of standard Italian in the strict linguistic sense, as they are not derived from modern standard Italian but instead evolved locally from Vulgar Latin independent of standard Italian, with little to no influence from what is now known as "standard Italian." They are therefore better classified as individual languages rather than "dialects."

In addition to having evolved, for the most part, separately from one another and with distinct individual histories, the Latin-based regional Romance languages of Italy are also better classified as separate languages rather than true "dialects" due to the often high degree in which they lack mutual intelligibility. Though mostly mutually unintelligible, the exact degree to which the regional Italian languages are mutually unintelligible varies, often correlating with geographical distance or geographical barriers between the languages, with some regional Italian languages that are closer in geographical proximity to each other or closer to each other on the dialect continuum being more or less mutually intelligible. For instance, a speaker of purely Eastern Lombard, a language in Northern Italy's Lombardy region that includes the Bergamasque dialect, would have severely limited mutual intelligibility with a purely standard Italian speaker and would be nearly completely unintelligible to a speaker of a pure Sicilian language variant. Due to Eastern Lombard's status as a Gallo-Italic language, an Eastern Lombard speaker may, in fact, have more mutual intelligibility with a Occitan, Catalan, or French speaker than with a standard Italian or Sicilian language speaker. Meanwhile, a Sicilian language speaker would have a greater degree of mutual intelligibility with a speaker of the more closely related Neapolitan language, but far less mutual intelligibility with a person speaking Sicilian Gallo-Italic, a language that developed in isolated Lombard emigrant communities on the same island as the Sicilian language.

Modern standard Italian itself is heavily based on the Latin-derived Florentine Tuscan language. The Tuscan-based language that would eventually become modern standard Italian had been used in poetry and literature since at least the 12th century, and it first spread throughout Italy among the educated upper class through the works of authors such as Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Petrarch. Dante's Florentine-Tuscan literary Italian thus slowly became the language of the literate and upper class in Italy, and it spread throughout the peninsula as the lingua franca among the Italian educated class as well as Italian traveling merchants. The economic prowess and cultural and artistic importance of Tuscany in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance further encouraged the diffusion of the Florentine-Tuscan Italian throughout Italy and among the educated and powerful, though local and regional languages remained the main languages of the common people.

During the Risorgimento, proponents of Italian republicanism and Italian nationalism, such as Alessandro Manzoni, stressed the importance of establishing a uniform national language in order to better create an Italian national identity. With the unification of Italy in the 1860s, standard Italian became the official national language of the new Italian state, while the various unofficial regional languages of Italy gradually became regarded as subordinate "dialects" to Italian, increasingly associated negatively with lack of education or provincialism. However, at the time of the Italian Unification, standard Italian still existed mainly as a literary language, and only 2.5% of Italy's population could speak standard Italian. [25]

In the early 20th century, the vast conscription of Italian men from all throughout Italy during World War I is credited with facilitating the diffusion of standard Italian among less educated Italian men, as these men from various regions with various regional languages were forced to communicate with each other in a common tongue while serving in the Italian military. With the eventual spread of the radio and television throughout Italy and the establishment of public education, Italians from all regions were increasingly exposed to standard Italian, while literacy rates among all social classes improved. Today, the majority of Italians are able to speak standard Italian, though many Italians still speak their regional language regularly or as their primary day-to-day language, especially at home with family or when communicating with Italians from the same town or region. However, to some Italians, speaking a regional language, especially in a formal setting or outside of one's region, may carry a stigma or negative connotations associated with being lower class, uneducated, boorish, or overly informal.

Italians in different regions today may also speak regional varieties of standard Italian, or regional Italian dialects, which, unlike the majority of languages of Italy, are actually dialects of standard Italian rather than separate languages. A regional Italian dialect is generally standard Italian that has been heavily influenced or mixed with local or regional native languages and accents.

