The Difference between Language and Dialect

Topics: Language, Dialect continuum, Dialect Pages: 12 (3942 words) Published: November 3, 2012
Language and Dialect

学生 :
学院 : 高级翻译学院
年级 : 2007级
研究方向 : 商务翻译研究
课程名称 : 语言学理论
任课老师 :莫爱屏教授

论文提交日期 : 2008/01/08

Abstract: This paper aims to probe into the study of language and dialect in the field of sociolinguistics. Part 1 is a general introduction to the issues being covered in the paper. Part 2 centers on the analysis of certain criteria that probably could be applied as to differentiate a language from a dialect. Part 3 and Part 4 introduce two distinguished kinds of dialects, namely, regional dialect and social dialect respectively through detailed examples. Part 5 investigates the different aspects of register which is closely related to the study of language and dialect. Part 6 is the conclusion. Key words: variety; regional dialect; social dialect; register




1. Introduction
2. Criteria for differentiating a language from a dialect
2.1 Variety and “mutual intelligibility”
2.2 Other criteria (including Bell’s seven aspects in languages differentiation) 3. Regional dialect 3.1 Definition and characteristics of regional dialects
3.2 Reasons for the appearance of regional dialects
4. Social dialects
4.1 Social dialects in relation to age differences
4.2 Social dialects in relation to sex differences
4.3 Social dialects in relation to difference of social class membership 5. An introduction to register (field, mode and tenor) 5.1 The field of discourse
5.2 The mode of discourse
5.3 The tenor of discourse
6. Conclusion

1. Introduction
In sociolinguistics, language is considered as an abstract notion that is embodied in the form of dialects. It’s not clear-cut to distinguish a language from a dialect of a language. “Mutual intelligibility” seems to be an ideal criterion in terms of telling a language from a dialect of a language, however, we can certainly find some cases that counter-argue this principle. Hence some other criteria should be applied as supplements to distinguish between a language and a dialect, among which, Bell’s seven principles for discussing different languages are of great inspiration. The varieties of dialects are differentiated according to the places in which they are used, the different social factors that affect their uses, and functions and styles they have when accommodating different situations in language communication. Accordingly, sociolinguists label these dialects as regional, social, and functional dialect respectively. This paper will touch upon the discussion of the different varieties of language in relation to the users, social factors and environment. 2. Criteria for differentiating a language from a dialect 2 .1 Variety and “mutual intelligibility”

In order to further the discussion of the difference between a language and a dialect, let’s first of all center on an important term in the field of sociolinguistics—variety. Then what is the definition of a variety? R. A. Hudson, a famous linguist, defines a variety of language as a set of linguistic items with similar social distribution (1980:24). According to this definition, we can call any of the following items “varieties of language”: English, French, Chinese, London English, or the language used by a particular person, etc. It will be seen from this list that the general notion “variety” includes examples of what would normally be called languages, dialects and registers (a term meaning roughly “style”). Now we know that both “a language” and “a dialect of a language” are kind of variety. Then why do we call some varieties different languages and others different dialects of the same language? Many sociolinguists agree that a dialect is one of most problematic terms to give a general definition to. Some proposed that language exists in the form of dialect....
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