Dialect

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dialect,

variety of a languagelanguage,
systematic communication by vocal symbols. It is a universal characteristic of the human species. Nothing is known of its origin, although scientists have identified a gene that clearly contributes to the human ability to use language.
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 used by a group of speakers within a particular speech community. Every individual speaks a variety of his language, termed an idiolect. Dialects are groups of idiolects with a common core of similarities in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Dialects exist as a continuum in which adjacent dialects are mutually intelligible, yet with increasing isolation between noncontiguous dialects, differences may accumulate to the point of mutual unintelligibility. For example, in the Dutch-German speech community there is a continuous area of intelligibility from Flanders to Schleswig and to Styria, but with Flemish and Styrian dialects mutually unintelligible. Adjacent dialects usually differ more in pronunciation than in grammar or vocabulary. When a dialect is spoken by a large group of speakers of a language, it often acquires prestige, which leads to the development of a standard language. Some countries have an official standard, such as that promoted by the French Academy. The first linguistic dialectology focused on historical dialects, written texts serving as the basis for establishing the dialects of a language through the methods of comparative linguisticslinguistics,
scientific study of language, covering the structure (morphology and syntax; see grammar), sounds (phonology), and meaning (semantics), as well as the history of the relations of languages to each other and the cultural place of language in human behavior.
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.

The methods of modern linguistic geography began in late 19th-century Europe with the use of informants rather than texts, and resulted in the first linguistic atlases of France, by Jules Gilliéron, and of Germany, by Georg Wenker. Those techniques were refined in the United States in the preparation of the Linguistic Atlas of the United States (Hans Kurath et al., ed.) and its derivative works. In recent years linguists have become increasingly interested in social dialects, such as the languages of social groups within an urban population and the languages of specific occupations (farmers, dockworkers, coal miners, government workers) or lifestyles (beatniks, drug users, teenagers, feminists). In the United States much work has been done in the area of black English, the common dialect of many African Americans. See also slangslang,
vernacular vocabulary not generally acceptable in formal usage. It is notable for its liveliness, humor, emphasis, brevity, novelty, and exaggeration. Most slang is faddish and ephemeral, but some words are retained for long periods and eventually become part of the
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.

Bibliography

See H. Orton and E. Dieth, ed., Survey of English Dialects (1962–70); H. B. Allen and G. N. Underwood, Readings in American Dialectology (1971); R. H. Bentley and S. D. Crawford, ed., Black Language Reader (1973); H. Kurath, Studies in Area Linguistics (1973); P. Trudgill, Dialects in Contact (1986); C. M. Carver, American Regional Dialects (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dialect

 

a type of language used in the speech of a people of a given language who, as a rule, are from a small territorially unified area. Dialect shares the basic elements of structure with the language of which it is a variant but differs from it in several specific features on various levels of language structure. For example, on the phonetic level, akan’e and tsokan’e are dialects of Russian. A group of similar dialects that have particular differences may unite to form a larger dialect, such as the Olonetskii dialect of the northern Great Russian speech.


Dialect

 

a variant of a language that is used as a means for communicating with people who are connected by a close territorial, social, or professional community. A territorial dialect is always a part of another entire dialect of a language, a part of the language itself; therefore, it is always opposed to another dialect or dialects. Small dialects combine into larger dialects. The largest of these may be called subdialects, and the smallest may be called accents. Territorial dialects have differences in sound structure, grammar, word formation, and vocabulary. These differences can be small, so that the speakers of different dialects of a language (for example, the dialects of the Slavic languages) can understand each other; the dialects of other languages can differ so greatly that communication between speakers is complicated or impossible (for example, the dialects of German or Chinese).

Modern dialects are the result of a centuries-long development. Throughout history the breakdown, unification, and regrouping of dialects have occurred in connection with the change of territorial unions. The boundaries of modern dialects may reflect the existence of a past boundary between different territorial unions (states, feudal lands, or tribes). The territorial disunion of the individual tribes and lands of the slave-owning or feudal state facilitated the development of dialectal differences among those tribes or on those lands. The eras of capitalism and socialism have broken down the old territorial boundaries within the state, leading to the leveling of dialects and to their transformation into a vestigial category. The social heterogeneity of society appears in the social differentiation of language. Social dialects are understood to be the professional languages of hunters, fishermen, miners, shoemakers, and so on, which differ from the common language only in vocabulary; group, or corporative, languages; the jargon, or slang, of schoolchildren, students, sportsmen, soldiers, and other primarily youthful groups; and arbitrary (secret) languages and argots (of déclassé elements, traveling artisans, and merchants).

L. L. KASATKIN

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

dialect

[′dī·ə‚lekt]
(computer science)
A version of a programming language that differs from other versions in some respects but generally resembles them.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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