Sociolinguistics & English language

About this essay

The term dialect (from the ancient Greek word διάλεκτος diálektos, “discourse”, from διά diá, “through” + λέγω legō, “I speak”) is utilized in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is an attribute of a specific group of the language’s speakers.

The term is applied most frequently to regional speech patterns, however a dialect might likewise be defined by other aspects, such as social class. [2] A dialect that is associated with a specific social class can be termed a sociolect, a dialect that is related to a specific ethnic group can be termed as ethnolect, and a regional dialect might be described a regiolect or topolect.

The other use describes a language that is socially subordinate to a regional or national basic language, often traditionally cognate to the requirement, but not a variety of it or in any other sense derived from it. Dialect: This is a complex and often misunderstood idea. For linguists, a dialect is the collection of characteristics (phonetic, phonological, syntactic, morphological, and semantic) that make one group of speakers visibly different from another group of speakers of the exact same language.

Get quality help now
Sweet V
Sweet V
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: English Language

star star star star 4.9 (984)

“ Ok, let me say I’m extremely satisfy with the result while it was a last minute thing. I really enjoy the effort put in. ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer


1) DIALECT is NOT an unfavorable term for linguists. Oftentimes, for instance, we hear people describe non-standard varieties of English as “dialects”, typically to say something bad about the non-standard range (and hence about the individuals who speak it). This took place a fair bit during in 2015’s ebonics debate. But, the term dialect describes ANY range of a language.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

Therefore, by definition, all of us speak a dialect of our native language. 2) DIALECT is NOT synonymous with accent. Accent is just a part of dialectal variation. Non-linguists typically think accents define a dialect (or that accents alone recognize individuals as non-native or foreign language speakers). Likewise, non-linguists tend to believe that it’s constantly the “other” individuals that have “an accent”. So, what is “accent”? 3) ACCENT: This term describes phonological variation, i.e. variation in pronunciation Hence, if we talk about a Southern Accent; we’re speaking about a generalized home of English pronunciation in the Southern part of the US.

But, Southern dialects have more than particular phonological properties. Accent is thus about pronunciation, while dialect is a broader term encompassing syntactic, morphological, and semantic properties as well. A final note on accent. WE ALL HAVE ONE! There is no such thing as a person who speaks without an accent. This is not an exercise in political correctness, by the way.

It is a fact. In sum, a dialect is a particular variety of a language, and we all have a dialect. Accent refers to the phonology of a given dialect. Since we all have a dialect, we all have an accent. Idiolect: Another term that we must be familiar with is idiolect. “What’s an idiolect?” you ask, on the edge of your seat. An idiolect is simply the technical term we use to refer to the variety of language spoken by each individual speaker of the language. Just as there is variation among groups of speakers of a language, there is variation from speaker to speaker.

No two speakers of a language speak identically. Each speaks her or his own particular variety of that language. Each thus speaks her or his own idiolect. Role of Dialect:

Language says a lot about our identity. Americans, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans all speak differently. When we meet somebody from a different part of the country, they may use different words, sounds or grammatical structures. A dialect is a variety of language that is characteristic of a certain area. For instance, in the Northern Cape, people refer to older people as grootmense and paper as pampier whereas in Pretoria they are called oumense and papier.

If you hear colored people from Cape Town speaking Afrikaans, they sound different to Afrikaans spoken elsewhere. People from Natal speak English in different ways to people from Johannesburg etc. So often, the way we speak says a lot about where we are from, who we are and what we care about. So studying dialects is one way of validating people’s identities and ways of life. Characteristics of Dialect:

There are ten characteristics of dialect.
1. Dialect can be identified by variation of grammar.
2. Dialect can be identified by variation of vocabulary.
3. Dialect can be identified by variation of prosody.
4. Dialect can be identified by variation of sentence structure. 5. Dialect can be identified by variation of figures of speech. 6. Variance of parent language by social class of speakers. 7. Variance of parent language by region inhabited by speakers. 8. Likely will not have its own written

9. Likely speakers will not have state or nation of their own. 10. Likely region-specific for speakers.

Difference between Dialect and Register:
To describe differences we have to first understand these two terms separately.

What is Dialect?
A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists: Cockney is a dialect of English. What is Register?

In linguistics, a register is a variety of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting. For example, when speaking in a formal setting, an English speaker may be more likely to adhere more closely to prescribed grammar, pronounce words ending in -ing with a velar nasal instead of an alveolar nasal (e.g. “walking”, not “walkin'”), choose more formal words (e.g. father vs. dad, child vs. kid, etc.), and refrain from using contractions such as ain’t, than when speaking in an informal setting. Now it is time to differentiate both terms.

A dialect is a variety of language used by different speech communities, whereas register is a variety of language associated with people’s occupation. Register is to do with variation in language use connected with topic matter. “One’s dialect shows who (or what) he/she is, while one’s register shows what he/she is doing”. Dialect is a special form of speaking belonging to a group.

Register is a linguistic term used to describe changing how one talks based on the situation. 1. Dialect: a local variety of a language*, usually understood by speakers of other dialects of the same language, often without a standardized grammar or spelling, used mostly for non-formal purposes in a local community or among people coming from the same community but living in another community than that they came from.

There is often no consensus if such a local language variety is a dialect or a language. The choice is usually taken on the basis of political or conventional criteria and never on linguistic ones. 2. A speech register: a way of speaking or writing including vocabulary, syntax and pronunciation (or spelling) chosen by individuals to express themselves depending on the circumstances they speak: high register (formal occasions like parliamentary speech, official documents, celebrations), low register (informal occasions, conversations among family or friends’ group).

There are also many in-between registers and specialized occasions like religious services, sport events, and so on.An individual may choose his dialect as a speech register for informal occasions, and a standardized language of a larger social unit on formal occasions (often called diglossia).

Register: In linguistics, one of many styles or varieties of language determined by such factors as social occasion, purpose, and audience, also called stylistic variation. More generally, register is used to indicate degrees of formality in language use.

The different registers or language styles that we use are sometimes called codes. According to a linguist Robert MacNeil (1989) the example of Register is; “It fascinates me how differently we all speak in different circumstances. We have levels of formality, as in our clothing. There are very formal occasions, often requiring written English: the job application or the letter to the editor–the dark-suit, serious-tie language, with everything pressed and the lint brushed off.

There is our less formal out-in-the-world language–a more comfortable suit, but still respectable. There is language for close friends in the evenings, on weekends–blue-jeans-and-sweat-shirt language, when it’s good to get the tie off. There is family language, even more relaxed, full of grammatical short cuts, family slang, echoes of old jokes that have become intimate shorthand–the language of pajamas and uncombed hair.

Finally, there is the language with no clothes on; the talk of couples–murmurs, sighs, grunts–language at its least self-conscious, open, vulnerable, and primitive.” Role of Register:

Its chief importance is social. It signals the kind of interaction the speaker wants, or acceptance/no acceptance of the kind of interaction expected in any situation. For instance, level of formality is a major aspect of English register.

Highly formal register can signal authority, disapproval, unfriendliness. Informal register can signal various things: genuine friendliness; a fake attempt to come across as friendly; or even deliberate disrespect if the other speaker expects formal register.

Choice of register can also signal social class, in areas where this is still an issue. Higher classes tend to use a more formal register in ordinary conversation. Understanding the difference between register and grammar is important, as many speakers confuse the two: particularly in thinking that only formal register is correct grammar.

Cite this page

Sociolinguistics & English language. (2016, May 26). Retrieved from

Sociolinguistics &  English language
Live chat  with support 24/7

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment