A dialect is a regional variety of a language. Dialects are often defined by distinct characteristics–such as pronunciation differences or lexical choices–not found in the “standard” or official variety of a language and or even in other “nonstandard” varieties. English, like many other languages, is part of a network of dialects found all over the world. Dialects represent social identity and culture outsiders may simply not understand.
Generally speaking, dialects form for a number of reasons, including–but not limited to–the following:
- Technological advancements
- “New physical environments” (Trudgill 3)
- “Social factors” (Holmes and Kerswill 275)
The longer a dialect exists, the more it evolves, due to continued external and internal factors, not the least of which are the linguistic choices of the individuals who speak it and their sociocultural identity.
Remlinger, Kathryn. “What Makes a Dialect a Dialect: The Roots of Upper Peninsula English | Kathryn Remlinger | TEDxNMU.” YouTube, uploaded by Tedx Talks, 24 Apr. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4n89af09Tw.
Everyone speaks a dialect. Language helps individuals to construct themselves in relation to a particular region and community, while also influencing or shaping the perceptions of those around them. Instructors should never, not even accidentally, put down a person’s heritage dialect or pass it off as incorrect or deficient because it is not the “standard.” Rather, a different approach is called for. Instructors can help students to examine their own dialects as part of a larger collection of varieties and codes, all of which have value. The classroom can be an environment in which students hone their ability to code-switch/code-mesh, a useful skill for those who want to maintain their ties to the home culture and community, while also facilitating their entry into other groups and opportunities.
Holmes, Janet, and Paul Kerswill. “Contact Is Not Enough: A Response to Trudgill.” Language in Society, vol. 37, no. 2, 2008, pp. 273–277. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20108130.
Trudgill, Peter. New-dialect Formation: The Inevitability of Colonial Englishes. Oxford, 2004.