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DIALECT

DIALECT A general and technical term for a form of a LANGUAGE: a southern French dialect; the Yorkshire dialect; the dialects of the United States; Their teacher didn't let them speak dialect at school, but they spoke it at home; It's a dialect word—only the older people use it. Although the term usually refers to regional speech, it can be extended to cover differences according to class and occupation; such terms as regional dialect, social dialect, class dialect, occupational dialect, urban dialect, and rural dialect are all used by linguists. In addition, the extracted element LECT has become a term for any kind of distinct language variety spoken by an individual or group, with such derivatives as ACROLECT (a high or prestigious VARIETY), BASILECT (a low or socially stigmatized variety), MESOLECT (a lect in a socially intermediate position between these two). [see also EYE DIALECT.]

Dialect, language, standard

Most languages have dialects, each with a distinctive ACCENT, GRAMMAR, VOCABULARY, and IDIOM. Traditionally, however, dialects have been regarded as socially lower than a ‘proper’ form of the language (often represented as the language itself), such as the King's or Queen's English in Britain, and le bon français in France, or in general terms the standard language. Such a variety also has regional roots, but because it developed into the official and educated usage of a capital like London or Paris, it tends to be seen as non-regional, often as supra-regional, and therefore not a dialect as such. Certain processes create a social and linguistic distance between this variety and the dialects of a language: degrees of standardization in accent, grammar, orthography, and typography; its aggrandizement through the development of a literary canon and use as the medium of education and literacy; and social empowerment through its use by the governing, cultural, and scholarly élite. Many users of a STANDARD variety have tended to look down on dialect speakers as more or less ‘illiterate’ and teachers have often sought to impose the standard throughout a country and eliminate or greatly reduce all other ‘deviant’, ‘low’, or ‘vulgar’ forms, with the occasional exception of some limited ‘good’ dialect. Such dialect is usually rural, seen as part of a romantic folk tradition or the vehicle of a favoured but unconventional writer (usually a poet, such as Robert Burns in Scotland). As a result of such factors, there is a long-standing tension among such words as dialect, standard, and language.

A dialect continuum

During the 19–20c there has been considerable study of dialects in their own right and in relation to the standard variety of a language. As a result of this study, philologists and dialectologists generally regard a dialect as a historical subtype of a language and a language as the aggregate of the features of its dialects. Within a language, there is usually a dialect continuum: speakers of Dialect A can understand and be understood by speakers of Dialect B, and C by B, and so on, but at the extremes of the continuum speakers of A and Z may be mutually unintelligible. The A and Z communities may therefore feel justified in supposing or arguing that A and Z are different languages. If politics intervenes and the speakers of A and Z come to be citizens of different countries (as with Spanish and Portuguese, or Swedish and Danish), the dialects may well be socially revalued as ‘languages’ (in due course with their own dialects and standard variety). Despite their differences, dialects have more shared than differing features, and those in which they agree (phonological, syntactic, lexical, idiomatic, etc.) serve as the defining core of a language, while the clusters of differences serve as the defining cores of the various dialects. Thus, a language X that has dialects A, B, C, D, E, may have 15 features, 12 of which are shared by A, B, C, 10 by B, C, D, 11 by B, D, E, and so forth. Perhaps only 8 features are common to all five. If they are, they form the core or common features of X, to which may be added additional features acquired through the conventions necessary for a standard language.

The evolution of dialects

Using a biological analogy, dialects can be described as the result of evolutionary speciation. The tendency of all languages to change in one detail or another and so develop dialects is restrained only by the need of communication between speakers, and so preserve a common core. Written forms, accompanied by the inculcation of a standard by the social and educational élites of a nation or group of nations, slow the process of change but cannot prevent it. Dialects are in fact often less changeable than the standard; their speakers tend to live in stable communities and to conserve forms of the language which are ‘older’ in terms of the development of the standard. Such a standard, however, is in origin also a dialect, and in the view of some linguists can and should be called the standard dialect (although for many this phrase is a contradiction in terms). Dialects prevail regionally while the standard is the usage of the nation at large, or at least of its most prominent and dominant representatives. As a consequence, many native speakers of a dialect may learn the standard as a secondary variety of their own language.

