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Chapter 8

Chapter 8

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Marcel Danesi

Chapter 8Variation y Languages vary constantly not only across time but across space geographical and social y If the linguistic variants are used in different regions they are called geographical dialects or simply dialects y If they are characteristics of social groups of communities they are called social dialects or sociolects y Dialects develop over time as a consequence of divisions within a society such as those related to economic class and religion y A dialect is defined simply as a variant of a language but the boundary between the two is rarely clearcut VARIANT TYPES y The term dialect derives from Greek dialektos meaning speech an etymology which reveals that it was coined to refer to the actual ways in which people commonly use language for everyday communication ways that typically vary from a norm or standard that is set up for them to emulate as proper or official y Determining whether two languages are related dialectally or whether they have changed enough to be considered distinct languages has often proved to be rather difficult y Dialectologists usually rely on what they loosely mutual intelligibility as the major criterion in making such a determination y This can be defined as the situation whereby two linguistic codes can or cannot be understood mutually by the speakers of both y If the codes are not intelligible to both they are classified as different languages if they are intelligible but differ systematically from one another then they are considered dialects of the same language y This view of language has been the benefit of characterizing dialects as subparts of a language and of providing a criterion for distinguishing between one language and another y There are however problems with this criterion because many levels of mutual intelligibility exist even among unrelated languages and dialectologists must decide at what level speech varieties should no longer be considered mutually intelligible y To study dialects a number of specific tools have been developed One of the first to be fashioned is the socalled dialect atlas This is a collection of maps of specific regions Each map shows the actual form and pronunciation that a word or phrase takes on in the regions or areas surveyed y Not all linguistic variants are dialects o Example Pidgin and Creole y They are forms of language that make communication possible between two or more groups that speak different languages y Pidgins results when people of different language backgrounds have been brought together in specific situations with no common language to use
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