The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety
Variety (linguistics)
In sociolinguistics a variety, also called a lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include languages, dialects, accents, registers, styles or other sociolinguistic variation, as well as the standard variety itself...

 of a language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class. A dialect that is associated with a particular social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 can be termed a sociolect
In sociolinguistics, a sociolect or social dialect is a variety of language associated with a social group such as a socioeconomic class, an ethnic group, an age group, etc....

; a regional dialect may be termed a regiolect or topolect. The other usage refers to a language socially subordinate to a regional or national standard language, often historically cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

 to the standard, but not a variety of it or in any other sense derived from it. This more precise usage enables distinguishing between varieties of a language, such as the French spoken in Nice
Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of...

, France, and local languages distinct from the superordinate language, e.g. Nissart, the traditional native Romance language of Nice, known in French as Niçard
Niçard , Nissart/Niçart , Niçois , or Nizzardo is considered a distinct subdialect of the Occitan language spoken in the city of Nice and in the historical County of Nice Niçard (Classical orthography), Nissart/Niçart (Mistralian orthography), Niçois (French, IPA: ), or Nizzardo (Italian, IPA: )...


A dialect is distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation (phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, including prosody
Prosody (linguistics)
In linguistics, prosody is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. Prosody may reflect various features of the speaker or the utterance: the emotional state of the speaker; the form of the utterance ; the presence of irony or sarcasm; emphasis, contrast, and focus; or other elements of...

). Where a distinction can be made only in terms of pronunciation, the term accent
Accent (linguistics)
In linguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation.An accent may identify the locality in which its speakers reside , the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class, their first language In...

is appropriate, not dialect.
Other speech varieties include: standard language
Standard language
A standard language is a language variety used by a group of people in their public discourse. Alternatively, varieties become standard by undergoing a process of standardization, during which it is organized for description in grammars and dictionaries and encoded in such reference works...

s, which are standardized for public performance (for example, a written standard); jargon
Jargon is terminology which is especially defined in relationship to a specific activity, profession, group, or event. The philosophe Condillac observed in 1782 that "Every science requires a special language because every science has its own ideas." As a rationalist member of the Enlightenment he...

s, which are characterized by differences in lexicon
In linguistics, the lexicon of a language is its vocabulary, including its words and expressions. A lexicon is also a synonym of the word thesaurus. More formally, it is a language's inventory of lexemes. Coined in English 1603, the word "lexicon" derives from the Greek "λεξικόν" , neut...

A person's vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person. A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge...

); slang
Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

; patois
Patois is any language that is considered nonstandard, although the term is not formally defined in linguistics. It can refer to pidgins, creoles, dialects, and other forms of native or local speech, but not commonly to jargon or slang, which are vocabulary-based forms of cant...

; pidgin
A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a simplified language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups that do not have a language in common. It is most commonly employed in situations such as trade, or where both groups speak languages different from the language of the...

s or argot
An Argot is a secret language used by various groups—including, but not limited to, thieves and other criminals—to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations. The term argot is also used to refer to the informal specialized vocabulary from a particular field of study, hobby, job,...


The particular speech patterns used by an individual are termed an idiolect
In linguistics, an idiolect is a variety of a language unique to an individual. It is manifested by patterns of vocabulary or idiom selection , grammar, or pronunciations that are unique to the individual. Every individual's language production is in some sense unique...


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 "correct" spoken and written form; and an extensive formal literature that employs that dialect (prose, poetry, non-fiction, etc.). There may be multiple standard dialects associated with a single language. For example, Standard American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

, Standard Canadian English
Canadian English
Canadian English is the variety of English spoken in Canada. English is the first language, or "mother tongue", of approximately 24 million Canadians , and more than 28 million are fluent in the language...

, Standard Indian English
Indian English
Indian English is an umbrella term used to describe dialects of the English language spoken primarily in the Republic of India.As a result of British colonial rule until Indian independence in 1947 English is an official language of India and is widely used in both spoken and literary contexts...