The distribution of dialects

Geographically, dialects are the result of settlement history. Dialect development can be understood to some extent in relation to topography: where populations can communicate easily, dialectal differences develop more slowly than where they lose immediate (or all) contact. An effective method of studying such matters is the science of LINGUISTIC GEOGRAPHY. Individual features (sounds, words, grammatical forms, etc.) can be displayed on maps showing where one or another feature prevails in use and where competing forms are found. Lines on a dialect map outline the area within which any form is regularly used. Alternatively, the differing features may be shown on maps with dots or other symbols, giving a visual dimension to the data. Certain features of dialect can also be seen in relation to social factors not necessarily connected with geography. The type of language one speaks (a social dialect or SOCIOLECT) depends on community, family background, occupation, degree of education, and the like. Where a standard form has become established, the tendency is to consider it ‘right’ and to denigrate other varieties, whose only fault may be that they are out of style in the mainstream of a language. Distinctive dialects are most fully preserved in isolated areas (along sea coasts, on islands, in mountain areas) where they are little influenced by outsiders and the population is relatively self-sustaining. The dialects of large cities, however, run the social gamut of the language, with outside features being brought in and new features being created more or less continuously. In terms of the distribution of the English Language worldwide, the traditional use of the term dialect works well with regard to the British Isles and North America, but not nearly so well for Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and not at all well in the Caribbean, West and East Africa, and Asia. The following dialect entries are restricted therefore to England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the United States, and Canada.

Dialect in England

In its primordial form on the European mainland and in its early stages in Britain (5–7c), English was a continuum of dialects whose traces survive only in texts. Present-day terms do not serve well in discussing the period: ‘English’ and ‘German’ now have different meanings and ‘language’ and ‘dialect’ inadequately describe the condition of Germanic speech when the Roman Empire was in decline. Until c.600, apparently all the tribes could understand each other: for example, on their way to convert the English in 597, the missionary Augustine and his companions engaged Frankish interpreters to help them. However, polarization was already taking place between the continental and insular Germans. The settlers in Britain developed their own usages and those on the mainland were absorbed into other spheres of linguistic growth: the Angles into Danish, the Saxons into Low German.

The Angelcynn

Around 730, the historian Bede called the invaders Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, but other evidence indicates that they also included Frisians and probably Franks. Once established, they called themselves the Angelcynn (‘Anglekin’), with Englisc as their common speech. The Angles settled in the MIDLANDS and along the east coast, from somewhere north of the Thames to the Forth. The Anglian or Anglic dialects were Mercian, associated with the kingdom of Mercia and spoken from the Thames to the Humber, and Northumbrian, associated with the kingdom of Northumbria, and spoken from the Humber to the Forth. The Jutes settled in and near Kent, but the dialect for the region is known as Kentish, not Jutish. The Saxons settled around the Thames, the south, and the south-west: East Saxons in Essex, Middle Saxons in Middlesex, South Saxons in Sussex, and West Saxons in Wessex. Each group had its own usages, but West Saxon, the dialect of Wessex, became dominant and for a time served as the literary language. The early dialects continued into the period of Middle English, many having undergone considerable change under the impact of the Danish settlements of the 8–9c.

Middle English dialects

By the 11c, the division of the island into the three domains of England, Scotland, and Wales had taken place and from that time forward the language developed with a border between the dialects of England and Scotland. The dialects of Middle English are generally classified as: Northern, both south and north of the border, the northern branch developing into Scots; West Midland, extending to the Welsh marches; East Midland, including EAST ANGLIA and the LONDON area; Southern, extending west to Celtic Cornwall; Kentish, stopping short of the Isle of Wight. The social and literary standard form of English which slowly emerged after the Norman Conquest in 1066 was based not on the Southern but the East Midland dialect, with an increasing Scandinavian overlay.

Dialects and standard

With the introduction by Caxton of the printing press in London in 1476 a great boost was given to the speech of the capital. As the standard language evolved, writing in the other dialects of England rapidly came to an end. Regional speech, increasingly commented on as harsh and difficult to understand, came to be seen as the language of the lower classes; the 16c diarist John Aubrey, for example, pointed out that Sir Walter Raleigh rather surprisingly remained all his life a speaker of Devon dialect. Despite the powerful influence of print and the prestige of London, however, letters, manuscripts, public comment, and representations of dialect in novels all show that local speech continued among the lesser gentry and the upper middle classes until well into the 18c, and among industrialists, politicians, and other public figures from lower middle-class and working-class backgrounds until the present day.

Literary dialect and dialectology

Dialect was used by Shakespeare and others to depict various provincial and rustic characters, and a distinctive form of south-western speech began to develop as a stage country-bumpkin dialect: see MUMMERSET. From the 18c onward, novelists have sought to represent dialect, especially in conversation; exponents of dialect writing in England include George Eliot in Adam Bede (1859) and Thomas Hardy in the Wessex novels. See DIALOG(UE). Interest by scholars in the varieties of English grew at the beginning of the 17c and an early mention by Alexander Gil in his Polychronicon (1619) began a tradition of examining and comparing dialect forms against standard English. Although scholars realized that there was a historical development behind the forms of their speech, dialect speakers became increasingly identified as lower class. Throughout the 17–18c, interest in both standard and dialect varieties of English continued to grow. Many clergymen recorded the grammar and vocabulary of their parishioners, and a number of word lists and monographs of various kinds, often linked to descriptions of local industrial processes, began to appear. The English Dialect Society often published these as part of its work towards an English dialect dictionary.