The languages of Italy are primarily Latin-based Romance languages, with the most widely spoken languages falling within the Italo-Dalmatian language family. This wide category includes:

Aside from the more common Italo-Dalmatian Romance languages in Italy, other native languages in Italy include:

The Sardinian language is considered to be its own Romance language family, separate not only from Italian and the wider Italo-Dalmatian family but from all the other Neo-Latin families; it is often subdivided into the Campidanese and Logudorese dialects. The Corsican-related Gallurese and Sassarese which are also spoken in Sardinia, on the other hand, are often considered closely related to or derived from Tuscan and are therefore fully part of the Italo-Dalmatian languages. Furthermore, the Gallo-Romance language of Ligurian and the Catalan Algherese dialect are also spoken in Sardinia, respectively in Carloforte/Calasetta and Alghero.

The Balkans

The classification of speech varieties as dialects or languages and their relationship to other varieties of speech can be controversial and the verdicts inconsistent. Serbo-Croatian illustrates this point. Serbo-Croatian has two major formal variants (Serbian and Croatian). Both are based on the Shtokavian dialect and therefore mutually intelligible with differences found mostly in their respective local vocabularies and minor grammatical differences. Certain dialects of Serbia ( Torlakian ) and Croatia ( Kajkavian and Chakavian ), however, are not mutually intelligible even though they are usually subsumed under Serbo-Croatian. How these dialects should be classified in relation to Shtokavian remains a matter of dispute.

Macedonian, although largely mutually intelligible with Bulgarian and certain dialects of Serbo-Croatian (Torlakian), is considered by Bulgarian linguists to be a Bulgarian dialect, in contrast with the contemporary international view and the view in North Macedonia, which regards it as a language in its own right. Nevertheless, before the establishment of a literary standard of Macedonian in 1944, in most sources in and out of Bulgaria before the Second World War, the southern Slavonic dialect continuum covering the area of today's North Macedonia were referred to as Bulgarian dialects.


In Lebanon, a part of the Christian population considers "Lebanese" to be in some sense a distinct language from Arabic and not merely a dialect. During the civil war Christians often used Lebanese Arabic officially, and sporadically used the Latin script to write Lebanese, thus further distinguishing it from Arabic. All Lebanese laws are written in the standard literary form of Arabic, though parliamentary debate may be conducted in Lebanese Arabic.

North Africa

In Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, the Darijas (spoken North African languages) are sometimes considered more different from other Arabic dialects. Officially, North African countries prefer to give preference to the Literary Arabic and conduct much of their political and religious life in it (adherence to Islam), and refrain from declaring each country's specific variety to be a separate language, because Literary Arabic is the liturgical language of Islam and the language of the Islamic sacred book, the Qur'an. Although, especially since the 1960s, the Darijas are occupying an increasing use and influence in the cultural life of these countries. Examples of cultural elements where Darijas' use became dominant include: theatre, film, music, television, advertisement, social media, folk-tale books and companies' names.


The Modern Ukrainian language has been in common use since the late 17th century, associated with the establishment of the Cossack Hetmanate. In the 19th century, the Tsarist Government of the Russian Empire claimed that Ukrainian was merely a dialect of Russian and not a language on its own. According to these claims, the differences were few and caused by the conquest of western Ukraine by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. However, in reality the dialects in Ukraine were developing independently from the dialects in the modern Russia for several centuries, and as a result they differed substantially.

Following the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, the German Empire briefly gained control over Ukraine during World War I, but was eventually defeated by the Entente, with major involvement by the Ukrainian Bolsheviks. After Bolsheviks managed to conquer the rest of Ukraine from the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Whites, Ukraine became part of the USSR, whence a process of Ukrainization was begun, with encouragement from Moscow. However, in the late 1920s - early 1930s, the process started to reverse. Witnessing the Ukrainian cultural revival spurred by the Ukrainization in the early 1920s, and fearing that it might lead to an independence movement, Moscow started to remove from power and in some cases physically eliminate the public proponents of ukrainization. The appointment of Pavel Postyshev as the secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine marked the end of ukrainization, and the opposite process of russification started. After World War II, citing Ukrainian collaboration with Nazi Germany in an attempt to gain independence as the reason, Moscow changed its policy towards repression of the Ukrainian language.

Today the boundaries of the Ukrainian language to the Russian language are still not drawn clearly, with an intermediate dialect between them, called Surzhyk, developing in Ukraine.