, Standard Australian English
Australian English
Australian English is the name given to the group of dialects spoken in Australia that form a major variety of the English language....

, and Standard Philippine English
Philippine English
Philippine English is the variety of English used in the Philippines by the media and the vast majority of educated Filipinos. English is taught in schools as one of the two official languages of the country, the other being Filipino, a standardized version of Tagalog.English is used in education,...

 may all be said to be standard dialects of the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...


A nonstandard dialect
Nonstandard dialect
A nonstandard dialect is a dialect that does not have the institutional support or sanction that a standardized dialect has.Like any dialect, a nonstandard dialect has its own vocabulary and an internally consistent grammar and syntax; and it may be spoken using a variety of accents. Describing a...

, like a standard dialect, has a complete vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, but is not the beneficiary of institutional support. An example of a nonstandard English dialect is Southern American English
Southern American English
Southern American English is a group of dialects of the English language spoken throughout the Southern region of the United States, from Southern and Eastern Maryland, West Virginia and Kentucky to the Gulf Coast, and from the Atlantic coast to most of Texas and Oklahoma.The Southern dialects make...

 or Newfoundland English
Newfoundland English
Newfoundland English is a name for several accents and dialects thereof the English found in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Most of these differ substantially from the English commonly spoken elsewhere in Canada...

. The Dialect Test
Dialect Test
The Dialect Test was created by Joseph Wright in February 1879. It first appeared in the works of A.J. Ellis, to whom Wright dictated the test. It stands as one of the earliest methods of identifying vowel sounds and features of speech. The aim was to capture the main vowel sounds of an individual...

 was designed by Joseph Wright
Joseph Wright (linguist)
Joseph Wright FBA was an English philologist who rose from humble origins to become Professor of Comparative Philology at Oxford University.-Early life:...

 to compare different English dialects with each other.

"Dialect" or "language"

There is no universally accepted criterion for distinguishing a language from a dialect. A framework that may aid in analyzing the issues is provided by the linguistics concepts of Ausbausprache, Abstandsprache and Dachsprache. A number of rough measures exist, sometimes leading to contradictory results. Some linguists do not differentiate between languages and dialects, i.e. languages are dialects and vice versa. The distinction is therefore subjective and depends on the user's frame of reference. Note also that the terms are not by themselves mutually exclusive; there is by itself nothing contradictory in the statement that "the language of the Pennsylvania Dutch
Pennsylvania Dutch
Pennsylvania Dutch refers to immigrants and their descendants from southwestern Germany and Switzerland who settled in Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries...

 is a dialect of German". However, the term dialect always implies a relation between languages: if language X is called a dialect, this implies that the speaker considers X a dialect of some other language Y, which then usually is some standard language.

Language varieties are often called dialects rather than languages:
  • because they have no standard or codified
    Codification (linguistics)
    In linguistics, codification is the process of standardizing and developing a norm for a language.Codifying a language can vary from case to case and depends on the stage of standardization that already exists...

  • because the speakers of the given language do not have a state
    State (polity)
    A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

     of their own,
  • because they are rarely or never used in writing (outside reported speech)
  • or because they lack prestige
    Prestige dialect
    In sociolinguistics, prestige describes the level of respect accorded to a language or dialect as compared to that of other languages or dialects in a speech community. The concept of prestige in sociolinguistics is closely related to that of prestige or class within a society...

     with respect to some other, often standardised, variety.

The term vernacular
A vernacular is the native language or native dialect of a specific population, as opposed to a language of wider communication that is not native to the population, such as a national language or lingua franca.- Etymology :The term is not a recent one...

or idiom is used by some linguists instead of language or dialect when there is no need to commit oneself to any decision on the status with respect to this distinction.

Anthropological linguists
Anthropological linguistics
Anthropological linguistics is the study of the relations between language and culture and the relations between human biology, cognition and language...

 define dialect as the specific form of a language used by a speech community
Speech community
Speech community is a group of people who share a set of norms and expectations regarding the use of language. Speech communities can be members of a profession with a specialized jargon, distinct social groups like high school students or hip hop fans , or even tight-knit groups like families and...