The present day

Currently, there is a widespread belief that local dialect is dying out and to a certain extent this is true of vocabulary, but strong local pronunciation continues to be heard, in London as well as in the regions, and from the 1970s began to be used increasingly widely on radio and television: for example, in such dramatic series as Coronation Street (Manchester), Crossroads (BIRMINGHAM), Auf Wiedersehen Pet (Newcastle), Bread (Liverpool), and EastEnders (London). In such large cities robust local forms of pronunciation and grammar, with their own social varieties within an area, show little sign of diminishment. These forms continue to change and develop over generations; pronunciations show the sporadic influence of RECEIVED PRONUNCIATION (a southern middle- and upper-class accent often described as the standard accent of England) but with considerable modification: for example, in Newcastle the traditionally developed /stiən/ and /stjen/ for stone, from a Middle English unrounded form /staɪn/, can be heard alongside a loaned /støːn/ and /stʊn/, developed from the more southerly Middle English /stoːn/.

See COCKNEY, CUMBRIA, DORSET, EAST MIDLAND DIALECT, ENGLISH DIALECT SOCIETY, ESTUARY ENGLISH, GEORDIE, LANCASHIRE, SCOUSE, SOMERSET, WEST COUNTRY, YORKSHIRE.

Dialect in Scotland

The dialects of SCOTS fall into four main regional groups: (1) Those of the Northern Isles: see ORKNEY AND SHETLAND DIALECTS. (2) Northern Scots, from Caithness to Aberdeenshire and Angus. (3) Southern Scots, the Border districts of Roxburgh and Annandale, and Eskdale. (4) Central Scots, much of the rest of the Scots-speaking area, including the working-class dialects of EDINBURGH, GLASGOW, and other urban areas of Central Scotland. The working-class urban dialects are identified by both socially and regionally delimited features: see GUTTER SCOTS. The regional markers of the mainland dialects include:

Pronunciation

(1) The Northern use since the 15c of f- where other dialects have wh-, as in Fa fuppit the fyte fulpie? Who whipped the white whelp? (2) The different outcomes of the old front, rounded vowel ui /øɪ/ in such words as guid (good), scuil (school), muin (moon), uise (use: noun and verb), puir (poor), shui (shoe). In Angus and the Mearns in Northern Scots and in Southern Scots this pronunciation persists. In the rest of Northern, however, the original vowel has since the 16c been unrounded to ee /i/: meen moon, eese use (noun), eeze use (verb), shee shoe. In the Grampian Region, however, after g- and k- the outcome is -wee-, with gweed good, and skweel school, but geed and skeel further north. In much of the Central dialect, the results of a different and more recent unrounding are conditioned by the Scottish Vowel-Length Rule. In these dialects. SVLR long environments yield ai /e/: pair poor, shae shoe, yaize use (verb), but in SVLR short environments the outcome is an i-like vowel /I/: min moon, bit boot, gid good, yis use (noun). (3) South-Eastern and Southern dialects have twae, whae, away, whare, waken, waiter for Western and Northern twaw/twaa, whaw/whaa/faa, awa/awaa, whaur/whaar/faar, wauken/waaken, wauter/waater (two, who, away, where, waken, water) on either side of a swathe of country from Musselburgh on the Firth of Forth to Gatehouse-of-Fleet on the Solway Firth.

Grammar

The grammar of the dialects of the far north and far south is more archaic, in retaining the old opposition between the present participle and the verbal noun in He's aye gutteran aboot (participle, with -an) and He's fond o gutterin aboot (verbal noun, with -in or -een) and, though now almost obsolete, except in Orkney and Shetland, traces of the pronoun system with thou/thee/thy as well as ye/you/your. The use of on-, ohn- /on/ as a negative with participles is now confined to the North-East (Grampian Region): to haud her ohn kent at she had tint it (to keep her ‘not known’/ignorant that she had lost it); Fa could be on lauch'n at that? (Who could keep from laughing at that?).

