October 7, 2009


A dialect is a variety of a spoken language having specific linguistic features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation that distinguish it from other varieties of the same language. The word comes from the Ancient Greek dialektos “conversation, language, local speech,” which is derived from dialegesthai “to converse, talk.” The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class. Thus, from a broader perspective, a dialect is a distinct form of a language that is characteristic of a particular region or a particular social class or profession. From this point of view dialects are generally divided into two types:

Classification of Dialects

Regional dialects

The most extensive type of dialectal differentiation is geographic or regional. Geographically, dialects are the result of settlement history. Such dialects develop primarily as a result of limited communication between different parts of a community due to various geographical barriers, such as mountain ranges and rivers. Under such circumstances, changes that take place in the language of one part of the community do not spread elsewhere. Thus, in communities between which communication is difficult, differences in dialect can develop. Such distinctive varieties are usually called regional dialects of the language.
Linguists observed that language keeps on changing places to places. And at one moment such situation occurs when people don’t find any similarity with the main language. This is called dialect continuum.

The study of linguistic geography shows that the distribution of dialects is strongly associated with the topography of the landscape. The study of regional dialect is a vast issue, as such linguists found it largely difficult to study it only within sociolinguistics. They felt that a separate field is needed. So they created a separate discipline named dialectology. They created a map to show the geographical distribution of language varieties. They tried to show the difference among dialects with a boundary. This boundary is known as isogloss.

Social dialects

Another important axis of differentiation is that of social strata. In many localities, dialectal differences are connected with social classes, educational levels, or both. More highly educated speakers and, often, those belonging to a higher social class tend to use more features belonging to the standard language, whereas the original dialect of the region is better preserved in the speech of the lower and less educated classes. In large urban centres, innovations unknown in the former dialect of the region frequently develop. Thus, in cities the social stratification of dialects is especially relevant and far-reaching, whereas in rural areas, with a conservative way of life, the traditional geographic dialectal differentiation prevails. It should be noted that social dialects are studied by the sociologists rather than the sociolinguists.


Comrie, Bernard. “Language.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

“Dialect.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. CD-ROM. US: [Britannica Store], 2003.

“Dialect.” Wikipedia. 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 31 May 2008
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innatism >.

Tanvir Shameem Tanvir Shameem is not the biggest fan of teaching, but he is doing his best to write on various topics of language and literature just to guide thousands of students and researchers across the globe. You can always find him experimenting with presentation, style and diction. He will contribute as long as time permits. You can find him on:

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