. In other words, the difference between language and dialect is the difference between the abstract or general and the concrete and particular. From this perspective, no one speaks a "language," everyone speaks a dialect of a language. Those who identify a particular dialect as the "standard" or "proper" version of a language are in fact using these terms to express a social distinction.

Often, the standard language is close to the sociolect of the elite
Elite refers to an exceptional or privileged group that wields considerable power within its sphere of influence...


In groups where prestige standards play less important roles, "dialect" may simply be used to refer to subtle regional variations in linguistic practices that are considered mutually intelligible, playing an important role to place strangers, carrying the message of where a stranger originates (which quarter or district in a town, which village in a rural setting, or which province of a country); thus there are many apparent "dialects" of Slavey
Slavey language
Slavey is an Athabaskan language spoken among the Slavey First Nations of Canada in the Northwest Territories where it also has official status....

, for example, by which the linguist simply means that there are many subtle variations among speakers who largely understand each other and recognize that they are each speaking "the same way" in a general sense.

Modern-day linguists know that the status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

 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
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

, whose variations such as Mandarin and Cantonese are often considered dialects and not languages, despite their mutual unintelligibility, because the word for them in Mandarin, 方言 fāngyán, was mistranslated as "dialect" because it meant "regional speech" .

See also Mesoamerican languages and Sarkar's criteria on dialects.

"A language is a dialect with an army and navy"

The Yiddish
Yiddish language
Yiddish is a High German language of Ashkenazi Jewish origin, spoken throughout the world. It developed as a fusion of German dialects with Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic languages and traces of Romance languages...

 linguist Max Weinreich
Max Weinreich
Max Weinreich was a linguist, specializing in the Yiddish language, and the father of the linguist Uriel Weinreich, who edited the Modern Yiddish-English English-Yiddish Dictionary.- Biography :Max Weinreich began his studies in a German school in Kuldiga,...

 published the expression, A shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot (   "A language is a dialect with an army and navy") in YIVO Bleter 25.1, 1945, p. 13.

Political factors

Modern Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

, as developed especially since the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, 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. 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 classification of speech varieties as dialects or languages and their relationship to other varieties of speech can thus be controversial and the verdicts inconsistent. English and Serbo-Croatian
Serbo-Croatian language
Serbo-Croatian or Serbo-Croat, less commonly Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian , is a South Slavic language with multiple standards and the primary language of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro...

 illustrate the point. English and Serbo-Croatian each have two major variants (British
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

 and American English, and Serbian
Serbian language
Serbian is a form of Serbo-Croatian, a South Slavic language, spoken by Serbs in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and neighbouring countries....

 and Croatian
Croatian language
Croatian is the collective name for the standard language and dialects spoken by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighbouring countries...

, respectively), along with numerous other varieties. For political reasons, analyzing these varieties as "languages" or "dialects" yields inconsistent results: British and American English, spoken by close political and military allies, are almost universally regarded as dialects of a single language, whereas the standard languages of Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 and Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

, which differ from each other to a similar extent as the dialects of English, are being treated by many linguists from the region as distinct languages, largely because the two countries oscillate from being brotherly to being bitter enemies. (The Serbo-Croatian language article deals with this topic much more fully.)

Similar examples abound. Macedonian
Macedonian language
Macedonian is a South Slavic language spoken as a first language by approximately 2–3 million people principally in the region of Macedonia but also in the Macedonian diaspora...