Vocabulary

Of the innumerable local items of vocabulary in the mainland dialects, some result from the influence of Scandinavian in Caithness, such as aikle a molar tooth, gilt a large haystack, roog a peat store, scorrie a young seagull, scroo a stack. For the much larger number surviving in the dialects of the Northern Isles, see ORKNEY AND SHETLAND DIALECTS. Caithness also displays local Gaelic influence with ask a chain for tethering cattle, brotag a caterpillar, buckie-faulie a rose-hip, primrose, cairie a breed of sheep, coachie soft, spongy, cown to weep, crellag a bluebottle, cyowtach smart in appearance, and many others. Similar, but individually different, lists of Gaelic-derived words can be cited for other parts of the North, for the North-East, for Kintyre, and for the South-West, especially Galloway. Other variations result from the locally patchy effects of obsolescence and innovation, as with the words for ‘soapy lather’, for which the older graith is widely distributed in mainland Scotland, except the West (around Glasgow) and the South-West, where since the 18c it has been superseded by the newer sapples. The dialects also display numerous, seemingly random or inexplicable, variations in words for everyday notions, like such synonyms for mud around the country as dubs, gutters, glabber, clabber, glaur.

Dialect literature

Written representations of local forms of Scots began appearing in the late 17c in distinctive adaptations of the traditional ‘mainstream’ orthography of Scots. The North-East in particular established its own regional standard in the 18c, and this has provided many works of note, such as William Alexander's novel Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk (1871), the dialogue of which is in a subtly modulated rendering of Aberdeenshire Scots, and today in the poetry of Flora Garry and the descriptive prose of David Ogston. See DORIC HIGHLAND ENGLISH, SCOTTISH ENGLISH, ULSTER SCOTS.

Dialect in Wales

Dialect differences in the WELSH language are to a large extent limited to variation in accents, the vocabulary having been standardized by literature, education, and the media. Dialects of English in Wales are as diverse as elsewhere in Britain. They vary in terms of pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, but can be broadly categorized as: (1) The English of people who are bilingual, Welsh/English, and whose English is strongly influenced by Welsh. (2) Dialects of English similar to those in neighbouring countries of England, and often sharing features, especially at the syntactic level, with other working-class BrE dialects. (3) Standard English with a Welsh accent. (4) Standard English with an RP accent. See WELSH ENGLISH.

Dialect in Ireland

Because of the spread of education and the influence of the media, it is becoming increasingly difficult to subdivide the continuum of English found in Ireland. However, three main regional and several urban dialects can be distinguished. They are all rhotic, with a retroflex r, and share phonological features with AmE. The regional dialects are: (1) Anglo-Irish, used by the descendants of English settlers and found throughout the country with the exception of the most northerly counties. (2) ULSTER SCOTS, in the northernmost counties, the speech of the descendants of 17c Protestant Scots settlers. (3) Hiberno-Irish, spoken by usually Catholic people whose ancestral tongue was Gaelic. In any region, HIBERNO-ENGLISH approximates to the dominant dialect, whether ANGLO-IRISH or Ulster Scots but, in the Gaeltacht and in less educated, rural usage, it displays a strong Gaelic substrate. Ireland has fewer urban dwellers than most Western European countries, but each city, including Armagh, BELFAST, Cork, Derry, Donegal, DUBLIN, Galway, and Limerick, has its own forms and sphere of linguistic influence.

Dialect in the United States

Americans tend to think that varieties of English are more determined by region than by any other factor that shapes usage, such as age, ethnicity, gender, and social class. Scholars who have investigated the matter have been influenced by the theory of dialect geography formulated in the 19c by A. J. Ellis for England, by Jules Gilliéron and Edmond Edmont for France, and by Georg Wenker for Germany. As a result, investigations have presumed the idea of long-settled and stable regions, an idea appropriate for Europe but less apt to the more recent and fluid settlement patterns of the US. Even so, AmE dialects are conventionally treated under four broad geographical headings: North, Coastal South, Midland, and West.

The North

The Northern dialect, stretching from NEW ENGLAND and NEW YORK westward to Oregon and Washington, was shaped by migration from the 17c colonial settlements in Boston and New York. While the population of the region was greatly enlarged by waves of migration (in the 1850s from northern Europe, especially Scandinavia and Germany, in the 1890s from eastern and southern Europe, and in the 1930s from the American South), the northern metropolitan areas are relatively uniform (Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis). Both BOSTON and New York English have changed in ways not followed in their daughter cities to the west; despite their internal diversity, however, both Boston and New York remain distinctly Northern.

Northern pronunciation.

(1) The most noticeable difference within the region is that New York and New England east of the Connecticut River are non-rhotic areas, while the western portion of the North is rhotic. Linking r, common in many non-rhotic dialects of English, occurs in New England in expressions like the idea/r of it. (2) The Northern dialect lags behind Midland and Western varieties in the vowel merger that makes homophones of cot and caught: in New England, where the merger is beginning to occur, speakers select the first vowel; in the Midland and West, the second vowel is used for both. (3) Grease tends to rhyme with lease in the North and West, rhyming with freeze elsewhere. (4) In Northern speech, matter and madder are often near-homophones.

