Dialectology

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dialectology

 

a section of linguistics that deals with dialects. In analyzing a dialectal language in its territorial variation, all the linguistic features in the system—phonetic, grammatical, word-forming, and lexical—are considered. Common elements, which belong to all the dialects, as well as distinctive elements, which are present in only a few of them, are distinguished.

Dialectal differences are the primary object of dialectological study; a hierarchy of the dialectal differences pertaining to the various levels of the language system, their place on the particular level, and the interaction among the levels are established. The division of a language into dialects is the second main division of dialectology. In the opinion of the Romance dialectologists of the Paris and neo-Italian schools, only the boundaries between the individual dialectal phenomena and their projection on a map actually exist; these boundaries are isoglosses, which do not form any kind of unit, and therefore dialects cannot be distinguished. German and Swiss dialectologists have shown that dialects are a real phenomenon and that they have a nucleus and a border zone, or “zone of vibration,” represented by a bundle of isoglosses. Soviet dialectologists also hold such views, giving special consideration to the elaboration of principles for selecting typical isoglosses, those that are the most essential for the dialectal division of a language. Their work has resulted in the creation of a new dialectological map of the Russian language.

Descriptive dialectology is concerned with the study of dialects in their contemporary state; its primary research methods are the monographic study of a dialect or dialectal phenomenon and the methods of linguistic geography. Historical dialectology deals with dialects in their historical development; its main methods are the study of literary monuments in combination with a retrospective examination of modern dialectal data. Historical dialectology also uses extralinguistic facts, such as data from history, archaeology, ethnography, and social and cultural history; dialectological data are in turn used by these sciences. Dialectology is one of the most important sources for the study of the history of a language, since phenomena that have been lost from the literary language and that are not reflected in written monuments are often preserved in dialects. The interrelation between literary language and dialects has differed in various countries and eras, but throughout its history literary language has always felt the influence of dialects and has been enriched by them.

As late as the 19th century, dialectal features were viewed as deviations from the standard. In the early 19th century, interest in folk culture, including folk speech, increased; during this period dialectology was still not distinguished sufficiently clearly from ethnography and folklore. Toward the end of the 19th century a great deal of data was collected about many languages, and a new stage in the development of dialectology was beginning; linguistic geography was emerging. In the 20th century, dialectological atlases of various national languages and regional atlases have been created, work has been done on atlases of closely related languages, questions dealing with the theory of linguistic geography have been treated, and the summarization of the large amount of dialectal material presented in the atlases has begun.

REFERENCES

Avanesov, R. I. Ocherki russkoi dialektologii, part 1. Moscow, 1949.
Zhylko, F. T. Narysy z dialektolohii ukrains’koi movy, 2nd ed. Kiev, 1966.
Zhirmunskii, V. M. Natsional’nyi iazyk i sotsial’nye dialekty. Leningrad, 1936.
Zhirmunskii, V. M. Nemetskaia dialektologiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Narysy pa belaruskai dyialektalohii. Edited by R. I. Avanesov. Minsk, 1964.
Russkaia dialektologiia, 2nd ed. Edited by R. I. Avanesov and V. G. Orlova. Moscow, 1965.
Russkaia dialektologiia. Edited by P. S. Kuznetsov. Moscow, 1971.

L. L. KASATKIN

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