, although mutually intelligible with Bulgarian
Bulgarian language
Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

, certain dialects of Serbian and to a lesser extent the rest of the South Slavic
South Slavic languages
The South Slavic languages comprise one of three branches of the Slavic languages. There are approximately 30 million speakers, mainly in the Balkans. These are separated geographically from speakers of the other two Slavic branches by a belt of German, Hungarian and Romanian speakers...

 dialect continuum
Dialect continuum
A dialect continuum, or dialect area, was defined by Leonard Bloomfield as a range of dialects spoken across some geographical area that differ only slightly between neighboring areas, but as one travels in any direction, these differences accumulate such that speakers from opposite ends of the...

 is considered by Bulgarian linguists to be a Bulgarian dialect, in contrast with the contemporary international view, and the view in the Republic of Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia
Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

 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 Republic of Macedonia were referred to as Bulgarian dialects.

In the 19th Century, the Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

ist Government of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 claimed that Ukrainian
Ukrainian language
Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....

 was merely a dialect of Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 and not a language in its own right. Since Soviet times, when Ukrainians were recognised as a separate nationality deserving of its own Soviet Republic, such linguistic-political claims had disappeared from circulation.

In Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, the right-wing Guardians of the Cedars
Guardians of the Cedars
The Guardians of the Cedars – GoC , also designated Gardiens du Cedre or Gardiens des Cèdres in French, are a far-right ultranationalist Lebanese party and former militia in Lebanon...

, a fiercely nationalistic (mainly Christian) political party which opposes the country's ties to the Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 world, is agitating for "Lebanese" to be recognized as a distinct language from Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 and not merely a dialect, and has even advocated replacing the Arabic alphabet
Arabic alphabet
The Arabic alphabet or Arabic abjad is the Arabic script as it is codified for writing the Arabic language. It is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters. Because letters usually stand for consonants, it is classified as an abjad.-Consonants:The Arabic alphabet has...

 with a revival of the ancient Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

 - which missed a number of characters to write typical Arabic phonemes present in Lebanese, and lost by Phoenician (and Hebrew) in the second millennium BC.
This is, however, very much a minority position - in Lebanon itself as in the Arab World as a whole. The varieties of Arabic
Varieties of Arabic
The Arabic language is a Semitic language characterized by a wide number of linguistic varieties within its five regional forms. The largest divisions occur between the spoken languages of different regions. The Arabic of North Africa, for example, is often incomprehensible to an Arabic speaker...

 are considerably different from each other - especially those spoken in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

The Maghreb is the region of Northwest Africa, west of Egypt. It includes five countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania and the disputed territory of Western Sahara...

) from those of the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 (the Mashriq
Mashriq or Mashreq is derived from the Arabic consonantal root sh-r-q relating to the east or the sunrise, and essentially means "east"...

 in the broad definition including Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

) - and had there been the political will in the different Arab countries to cut themselves off from each other, the case could have been made to declare these varieties as separate languages. However, in adherence to the ideas of Arab Nationalism
Arab nationalism
Arab nationalism is a nationalist ideology celebrating the glories of Arab civilization, the language and literature of the Arabs, calling for rejuvenation and political union in the Arab world...

, the Arab countries prefer to give preference to the Literary Arabic
Literary Arabic
Modern Standard Arabic , Standard Arabic, or Literary Arabic is the standard and literary variety of Arabic used in writing and in most formal speech....

 which is common to all of them, conduct much of their political, cultural and religious life in it (adherence to Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

), 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
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...


Such moves may even appear at a local, rather than a federal level. The US state of Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 declared "American" to be the state's official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

 in 1923, although linguists and politicians throughout much of the rest of the country considered American simply to be a dialect.

There have been cases of a variety of speech being deliberately reclassified to serve political purposes. One example is Moldovan
Moldovan language
Moldovan is one of the names of the Romanian language as spoken in the Republic of Moldova, where it is official. The spoken language of Moldova is closer to the dialects of Romanian spoken in northeastern Romania, and the two countries share the same literary standard...

. In 1996, the Moldovan parliament, citing fears of "Romanian expansionism," rejected a proposal from President
President of Moldova
The President of the Republic of Moldova is the head of state of Moldova.-Description of the post:According to the Article 77 of the Constitution of Moldova , the President of Moldova is the head of the State and represents the State and is the guarantor of national sovereignty, independence, of...

