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  1. Definition of dialect 1 linguistics a : a regional variety of language distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation from other regional varieties and constituting together with them a single language the Doric dialect of ancient Greek a dialect of Chinese spoken in Hong Kong

    • Definition of Dialect
    • Distinctions Between Language and Dialect
    • Distinctions Between Dialect and Accent
    • Prominence of Dialects
    • Regional and Social Dialects
    • Prestige Dialects
    • Dialect in Writing
    • Sources

    "A dialect is a variety of English which is associated with a particular region and/or social class. To state the obvious, speakers from different geographical regions speak English rather differently: hence we refer to 'Geordie' (Newcastle English), 'New York English' or 'Cornish English.' In addition to geographical variation, the social backgrou...

    "The very fact that 'language' and 'dialect' persist as separate concepts implies that linguistscan make tidy distinctions for speech varieties worldwide. But in fact, there is no objective difference between the two: Any attempt you make to impose that kind of order on reality falls apart in the face of real evidence...English tempts one with a ti...

    "Accents have to be distinguished from dialects. An accent is a person's distinctive pronunciation. A dialect is a much broader notion: it refers to the distinctive vocabulary and grammar of someone's use of language. If you say eether and I say iyther, that's accent. We use the same word but pronounce it differently. But if you say I've got a new ...

    "It is sometimes thought that only a few people speak regional dialects. Many restrict the term to rural forms of speech—as when they say that 'dialects are dying out these days.' But dialects are not dying out. Country dialects are not as widespread as they once were, indeed, but urban dialects are now on the increase, as cities grow and large num...

    "The classic example of a dialect is the regional dialect: the distinct form of a language spoken in a certain geographical area. For example, we might speak of Ozark dialects or Appalachian dialects, on the grounds that inhabitants of these regions have certain distinct linguistic features that differentiate them from speakers of other forms of En...

    "In the earlier history of New York City, New England influence and New England immigration preceded the influx of Europeans. The prestige dialect which is reflected in the speech of cultivated Atlas informants shows heavy borrowings from eastern New England. There has been a long-standing tendency for New Yorkers to borrow prestige dialects from o...

    "Do not attempt to use dialect [when writing] unless you are a devoted student of the tongue you hope to reproduce. If you use dialect, be consistent...The best dialect writers, by and large, are economical [with] their talents, they use the minimum, not the maximum, of deviation from the norm, thus sparing the reader as well as convincing him," (S...

    Akmajian, Adrian, et al. Linguistics: an Introduction to Language and Communication. 7th ed., The MIT Press, 2017.
    Crystal, Ben, and David Crystal. You Say Potato: a Book about Accents. 1st ed., Macmillan, 2014.
    Crystal, David. How Language Works. Penguin Books, 2007.
    Hodson, Jane. Dialect in Film and Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
    • Dialect Definition
    • Examples of Dialect in Literature
    • Examples of Dialect in Poetry
    • Dialects in American and British English
    • Function of Dialect

    A dialect is the language used by the people of a specific area, class, district, or any other group of people. The term dialect involves the spelling, sounds, grammar and pronunciation used by a particular group of people and it distinguishes them from other people around them. Dialect is a very powerful and common way of characterization, which e...

    Example #1: Huckleberry Finn

    One of the best dialect examples in literature, in which it is used as a literary device, occurs in this piece by Mark Twain. Here, Twain uses exaggerated dialect to distinguish between the characters.

    Example #2: To Kill a Mockingbird

    Characters that are less educated and less sophisticated are usually shown to be speaking with a much stronger dialect. At certain points you might even need translations. Such as: Translation: I suppose I have. The first year I came to school and ate those pecans, I almost died. Some people accuse him [Mr. Radley] of poisoning them, and keeping them over on the school side of the fence.

    Example #5: Gipsy

    You can also find great examples of dialect usage in two of George Eliot’s novels, Silas Mariner and Middlemarch. Another method of using dialect is to knowingly misspell a word to build an artistic aura around a character, which is termed “metaplasmus.”

    There have been several very unique dialects in literature in the past, out of which some have grown to be more dominant. Old and middle English had distinctive regional dialects. The major dialects in old English involved Kentish, Northumbrian, Mercian, and West Saxon dialects. As the years passed, the West Saxon dialect became the standard. Moreo...

    The narrative voice in literature usually aspires to speak in concert with the reality it illustrates. African American authors often criticize this condition, while discussing the significance of speaking in so-called “standard” American English in comparison with African American English. Toni Cade Bambara has made a remarkable contribution to th...