There have been cases of a variety of speech being deliberately reclassified to serve political purposes. One example is Moldovan. In 1996, the Moldovan parliament, citing fears of "Romanian expansionism", rejected a proposal from President Mircea Snegur to change the name of the language to Romanian, and in 2003 a Moldovan–Romanian dictionary was published, purporting to show that the two countries speak different languages. Linguists of the Romanian Academy reacted by declaring that all the Moldovan words were also Romanian words; while in Moldova, the head of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, Ion Bărbuţă, described the dictionary as a politically motivated "absurdity".

Greater China

Unlike languages that use alphabets to indicate their pronunciation, Chinese characters have developed from logograms that do not always give hints to their pronunciation. Although the written characters have remained relatively consistent for the last two thousand years, the pronunciation and grammar in different regions have developed to an extent that the varieties of the spoken language are often mutually unintelligible. As a series of migration to the south throughout the history, the regional languages of the south, including Gan, Xiang, Wu, Min, Yue and Hakka often show traces of Old Chinese or Middle Chinese. From the Ming dynasty onward, Beijing has been the capital of China and the dialect spoken in Beijing has had the most prestige among other varieties. With the founding of the Republic of China, Standard Mandarin was designated as the official language, based on the spoken language of Beijing. Since then, other spoken varieties are regarded as fangyan (regional speech). Cantonese is still the most commonly-used language in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau and among some overseas Chinese communities, whereas Hokkien has been accepted in Taiwan as an important local language alongside Mandarin.

Historical linguistics


One language, Interlingua, was developed so that the languages of Western civilization would act as its dialects. [26] Drawing from such concepts as the international scientific vocabulary and Standard Average European, linguists[ who? ] developed a theory that the modern Western languages were actually dialects of a hidden or latent language.[ citation needed ] Researchers at the International Auxiliary Language Association extracted words and affixes that they considered to be part of Interlingua's vocabulary. [27] In theory, speakers of the Western languages would understand written or spoken Interlingua immediately, without prior study, since their own languages were its dialects. [26] This has often turned out to be true, especially, but not solely, for speakers of the Romance languages and educated speakers of English. Interlingua has also been found to assist in the learning of other languages. In one study, Swedish high school students learning Interlingua were able to translate passages from Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian that students of those languages found too difficult to understand. [28] The vocabulary of Interlingua extends beyond the Western language families. [27]

Selected list of articles on dialects

See also

Related Research Articles

Austrian German, Austrian Standard German, Standard Austrian German, or Austrian High German, is the variety of Standard German written and spoken in Austria. It has the highest sociolinguistic prestige locally, as it is the variation used in the media and for other formal situations. In less formal situations, Austrians tend to use forms closer to or identical with the Bavarian and Alemannic dialects, traditionally spoken – but rarely written – in Austria.

Chinese language family of languages

Chinese is a group of related, but in many cases not mutually intelligible, language varieties, forming the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the ethnic Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in China. About 1.2 billion people speak some form of Chinese as their first language.

Mandarin Chinese major branch of Chinese spoken across most of northern and southwestern China

Mandarin is a group of related varieties of Chinese spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of Standard Mandarin or Standard Chinese. Because Mandarin originated in North China and most Mandarin dialects are found in the north, the group is sometimes referred to as the Northern dialects. Many local Mandarin varieties are not mutually intelligible. Nevertheless, Mandarin is often placed first in lists of languages by number of native speakers.

Arvanitika, also known as Arvanitic, is the variety of Albanian traditionally spoken by the Arvanites, a population group in Greece. Arvanitika is today endangered, as its speakers have been shifting to the use of Greek and most younger members of the community no longer speak it.

Southern Min branch of the Min Chinese language

Southern Min or Minnan, literally "Southern Fujian" while "Min" is short for "Fujian" and "Nan" is "South", also known as Hokkien-Taiwanese, is a language group that forms a branch of Min Chinese spoken in certain parts of south and eastern China including Fujian, most of Taiwan, eastern Guangdong, Hainan, and southern Zhejiang. The Minnan dialects are also spoken by descendants of emigrants from these areas in diaspora, most notably the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and New York City. It is the largest Min Chinese branch and the most widely distributed Min Chinese subgroup.