 Mircea Snegur
Mircea Snegur
Mircea Ion Snegur was the first President of Moldova 1990-1996. Before that he was Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet 1989-1990 and Chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 27 April to 3 September 1990...

 to change the name of the language to Romanian, and in 2003 a Moldovan-Romanian dictionary
Moldovan-Romanian dictionary
The Moldovan–Romanian dictionary is a dictionary compiled by Vasile Stati and published in Chişinău, Moldova in 2003 that contains 19,000 Moldovan words that are explained in Romanian...

 was published, purporting to show that the two countries speak different languages. Linguists of the Romanian Academy
Romanian Academy
The Romanian Academy is a cultural forum founded in Bucharest, Romania, in 1866. It covers the scientific, artistic and literary domains. The academy has 181 acting members who are elected for life....

 reacted by declaring that all the Moldovan words were also Romanian words; while in Moldova, the head of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova
Academy of Sciences of Moldova
The Academy of Sciences of Moldova , established in 1946, is the main scientific organization of the Republic of Moldova and coordinates research in all areas of science and technology.- Presidents :...

, Ion Bărbuţă, described the dictionary as a politically motivated "absurdity".

In contrast, the spoken languages
Spoken Chinese
Chinese comprises many regional language varieties sometimes grouped together as the Chinese dialects, the primary ones being Mandarin, Wu, Cantonese, and Min. These are not mutually intelligible, and even many of the regional varieties are themselves composed of a number of...

 of the Han Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 are usually referred to as dialects of one Chinese language despite their vast differences. See Identification of the varieties of Chinese" for more details.

In the Philippines, the Commission on the Filipino Language declared all the indigenous languages in the Philippines as dialects despite the great differences between them, as well as the existence of significant bodies of literature in each of the major "dialects" and daily newspapers in some.

In 18th and 19th century Germany, several thousand local languages of the continental west Germanic dialect continuum were reclassified as dialects of modern New High German
New High German
New High German is the term used for the most recent period in the history of the German language. It is a translation of the German Neuhochdeutsch...

 although the vast majority of them was (and still is) mutually incomprehensible, despite the fact that they all existed long before New High German, which had at least in part been shaped as a compromise or mediative language between these local languages.

To support the intended process of nation building even further, a vague myth of some common Germanic original language developed, and German dialectology began to name dialect groups after presumed and real groups of historic tribes having existed from BC to about 600 AD, from which they were assumed to have descended. Linguistic, historic and archeological evidence for such connections is scarce, meanwhile several such ideas were proven false, yet they lead to several pertaining misnomers in German dialectology. Today, all diverse local languages under the Standard German umbrella are collectively referred to as "German dialects", the vast majority of German speakers still believe, they were variations of "original" or even Standard German.

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 discussed in the preceding section is cited.

Historical linguistics

Many historical linguists
Historical linguistics
Historical linguistics is the study of language change. It has five main concerns:* to describe and account for observed changes in particular languages...

 view any speech form as a dialect of the older medium of communication from which it developed. This point of view sees the modern Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 as dialects of Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, modern Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 as a dialect of Ancient Greek, Tok Pisin
Tok Pisin
Tok Pisin is a creole spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. It is an official language of Papua New Guinea and the most widely used language in that country...

 as a dialect of English, and Scandinavian languages as dialects of Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

. This paradigm is not entirely problem-free. It sees genetic relationships as paramount: the "dialects" of a "language" (which itself may be a "dialect" of a yet older tongue) may or may not be mutually intelligible. Moreover, a parent language may spawn several "dialects" which themselves subdivide any number of times, with some "branches" of the tree changing more rapidly than others.

This can give rise to the situation in which two dialects (defined according to this paradigm) with a somewhat distant genetic relationship are mutually more readily comprehensible than more closely related dialects. In one opinion, this pattern is clearly present among the modern Romance tongues, with Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 and Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 having a high degree of mutual comprehensibility, which neither language shares with French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, despite some claiming that both languages are genetically closer to French than to each other: In fact, French-Italian and French-Spanish relative mutual incomprehensibility is due to French having undergone more rapid and more pervasive phonological change than have Spanish and Italian, not to real or imagined distance in genetic relationship. In fact, Italian and French share many more root words in common that do not even appear in Spanish.