Northern grammar.

(1) A distinctive syntactic feature is all the + an adjective in the comparative degree: That's all the farther I could go (That's as far as I could go). (2) Dove as the past tense of dive is apparently a North American invention by analogy with drive/drove and weave/wove. Widely attested in Northern and in CanE, dove is holding its own in its historic territory and spreading in AmE. (3) Had ought and hadn't ought, while more common in less formal contexts, are Northernisms for ought and ought not, though the usage has spread elsewhere: ‘If you don't like people, you hadn't ought to be in politics at all’ ( Harry S. Truman). (4) The Northern term cellar (basement) appears in a characteristic prepositional phrase down cellar: Won't you go down cellar and get some potatoes?

Northern vocabulary

Lexical usage provides the clearest evidence of the unity of the Northern region. In comparison to other varieties of AmE, Northern does not show many survivals of words or senses that have become archaic in BrE. The following terms are known elsewhere in the US and some are used for nationally distributed products, but they form a cluster that defines the Northern region: American fries boiled potatoes sliced and then fried in a pan, bismark/danish sweet pastry, bitch to complain, bloodsucker a leech, cabbage salad coleslaw, comforter a heavy quilt, cowboy a reckless driver, grackle a kind of blackbird, ice-cream social a gathering of people for refreshments, often to raise money for a worthy cause, nightcrawler a large earthworm, pitch the resin of coniferous trees, sub(marine) a sandwich prepared on a long roll, containing meat, cheese, and other ingredients, sweet corn maize grown for human consumption, teeter-totter a see-saw. Other languages have contributed to the Northern wordstock: babushka a head scarf (Polish and Russian), cruller a small fried sweet cake (Dutch), frankfurter/forter, frankfurt/fort, frank a cooked sausage, hot dog (German), quahog a thick-shelled edible clam (Narraganset), schnozzle nose (from Yiddish).

The Coastal South

Historically, the Coastal Southern dialect centres on the Atlantic port cities of the states of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, blending westward along the Gulf Coast into TEXAS. These areas are distinct both from the North and from their own hinterlands, whose dialect has conventionally been labelled South Midland. Coastal Southern was formed in a time of plantation and ranch agriculture, an economy that required large-scale operations, while the generally hillier interior regions were typified by villages and farms often close to the subsistence level. Plantation agriculture required an extensive labour force to grow rice, tobacco, and cotton, three early cash crops in America, and large numbers of Africans were enslaved to tend them. While the extent of African influence on Southern AmE remains a subject for debate, it is generally agreed that African influences remain in Gullah, a creole spoken on the offshore islands of South Carolina and Georgia. See AFRICAN-AMERICAN VERNACULAR ENGLISH, APPALACHIAN ENGLISH, CAJUN, GULLAH, NEW ORLEANS, SOUTHERN ENGLISH, SPANISH.

Southern pronunciation.

(1) Coastal Southern is non-rhotic. While non-rhotic Northerners employ a vowel in place of historic r (in New England, seaboard New York, and New Jersey north of Philadelphia), many Southerners use the previous vowel alone, making door rhyme with doe and torn with tone. Linking r is rare. (2) The same tendency for diphthongs to become monophthongs is a related Southern feature, so that hide is a near rhyme of both hod and non-rhotic hard. On the other hand, Southern and Midland AmE add a vowel not used elsewhere in words like loft which results in a near rhyme with lout. (3) Some word-internal consonant clusters can be captured by such spellings as bidness (business) and Babtist (Baptist). (4) Merger of vowels in pin and pen, since and cents (to the vowel of the first in each pair) is a Southern feature that is spreading elsewhere.

Southern grammar.

(1) A feature of the region is all the + adjective in the positive degree: That's all the fast I can run (That's as fast as I can run). (2) Though more common in Black than White speech (and more common among men and the young), the use of invariant be is especially Southern: She be here tomorrow; I be pretty busy; That land don't be sandy. (3) Coastal Southern and Upper South are typified by double modals: She might can do it; Could you may go? (4) These areas also share a tolerance for ain't in informal contexts, though ain't is the universal shibboleth in AmE and especially stigmatized in the North. In the Coastal and Upper South, degrees of stigma attach to ain't increasingly from the set phrase ain't I?, to its use for are not (They ain't here), to its use for have not (You ain't told us yet).

Southern vocabulary.

