Popular opinion and linguists opinion about the difference between a language and a dialect ?
Nov 20, 2016 6:02 PM
Answers · 2
The common use of the word "dialect" in the U.S. is illustrated by Mark Twain's use of the word in his introduction to "Huckleberry Finn:" "In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary 'Pike County' dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a haphazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech. I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding." When younger children try to tackle "Huckleberry Finn," adults will often say "Oh, that's a hard book to read because of all the dialect in it." One example: “I see a light a-comin’ roun’ de p’int bymeby, so I wade’ in en shove’ a log ahead o’ me en swum more’n half way acrost de river, en got in ‘mongst de drift-wood, en kep’ my head down low, en kinder swum agin de current tell de raff come along. Den I swum to de stern uv it en tuck a-holt. It clouded up en ‘uz pooty dark for a little while. So I clumb up en laid down on de planks. De men ‘uz all ‘way yonder in de middle, whah de lantern wuz. De river wuz a-risin’, en dey wuz a good current; so I reck’n’d ‘at by fo’ in de mawnin’ I’d be twenty-five mile down de river, en den I’d slip in jis b’fo’ daylight en swim asho’, en take to de woods on de Illinois side."
November 20, 2016
In the U.S., in popular opinion, a "dialect" is a variation of a language that doesn't "count" as being a "real" language of its own. Dialects are often perceived as being debased, childish, or ignorant speech rather than being a "real language" with its own grammatical rules. This is particularly true if the dialect/language is spoken by a group with low socio-economic status. Thus, for example, the continuing controversy over whether the English spoken by some African-Americans is just bad English or whether it is a perfectly good language, very closely related to English, with grammar rules and vocabulary of its own. In 1996, the school board of the Oakland, California created a controversy when it passed a resolution recognizing "Ebonics" as a legitimate and separate language. ("Ebonics" is a name for African-American vernacular English). There is a common joke, "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy," recognizing that a speech system is much more likely to be consider a "language" if it is associated with a sovereign country. I don't think linguists actually distinguish "languages" and "dialects," do they?
November 20, 2016
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