    • What Is dialect?
    • Dialect vs. Accent
    • American English Dialect Examples
    • Example of Dialect in Literature
    • Summary

    A dialect refers to a branch of a language. Within this branch, different terms are used for different things. Dialects are usually formed around particular regions. However, they may also be used within certain groups of people. For example, in The United States, there is a particular dialect in the Southern states. Within that Southern dialect, h...

    Dialect and accent are two different aspects of language. However, there are some overlaps. An accent is also specific to a region. In English, there might be an American, British, or Australian accent. An accent is an inflection that occurs with word pronunciation. A dialect is entirely different words or ways of communicating altogether. Dialect ...

    Different dialects exists in American English, and in all areas of spoken English. There are dialects for each region, in fact. Even if the particular peoples of that region do not think they speak in a dialect, they probably do. Some of the more pronounced American regional dialects are the Northeastern (East Coast) and Southern dialects. Someone ...

    Dialect is used commonly in literature. An author may elect to use dialect if he or she wants to represent the characters well. In order to do so, the author will write dialogue specific to the region of the character. Authors want their characters to seem genuine; therefore, they must write dialogue between characters in such a way as they would s...

    Define dialect: the definition of dialect is a linguistic variety peculiar to a particular geographical region or used by members of a specific social class. In summary, a dialect is a type of language that is spoken by a particular region or group of people. Dialect is much more broad and far reaching that accent. Most dialects will include with t...

    • I. What Is dialect?
    • II. Examples of Dialect
    • III. The Risks and Benefits of Dialect
    • IV. Examples of Dialect in Literature
    • v. Examples of Dialect in Popular Culture
    • VI. Related Terms

    A dialect(pronounced DIE-uh-lect) is any particular form of a language spoken by some group of people, such as southern English, Black English, Appalachian English, or even standard English. In literature, “dialect” means a form of writing that shows the accent and way people talk in a particular region. Because of this, it can sometimes risk being...

    Example 1

    This is a line from a Scottish folk song, written in a light Scottish dialect. Both of the underlined words are associated with the Scottish dialect of English. However, none of the words are misspelled, so it’s not a heavy-handed use of dialect.

    Example 2

    This line is about a man from India first coming to America and trying to understand its culture. Normally, you’d have a novel where the American characters speak normally but the Indian charactersmight speak in dialect. But this novel reverses the experience, and tries to get us to hear how a “normal” American accent sounds to someone from another culture.

    The main benefits of writing dialect are in developing more realistic and life-like characters and settings. It allows your reader to imagine exactly how the characters voice ‘s might sound as they speak. And if your characters live in a place like New Orleans or Boston, with a strong accent, it helps the reader to really feel like they’re there an...

    Example 1

    This line comes from a novel about the Caribbean island of Grenada. We can easily imagine that the character in this quote speaks with a thick Grenadian accent, though the author is actually using a very light touch with the dialect! She’s using nonstandard grammar (e.g. “is a bonus” instead of “it’s a bonus”), but she’s not using any nonstandard spellings.

    Example 2

    Gone with the Wind is a famous example of an offensive use of dialect. In this novel, all of the characters are from the American South, so they should all speak with a certain roughly similar regional “accent.” However, in the book only the black characters speak in dialect, thus giving the impression that the white accent is normal while the black accent is strange. That’s already a little offensive, but it gets worse: the black dialect isn’t even very accurate; in many ways it’s more a bun...

    Example 3

    This is a classic example of dialect with a solid creative purpose. The author represents Mrs. Reilly talking about her son, in her lower-class white New Orleans accent, and then her son speaking in his pretentious college-educated dialect–but the silliness of what he says makes for an ironic contrast with his dialect. The contrasts between Ignatius and his mother, and between his language and his obnoxious personality is both funny and meaningful without being offensive—especially since the...

    Example 1

    Snuffy is a classic comic strip in which all the characters speak in dialect. The dialect here is a vague rural American accent, which makes it less effective than if it were specific. But it’s only a comic strip, so the author can get away with it a little.

    Example 2

    All the Orcs in Warhammer speak in heavy dialect. It’s great for the players, because they get to imagine exactly how the character sounds. And it’s low-risk, because there aren’t any Orcs around to feel offended! (The quote itself, of course, comes from Orwell’s Animal Farm, but it’s being translated here into Orc-speak.)


    Diction is word choice and phrasing, and it’s a feature of all writing (and speech). Every person their own favorite words and sentence structures, and so does each culture. So when you write in dialect, you are trying to capture a group’s diction as well as their accent.

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