The complex settlement history of the South is evident in cultural and linguistic differences between the coastal plains and the hill country. Much of the distinctive coastal vocabulary consists of expressions that have become archaic in other varieties of English: all-overs feelings of uneasiness, antigoglin askew, slantwise, (ap)preciate it thank you, bank a storage heap of potatoes, other vegetables, or coal, branch a brook, stream, carry escort, firedogs andirons, gullywasher a violent rainstorm, hand a farm worker, hull the shell of a nut, kinfolk relatives, lick a sharp blow, Scat! Gesundheit! Bless you!, slouch a lazy or incompetent person, squinch to squint. Other languages have contributed to Southern: hominy hulled kernels of corn/maize, terrapin a turtle (the Amerindian languages of Virginia and used more in the South than elsewhere); cooter a turtle, gumbo soup thickened with okra pods (the languages of West African slaves); armoire wardrobe, bayou small creek or river, jambalaya a stew made with rice and various meats, lagniappe a small gift given by a merchant to a customer (the French of Louisiana). Farther west, there is Spanish influence: arroyo a brook or creek, llano an open, grassy plain, riata lariat, lasso, vaquero cowboy.

The Midland

Between Northern and Coastal Southern is a region that has been subject to much dispute. Some scholars have treated it as a unified area divided into North and South Midland; others emphasize its affiliation with its neighbours and describe it as Lower North and Upper South. The term Midland emphasizes the settlement pattern that flowed from Philadelphia in two directions: one, westward through Pennsylvania into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois; the other, south-west into the hill country of Kentucky, Tennessee, the interior of the Southern coastal states, Missouri, and Arkansas. The south-western direction of migration brought settlers into contact with the transportation routes northward from New Orleans along the Mississippi, Arkansas, and Ohio rivers, and these contacts left enduring traces on the dialect.

Midland pronunciation.

(1) In common with other AmE dialects west of the Atlantic coast, Midland is rhotic. (2) Philadelphia, the only rhotic city on the Atlantic seaboard, is the focal area for Midland, and its dialect has traditionally influenced the hinterland, including Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indianapolis, Springfield, and St Louis. Thus, the boundary between the now obsolescent Northern pronunciation of creek (rhyming with trick) meets the Midland creek (rhyming with seek) along an east-west line running parallel to the Pennsylvania migration routes. (3) The merger of vowels in tot and taught begins in a narrow band in central Pennsylvania and spreads north and south to influence the West, where the merger is universal. (4) In the Ohio River valley westward to Missouri, the vowel of itch makes a near rhyme with each, so that fish and television have the sound of the vowel in meek. (5) Another Midland vowel is found in bit and hill, with a diphthong resembling the non-rhotic pronunciation of beer. That pronunciation is beginning to spread among younger speakers in the inland North.

Midland grammar.

(1) Though increasingly archaic, a- prefixation to verbs ending in -ing is a well-known Midland feature: She went a-visiting yesterday; They were a-coming across the bridge. (2) The use of anymore in the sense of ‘nowadays’ (and without the requirement of a prior negative) is spreading to other regions from a Midland base: My aunt makes hats all the time anymore; We use a gas stove anymore. (3) Regions of the Midland influenced by the German settlements of east-central Pennsylvania employ all to refer to a supply of food or drink that has run out: The pot roast is all (elsewhere all gone).

Midland vocabulary.

(1) Distinctive terms for this region include: blinds roller window shade, fishing worm earthworm, mango sweet or bell pepper, woolly worm a caterpillar. (2) As with the other regions, some formerly limited usages have come into more general use: bucket pail, hull to remove the outer covering of a bean, off as in I want off at the next bus stop. (3) The isolation of the southern part of the Midland area, its poor soil and chronic poverty, made it inhospitable to further migrants after initial settlement by Scots-Irish and Germans. Hence, few influences from other languages are apparent in the vocabulary, which is typified by relic forms and archaisms no longer found elsewhere in AmE: for example, brickle brittle, donsie sickly, poke sack, bag, redd to tidy up (all from Scots).

The West

The West was first settled by English speakers after the gold rush of the 1850s. Southern migration along the Butterfield Stage Route brought settlers from Missouri and Arkansas through central Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, to California; the Santa Fe trail also originated in Missouri and reached southern California by a somewhat more northerly route. Northern trails and subsequently the railroad took settlers into the central valley of California and San Francisco through Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah. The Oregon Trail and its successor railroad connected the northern tier of states to the Pacific Northwest. For historically minded dialectologists, initial investigations of the Western dialect region dwelt on the continuity of migration westward on the presumption that Northerners preferred the northern Pacific coast while Southerners were mainly attracted to the more salubrious climate in southern California. Thus, it was no surprise that such studies emphasized continuity: for example, curtains (roller window shades), a Northern term, appears more commonly from San Francisco northward; arroyo can be traced from Texas westward to Los Angeles, but does not extend north to San Francisco. What is missed by this approach is the fact that the West became a source of linguistic innovation spreading back to the longer-settled dialect regions. While it may have been a ‘mixed’ region in the past, California and the Pacific Northwest are now coming to be seen as a coherent dialect region in their own right.