Varieties of Chinese Family of local language varieties

Chinese, also known as Sinitic, is a branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family consisting of hundreds of local language varieties, many of which are not mutually intelligible. The differences are similar to those within the Romance languages, with variation particularly strong in the more mountainous southeast. A widely quoted classification divides these varieties into seven groups: Mandarin, Wu, Min, Xiang, Gan, Hakka and Yue, though a more recent classification splits some of these to obtain ten groups, and some varieties remain unclassified.

Diglossia situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community

In linguistics, diglossia is a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety, a second, highly codified lect is used in certain situations such as literature, formal education, or other specific settings, but not used normally for ordinary conversation. In most cases, the H variety has no native speakers.

A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a spread of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighbouring varieties differ only slightly, but the differences accumulate over distance so that widely separated varieties are not mutually intelligible. That happens, for example, across large parts of India or the Arab world (Arabic). It also happened between Portugal, southern Belgium (Wallonia) and southern Italy and between Flanders and Austria. Leonard Bloomfield used the name dialect area. Charles F. Hockett used the term L-complex. It is analogous to a ring species in evolutionary biology.

In sociolinguistics, an abstand language is a language variety or cluster of varieties with significant linguistic distance from all others, while an ausbau language is a standard variety, possibly with related dependent varieties. The terms were introduced by Heinz Kloss in 1952 to denote two separate and largely independent sets of criteria for recognizing a "language": one based on linguistic properties compared to related varieties, and the other based on sociopolitical functions.

Autonomy and heteronomy are complementary attributes of a language variety describing its functional relationship with related varieties. The concepts were introduced by William A. Stewart in 1968, and provide a way of distinguishing a language from a dialect.

Dialectology is the scientific study of linguistic dialect, a sub-field of sociolinguistics. It studies variations in language based primarily on geographic distribution and their associated features. Dialectology treats such topics as divergence of two local dialects from a common ancestor and synchronic variation.

Linguistic purism the practice of defining or recognizing one variety of a language as being purer or of intrinsically higher quality than others

Linguistic purism or linguistic protectionism is the prescriptive practice of defining or recognizing one variety of a language as being purer or of intrinsically higher quality than other varieties. Linguistic purism was institutionalized through language academies, and their decisions often have the force of law.

German dialects dialects

German dialects are dialects often considered languages in their own right and are classified under the umbrella term of "German". Though varied by region, those of the southern half of Germany beneath the Benrather line are dominated by the geographical spread of the High German consonant shift, and the dialect continua that connect German to the neighboring varieties of Low Franconian (Dutch) and Frisian.

Koiné language standard language that has arisen as a result of contact between two or more mutually intelligible varieties of the same language

In linguistics, a koiné language, koiné dialect, or simply koiné is a standard language or dialect that has arisen as a result of contact between two or more mutually intelligible varieties (dialects) of the same language.

The Romanian dialects are the several regional varieties of the Romanian language (Daco-Romanian). The dialects are divided into two types, northern and southern, but further subdivisions are less clear, so the number of dialects varies between two and occasionally twenty. Most recent works seem to favor a number of three clear dialects, corresponding to the regions of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Banat, and an additional group of varieties covering the remainder of Transylvania, two of which are more clearly distinguished, in Crișana and Maramureș, that is, a total of five.

Western Romance languages subdivision of the Romance languages

Western Romance languages are one of the two subdivisions of a proposed subdivision of the Romance languages based on the La Spezia–Rimini line. They include the Gallo-Romance and Iberian-Romance branches as well as northern Italian. The subdivision is based mainly on the use of the "s" for pluralization, the weakening of some consonants and the pronunciation of “Soft C” as /t͡s/ rather than /t͡ʃ/ as in Italian and Romanian. but that makes the categorization highly problematic because there is a much higher lexical similarity between all dialects of Italian and French than between French and Spanish. There is also a much higher morphological, orthographic and phonetic similarity between Spanish and Italian dialects than between Italian and French.


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