For example, the Italian and French words for various foods, family members, and body parts are very similar to each other, yet most of those words are completely different in Spanish. Italian "avere" and "essere" as auxiliaries for forming compound tenses are used similarly to French "avoir" and "être", Spanish only retains "haber" and has done away with "ser" in forming compound tenses, which are no longer used in either Spanish or Portuguese. However, when it comes to pronunciation, some Italian sounds are familiar to Spanish speakers, and native speakers of Italian and Spanish may attain some limited degree of mutual comprehension using single words or short phrases.


One language, Interlingua
Interlingua is an international auxiliary language , developed between 1937 and 1951 by the International Auxiliary Language Association...

, was developed
Interlingua and eligibility of international words
Words can be included in Interlingua in either of two ways: through regular derivation using roots and affixes or by establishing their eligibility as international words...

 so that the languages of Western civilization would act as its dialects. Drawing from such concepts as the international scientific vocabulary
International Scientific Vocabulary
International scientific vocabulary comprises scientific and specialized words whose language of origin may or may not be certain, but which are in current use in several modern languages. The name "International Scientific Vocabulary" was first used by Philip Gove in Webster’s Third New...

 and Standard Average European
Standard Average European
Standard Average European is a concept introduced by Benjamin Whorf to group the modern, Indo-European languages of Europe in the sense of a Sprachbund.The more central members of the SAE Sprachbund are Romance and West Germanic, i.e...

, linguists developed a theory that the modern Western languages were actually dialects of a hidden or latent language. Researchers at the International Auxiliary Language Association
International Auxiliary Language Association
The International Auxiliary Language Association was founded in 1924 to "promote widespread study, discussion and publicity of all questions involved in the establishment of an auxiliary language, together with research and experiment that may hasten such establishment in an intelligent manner and...

 extracted words and affixes that they considered to be part of Interlingua's vocabulary. In theory, speakers of the Western languages would understand written or spoken Interlingua immediately, without prior study, since their own languages were its dialects. 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. It should be noted, however, that the vocabulary of Interlingua extends beyond the Western language families.

Selected list of articles on dialects

  • Älvdalsmål
  • Bengali dialects
    Bengali dialects
    The dialects of the Bengali language are part of the Eastern Indo-Aryan language group of the Indo-European language family. Borishali , Noakhali , Rongpore , Khulna and Mymonshingh are major spoken dialects in Bangladesh...

  • Catalan dialect examples
  • Connacht Irish
    Connacht Irish
    Connacht Irish is the dialect of the Irish language spoken in the province of Connacht. Gaeltacht regions in Connacht are found in Counties Mayo and Galway...

    , Munster Irish
    Munster Irish
    Munster Irish is the dialect of the Irish language spoken in the province of Munster. Gaeltacht regions in Munster are found in the Dingle Peninsula Gaeltacht of west Kerry, in the Iveragh Peninsula in south Kerry, in Cape Clear Island off the coast of west Cork, in West Muskerry; Coolea,...

    , Ulster Irish
    Ulster Irish
    Ulster Irish is the dialect of the Irish language spoken in the Province of Ulster. The largest Gaeltacht region today is in County Donegal, so that the term Donegal Irish is often used synonymously. Nevertheless, records of the language as it was spoken in other counties do exist, and help provide...

  • Cypriot Greek
    Cypriot Greek
    The Cypriot dialect of Modern Greek, known as Kypriaka , Cypriot Greek is spoken by 750,000 people in Cyprus and diaspora Greek Cypriots.Cypriot Greek is distinct enough that it can be classified as a distinct dialect of the Standard Greek....