Western pronunciation.

In some respects, the West brings to completion processes begun elsewhere. The merger of the vowels of Don and Dawn, noted above, is virtually universal in the West, and its influence is spreading eastward. The vowel in such words as measure and fresh (which has the value of bet in much of the East) is increasingly given the sound of bait, so that edge and age have come to resemble each other. Though Westerners distinguish seal from sill, Easterners hear these as nearly identical (with the vowel of sill in both); as a result, outsiders regard the Western pronunciation of really as identical to their own pronunciation of rilly.

Western grammar.

The fact that Western is the least intensively studied of AmE dialects may contribute to the lack of evidence for a distinctive grammar of the region. Subgroups within the region employ marked syntax: We all the time used to go outside (Hispanic-influenced English, East Los Angeles); I been tripping for three weeks (1960s San Francisco drug usage); Moray eel you can spear it (HAWAIIAN ENGLISH); Do you have any bets on? (Las Vegas gambling talk); Pete's wooding those trucks down (logger usage, Pacific Northwest); Here we shopping and went through the town to see things and places (Apachean English of the Great Plains); Like, no biggie (San Fernando Valley teenage talk). All these examples suggest that grammatical variation in Western (as in other varieties of AmE) would profit from further study.

Western vocabulary.

Some common Western terms are uncommon elsewhere except in reference to Western language or culture: bar pit a ditch by the side of an ungraded road, bush pilot a daring pilot of light aircraft used to reach remote Alaskan areas, canyon a steep-sided, narrow valley, gunny sack a burlap bag, lug a field crate for fruit and vegetables, parking (strip) a band of grass between sidewalk and curb on a city street, sourdough bread bread started with a piece of fermented dough.

The most important foreign-language influence on Western is Mexican Spanish. Many borrowings are used mainly in southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico, but some are more widely known: adios goodbye, adobe sun-dried brick, bronco wild, mean, rough (from a wild or partly broken horse), embarcadero wharf, hombre guy, fellow, Santa Ana a seasonal hot, dry wind in southern California. Various terms for Mexican cookery were introduced into English elsewhere but are regarded as typical of the region and have widespread currency there: carne seco chipped beef, frijoles beans, langosta crayfish or spiny lobster, tortilla thin, round, unleavened bread. Other languages have contributed words to Western that have come to be known outside the region: aloha a greeting or farewell, lei a garland of flowers (Hawaiian); chinook a warm winter wind, Sasquatch (also called ‘Bigfoot’) a legendary hominid animal (Amerindian languages of the Pacific Northwest); dim sum meat-filled dumpling, kung fu a martial art (Chinese); honcho a strong leader, boss, Nisei a person of Japanese descent born or educated in the US (Japanese). See CHICANO ENGLISH.

Influences on US dialects

The usage of all Americans, regardless of dialect, is influenced by social networks that include gender, age and peer group, social class, ethnic background, occupations, and recreations. Some distinctive varieties have gained national prominence, such as JEWISH ENGLISH through its use by entertainers and others. People who are not Jewish are likely to have at least a passive knowledge of it and a sprinkling of such loanwords as chutzpah, schmaltzy, schmooze. Other varieties present stereotypes, such as Country-Western, originating in the Appalachian and Ozark regions of the Upper South, which has become well known in the 20c through country-and-western music, associated movies, and radio communication among airline pilots, truck drivers, and others who imitate them. Hispanic English has been increasingly disseminated through popular culture and the media, though outsiders may not appreciate that many who speak it have little or no competence in Spanish. Refined Southern speech has been made internationally familiar in the models presented by films and plays, and a Texas style has become popular through Western films and the TV soap opera Dallas. AFRICAN-AMERICAN VERNACULAR ENGLISH has long created social solidarity among African-Americans and has been rendered (sometimes abusively) in popular entertainment. Such varieties, having national prominence, are available for imitation in dialect and ethnic jokes with enough shibboleths to identify the target group.

Other communities, though less widely known, exert similarly powerful constraints on their members and neighbours, for example the Finnish-flavoured English of northern Michigan; the German-influenced English spoken by the Amish and Mennonite communities of central Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana; Native American or INDIAN ENGLISH, especially in Arizona and New Mexico; the Polish English of north-eastern industrial cities like Buffalo and Detroit; the Cajun English of Louisiana, with its French and Caribbean-creole traces. Even a single community can develop a distinctive linguistic identity: between 1880 and 1920, Boonville, a small town in northern California, developed a thoroughgoing transformation of English known as Boontling, a lingo that made members of the community at once unintelligible to outsiders when they so wished and conscious of the importance of being Boonters.

