It is no secret that most of us formulate certain impressions of people based on how they speak. More often than not, we make our judgements about people based on how they speak rather than what they speak about.
Dialects are a key resource that we use to determine or judge people’s background, social status, and ethnicity. These are but a few of the aspects of someone’s character that we may judge based on how they speak. There are a number of other social and personal traits that can be determined through the study of someone’s language.
In fact, language differences can be the most reliable indicator of social position in society! Usually, people’s speech matches their lifestyle. Language differences are unavoidable, especially when we are part of a society that is composed of a large variety of social groups.
SO WHAT, EXACTLY, DO WE CALL THESE VARIETIES IN LANGUAGE?
Dialects are the varieties of language that are shared by certain groups of speakers. Dialects are not to be confused with languages. For example, while English or Spanish are languages in themselves, there are smaller variations of these languages which would be called dialects! There can be many, many dialects of one language.
If you think that you don’t speak a dialect, then think again. Dialects are inevitable. Dialects are natural. Whether you notice it or not, we all speak them. Even you.
Examples of Dialects
Here in the United States, we have tons of dialects. Some of the most stereotypical and well-known dialects are referred to as the “Southern drawl,” the “Boston accent,” the “New Orleans accent,” the “Chicago accent,” and the “New York City accent.”
Bias and Judgement Surrounding Dialects
There are times when certain dialects are judged in harsh lights. For example, in dialects that typically show up in the lower class, the dialect is deemed uneducated and is criticized by others.
Sometimes, dialects may be referred to as deficient or corrupted English. Dialects that are referred to in this way might be perceived as an inferior version of other popular dialects.
According to “American English Dialects and Variation” by Wolfram & Shilling, “linguists have demonstrated that these dialects are not deviant forms of language, but simply different systems, with distinct subsets of language patterns” (Wolfram & Shilling, p. 4).
However, typically when the word “dialect” is used in this way, to refer to some variety of a language as deficient or corrupt, it carries a negative connotations.
Things That Aren’t True About Dialects
There are lots of judgements and opinions based on dialects, and many different perceptions of them as well. However, many of these beliefs aren’t grounded in fact, but grounded in bias and assumption.
For example, some people see dialects not as something they speak, but as something that someone else speaks. Yet what they may not realize, or may not want to admit, is that everyone speaks some form of dialect. While the person may speak a more normalized or popular form of the language, it does not make that form any less of a dialect than a lesser used form!
Another popular view is that dialects limit the ability to communicate clearly. This is untrue. Virtually all language systems are capable of expressing complex ideas or communicating things clearly and accurately.
Speaking of Normalized Forms of Language…
There are several standards and vernaculars for the English language. The most common one in English happens to be referred to as Standard American English (SAE) or Mainstream American English (MAE).
Just as certain ways of behaving, dressing, speaking, treating elders, etc. are normalized in different societies, so can certain language forms or dialects be normalized. This is the process of language standardization.
Typically language standardization is set by recognized authority figures or groups. This can be through books that teach or lay bare the rules of “proper” English, dictionaries, textbooks, or other language guides.
To summarize what we’ve gone over, dialects are varieties of a language. These dialects are shared by particular groups of speakers. And there can be several dialects for one language. Dialects are spoken by everyone, and many people may judge others based upon the dialect they recognize that person speaking. Dialects can hold positive or negative connotations, and there are many popular beliefs about dialects that are just myths, and are not grounded in actual fact. Lastly, while there is no right or wrong dialects, there tends to be the normalization of one or few particular dialects in a given language which is termed as language standardization. This particular dialect then becomes the standard or mainstream version of that language.
Let’s Chat in the Comments!
Are there any dialect myths that you personally believe? Are there any forms of dialect that you tend to judge, or are there parts of your dialect that others have judged in the past? Did you know what a dialect was prior to reading this post? If not, what did you think a dialect was? Did you think it was a synonym for language?Follow my blog with Bloglovin