    , Cypriot Turkish
    Cypriot Turkish
    Cypriot Turkish, known locally as Kıbrıs Türkçesi, is a Turkish dialect spoken by Turkish Cypriots.- History :Cypriot Turkish is the vernacular spoken by Turkish Cypriots both in Cyprus and among its diaspora....

  • Danish dialects
  • Dialect of Chalkidiki
    Dialect of Chalkidiki
    The Dialect of Chalkidiki, , is a dialect of the Greek language spoken in Chalkidiki...

  • Dialects in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia
  • Dialects of the French language
    Dialects of the French language
    Dialects of the French language are spoken in France and around the world. The francophones of France generally use Metropolitan French although some also use regional dialects or varieties such as Meridional French. In Europe outside of France there are Belgian French, Swiss French, and in Italy...

  • Dutch dialects
    Dutch dialects
    Dutch dialects are primarily the dialects that are both cognate with the Dutch language and are spoken in the same language area as the Dutch standard language. Dutch dialects are remarkably diverse and are found in the Netherlands and northern Belgium....

  • Gutniska
  • Isfahani
    Isfahani or Ispahani is a surname of Iranian origin. It may refer to the following:* Al-Isfahani* Raghib Isfahani* Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani* Jalal al-Din Muhammad al-Isfahani- See also :* Isfahan* Al-Isfahani...

    , Shirazi
    - People :*Shirazi , a social group among the Swahili people of East Africa*Grand Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi, the leading marja of his time, and is widely known for his 1891 fatwa against the usage of tobacco...

    , Yazdi
    Yazdi is a common name for someone from the city or province of Yazd in central Iran, and for a dialect from Northwestern Iran.*For the Northwestern Iranian dialect spoken by many Zoroastrians, see Dari...

     (Persian dialects)
  • Italian dialects
    Italian dialects
    Dialects of Italian are regional varieties of the Italian language, more commonly and more accurately referred to as Regional Italian. The dialects have features, most notably phonological and lexical, percolating from the underlying substrate languages...

  • Jamtlandic
    Jamtlandic or Jamtish is a well-defined group of dialects of Scandinavia. It is spoken in the [Swedish] province of Jämtland...

  • Japanese dialects
    Japanese dialects
    The comprise many regional variants. The lingua franca of Japan is called hyōjungo or kyōtsūgo , and while it was based initially on the Tokyo dialect, the language of Japan's capital has since gone in its own direction to become one of Japan's many dialects...

  • Korean dialects
    Korean dialects
    A number of different Korean dialects are spoken in the Korean peninsula. The peninsula is extremely mountainous, and each dialect's "territory" corresponds closely to the natural boundaries between different geographical regions...

  • List of Assyrian tribes (dialects)
  • List of Chinese dialects
  • List of dialects of the English language
  • Norwegian dialects
    Norwegian dialects
    The Norwegian dialects are commonly divided into 4 main groups, North Norwegian , Trøndelag Norwegian , West Norwegian , and East Norwegian...

  • Portuguese dialects
    Portuguese dialects
    Portuguese dialects are variants of the Portuguese language that are shared by a substantial number of speakers over several generations, but are not sufficiently distinct from the official norms to be considered separate languages...

  • Rauma dialect
    Rauma dialect
    Rauma language is a dialect of Finnish spoken in the town of Rauma, western Finland.The written form of the dialect was preserved by the writer and doctor Hj. Nortamo, and is currently practiced mainly as a hobby. Some of the most distinctive characteristics of the dialect are the use of letters...

  • Scanian
  • Sicilian language
    Sicilian language
    Sicilian is a Romance language. Its dialects make up the Extreme-Southern Italian language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicily and its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria ; in the southern parts of Apulia, the Salento ; and Campania, on the Italian mainland, where it is...

  • Slovenian dialects
    Slovenian dialects
    Slovene dialects are the regional spoken varieties of Slovene, a South Slavic language. Spoken Slovene is often considered to have at least 48 dialects and subdialects . The exact number of dialects is open to debate, ranging from as many as 50 to merely 7...

