Variety, Dialects

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Summary

In sociolinguistics a variety, also called a lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include languages, dialects, accents, registers, styles or other sociolinguistic variation, as well as the standard variety itself.Meecham, Marjorie and Janie Rees-Miller. (2001) "Language in social contexts." In W. O'Grady, J. Archibald, M. Aronoff and J. Rees-Miller (eds) Contemporary Linguistics. pp. 537-590. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's. "Variety" avoids the terms language, which many people associate only with the standard language, and dialect, which is associated with non-standard varieties thought of as less prestig

Details

O'Grady et al. define dialect as, "A regional or social variety of a language characterized by its own phonological, syntactic, and lexical properties."O'Grady, William, John Archibald, Mark Aronoff, and Jane Rees-Miller. eds. (2001) Contemporary Linguistics. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's. A variety spoken in a particular region is called a regional dialect; some regional varieties are called topolects, especially when discussing varieties of Chinese. In addition, there are dialect varieties associated with particular ethnic groups (sometimes called ethnolects), socioeconomic classes (sometimes called sociolects), or other social or cultural groups.

Dialectology is the study of dialects and their geographic or social distribution. Traditionally, dialectologists study the variety of language used within a particular speech community, a group of people who share a set of norms or conventions for language use. More recently, sociolinguists have adopted the concept of the community of practice, a group of people who develop shared knowledge and shared norms of interaction, as the social group within which dialects develop and change.Lave, Jean & Etienne Wenger. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sociolinguists Penelope Eckert and Sally McConnell-Ginet explain, "Some communities of practice may develop more distinctive ways of speaking than others. Thus it is within communities of practice that linguistic influence may spread within and among speech communities."Eckert, Penelope & Sally McConnell-Ginet. (2003) Language and Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Although the words dialect and accent are sometimes used interchangeably in everyday English speech, linguists and scholars define the two terms differently. Accent, in technical usage, refers only to differences in pronunciation, especially those associated with geographic or social differences. Dialect, which refers to differences in syntax, morphology, and vocabulary, as well as pronunciation, is the broader term.

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