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Chapter 5

ANT253H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Romance Languages, Mutual Intelligibility, Petrarch

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Marcel Danesi

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Chapter 5 Variation
Language forms (such as phonological, grammatical) vary constant across both time and space
If there is a lot of variant forms, they are said to constitute a version of a language called dialect
Diaelct overview
Geographical dialect or simply dialect – different speech in different regions
Social dialect or sociolects– how social groups of communities speak
Dialects develop over time due to regional or societal(economic classes or religion) seperations
Dialect speech is often considered to be a marker of identity- e.g. Massachusetts people have
different vowel pronunciations than the tourists
Dialect is simply a variant version of a language- but the distinction is not so obvious
e.g. “Romance language” such as French, Spanish, portuges etc. turn out to be moderd-day
dialects of latin- spoken – they are spoken in territories that became countries after the
breakdown of the Roman Empire
They were granted the status of official national languages because the countries they were
spoken in received political independence
deried from dialektos meaning speech – indicating that the term was innitially coined to refer to
the ways people commonly use language in everyday communication – different from the
standard set up of a proper/official language
e.g. french spoken in Paris = the standard form of French; all other varients = dialect
it doesn't have to do with Parisian French being more cultured or the quality of its structual
features (pronunciation, lexicons, etc.)
similarly Tuscan as the basis for the standard language of Italy mainly because it was used by
great medieval writers (Dante, Petrarch, etc.) and was guarenteed a wide audience
determining whether 2 languages are dialects or different languages is difficult
Dialectologists usually rely on mutual intelligibility to make the distinction
if two linguistic codes cannot be understood mutually by the speakers of both languages –
they are distinct linguages
if they are intelligible, then they are considered to be dialects of the same language
Chambers and Trudgill
explained that this view of languages can be used classify dialects as subparts of a language-
and providing criteria for distinguishing two languages
Problems with this criterion
many levels of mutual intellibility exists- at level can you decide that they are no longer
mutually understandable?
most people can usually tell the distinction though –e.g. canadian and american English are
dialects of the British English- where Canada tries to preserve more of the British English
(colour vs. color)
Although it is becoming more similar to the American recently – especially when it comes
to vocabulary (e.g. gasoline instead of petrol, friend instead of mate, etc.)
3 Major dialectal variants of English in the US
1. Northern – called Eastern or New England
typically spoken in New England or New York
its charecteristics include:
dropping the r sound at the end of words e.g. cark pronounced as Kah
short close o sounds instead of open o (e.g. in fog)
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