  • Spanish dialects and varieties
    Spanish dialects and varieties
    Spanish dialects and varieties are the regional variants of the Spanish language, some of which are quite divergent from one another, especially in pronunciation and vocabulary, and less so in grammar....

  • Stockholmska
    Stockholmska is a group of dialects spoken in Stockholm. An exact definition encompassing its peculiarities is hard to find, as a cosmopolitan culture and early adoption infers a great variety of international influences that are then spread to the rest of Sweden...

  • Sri Lankan Tamil dialects
    Sri Lankan Tamil dialects
    The Sri Lankan Tamil dialects or Ceylon Tamil dialects form a group of Tamil dialects used in the modern country of Sri Lanka by Sri Lankan Tamil people that is distinct from the dialects of modern Tamil spoken in Tamil Nadu and Kerala states of India...

  • Swedish dialects
    Swedish dialects
    Swedish dialects can be categorized into Traditional Dialects and Modern Dialects .-Traditional dialects:...

  • Swedish dialects in Ostrobothnia
    Swedish dialects in Ostrobothnia
    Ostrobothnian Swedish is a variety of Finland-Swedish, spoken in Finland. Outside the autonomous island province of Åland, which is officially monolingually Swedish, Ostrobothnia is the only region of Finland besides Åland where the Swedish-speakers are in the majority...

  • Warsaw dialect
    Warsaw dialect
    The Warsaw dialect is a regional dialect of the Polish language spoken in Warsaw. The dialect evolved as late as 18th century, mainly from the Masovian dialect of the Polish language, under notable influence of several languages spoken in the city of Warsaw...

  • Yiddish dialects
    Yiddish dialects
    Yiddish dialects are varieties of the Yiddish language. These dialects are divided by originating region in Europe. Northeastern "Litvish" Yiddish was dominant in twentieth-century Yiddish culture and academia, while Southern dialects of Yiddish are now the most commonly spoken, preserved by many...

  • Yooper dialect
    Yooper dialect
    Yooper is a form of North Central American English mostly spoken in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which gives the dialect its name...

See also

  • Accent
    Accent (linguistics)
    In linguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation.An accent may identify the locality in which its speakers reside , the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class, their first language In...

  • Creole language
    Creole language
    A creole language, or simply a creole, is a stable natural language developed from the mixing of parent languages; creoles differ from pidgins in that they have been nativized by children as their primary language, making them have features of natural languages that are normally missing from...

  • Dialect levelling
    Dialect levelling
    Dialect levelling is the means by which dialect differences decrease. For example, in rural areas of Britain, although English is widely spoken, the pronunciation and grammar have historically varied. During the 20th century people have been moving into towns and cities, standardizing the English...

  • Dialectometry
    The main purpose of dialectometry is to discover high levels of structure in geographical dialect networks.The research interest concentrates mainly on the regional distribution of dialect similarities, such as cores of dialect and overlapping zones, which can be labelled according to a more or...

  • Ethnolect
    Ethnolect is a variety of a language spoken by a certain ethnic/cultural subgroup and serves as a distinguishing mark of social identity. The term combines the concepts of an ethnic group and dialect....

  • Isogloss
    An isogloss—also called a heterogloss —is the geographical boundary of a certain linguistic feature, such as the pronunciation of a vowel, the meaning of a word, or use of some syntactic feature...

  • Koiné language
    Koine language
    In linguistics, a koiné language is a standard language or dialect that has arisen as a result of contact between two mutually intelligible varieties of the same language. Since the speakers have understood one another from before the advent of the koiné, the koineization process is not as rapid...

  • Literary language
    Literary language
    A literary language is a register of a language that is used in literary writing. This may also include liturgical writing. The difference between literary and non-literary forms is more marked in some languages than in others...

  • Regional language
    Regional language
    A regional language is a language spoken in an area of a nation state, whether it be a small area, a federal state or province, or some wider area....

  • Sarkar's Linguistic Concepts and Criteria
  • Sprachbund
    A Sprachbund – also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related...

External links

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