Dialect in Canada

In the traditional view, the English of Canada has four major regional dialects: Atlantic covering the MARITIME PROVINCES (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) and the island of NEWFOUNDLAND as a distinctive sub-area; QUEBEC, with Montreal and the Eastern Townships as focal areas: the OTTAWA VALLEY, adjacent to the federal capital, Ottawa; and General Canadian, from Toronto westward to the Pacific. More recent scholarship, however, regards ‘General Canadian’ as a class-based urban dialect of broadcasting and educated speech, and closer scrutiny invites a description of regional differences that mark the West (British Columbia), the Arctic North (the Yukon, Northwest Territories, northern Quebec, and Labrador), the Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), and SOUTHERN ONTARIO. Variations from region to region include distinctive local words, many of which relate to local conditions and occupations: for example, in the West boomsticks 66-feet-long logs connected by boom chains to contain floating logs to be towed to a mill; in the Prairies Calgary redeye beer with tomato juice added, stampede a rodeo, oil borer (in contrast to oil driller in eastern CANADIAN ENGLISH and in AmE); in southern Ontario, reeve the principal officer of a township; Ottawa Valley snye a side channel, especially one bypassing rapids (from French chenail); Quebec whisky blanc a colourless alcoholic drink (compare AmE white lightning); and Newfoundland, outport a coastal settlement other than the capital St John's. Many distinctive words have been borrowed from indigenous regional languages, such as: (1) The West. Loans from local Amerindian languages in the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia (the city of Vancouver and its hinterlands) are virtually unknown elsewhere in Canada or in the US: for example, cowichan a vividly patterned sweater, kokanee land-locked salmon, saltchuck ocean, skookum big, strong, tyee chief, boss. (2) The Arctic North. Loanwords from Inuktitut: for example, angakok a shaman, chimo a greeting, toast before drinking, kabloona a non-Inuit, a White, ouk a command to a sleddog to turn right, tupik a tent of animal skins. (3) The Prairies. Loanwords from Cree, known only in the region: for example, kinnikinik a smoking mixture including sumac leaves and tobacco, saskatoon an edible berry and the shrub on which it grows, wachee a greeting (from Cree wacheya, from English what cheer).

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"DIALECT." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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dialect

dialect, variety of a language 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 linguistics.

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 slang.

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).

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dialect

di·a·lect / ˈdīəˌlekt/ • n. a particular form of a language that is peculiar to a specific region or social group: this novel is written in the dialect of Trinidad. ∎ Comput. a particular version of a programming language. DERIVATIVES: di·a·lec·tal / ˌdīəˈlektəl/ adj.

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dialect

dialect XVI. — F. dialecte or L. dialectus — Gr. diálektos, f. dialégesthai hold discourse, f. DIA- + légein speak.
Hence dialectal XIX; dialectical was earlier in this sense XVIII. So dialectic XVII, dialectical XVI pert. to logical disputation. dialectic sb. investigation of truth by discussion XIV. dialectician XVII. — F.

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dialect

dialect Regional variety of a language, distinguished by features of pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Dialectal differences may be relatively slight (as in the dialects of American English), or so great (Italian) that mutual comprehension becomes difficult or impossible.

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dialect

dialect Vocalizations among a population of animals that differ from those of another population of the same species. There are many dialects in bird-song.

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dialect

dialect Vocalizations among a population of animals that differ from those of another population of the same species. There are many dialects in bird-song.

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dialect

dialectabreact, abstract, act, attract, bract, compact, contract, counteract, diffract, enact, exact, extract, fact, humpbacked, hunchbacked, impact, interact, matter-of-fact, pact, protract, redact, refract, retroact, subcontract, subtract, tact, tract, transact, unbacked, underact, untracked •play-act • autodidact •artefact (US artifact) • cataract •contact •marked, unremarked •Wehrmacht •affect, bisect, bull-necked, collect, confect, connect, correct, defect, deflect, deject, detect, direct, effect, eject, elect, erect, expect, infect, inflect, inject, inspect, interconnect, interject, intersect, misdirect, neglect, object, perfect, project, prospect, protect, reflect, reject, respect, resurrect, sect, select, subject, suspect, transect, unchecked, Utrecht •prefect • abject • retroject • intellect •genuflect • idiolect • dialect • aspect •circumspect • retrospect • Dordrecht •vivisect • architect • unbaked •sun-baked

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