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In
sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, ...
, a variety, also called an isolect or lect, is a specific form of a language or
language cluster A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligible In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of languag ...
. This may include
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

language
s,
dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , 'discourse', from , 'through' and , 'I speak') can refer to either of two distinctly different types of Linguistics, linguistic phenomena: * One usage refers to a variety (linguis ...
s, registers,
styles Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style, the features that make a building or structure historically identifiable * Design, the process of creating something * Fashion, a prevailing mode of clothing s ...
, or other forms of language, as well as a
standard variety A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial codification of grammar and usage and is employed by a population for public communication. The term ''standard langua ...
.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. The use of the word "variety" to refer to the different forms avoids the use of the term ''language'', which many people associate only with the standard language, and the term ''dialect'', which is often associated with non-standard varieties thought of as less prestigious or "correct" than the standard.Schilling-Estes, Natalies. (2006) "Dialect variation." In R.W. Fasold and J. Connor-Linton (eds) ''An Introduction to Language and Linguistics''. pp. 311-341. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Linguists speak of both standard and non-standard (
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language, normally Spoken language, spoken informally rath ...
) varieties. "Lect" avoids the problem in ambiguous cases of deciding whether two varieties are distinct languages or dialects of a single language. Variation at the level of the
lexicon A lexicon is the of a or branch of (such as or ). In , a lexicon is a language's inventory of s. The word ''lexicon'' derives from word (), neuter of () meaning 'of or for words'. Linguistic theories generally regard human languages as c ...

lexicon
, such as
slang Slang is vocabulary A vocabulary is a set of familiar words In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical ...
and
argot A cant is the jargon Jargon is the specialized terminology Terminology is a general word for the group of specialized words or meanings relating to a particular field, and also the study of such terms and their use. This is also known as termino ...
, is often considered in relation to particular styles or levels of formality (also called registers), but such uses are sometimes discussed as varieties as well.


Dialects

O'Grady et al. define ''dialect'': "A regional or social variety of a language characterized by its own
phonological Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language variety. At on ...

phonological
,
syntactic In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...

syntactic
, and 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 (regiolect, geolect); some regional varieties are called regionalects or topolects, especially to discuss
varieties of Chinese Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, w ...
. In addition, there are dialect varieties associated with particular ethnic groups (sometimes called
ethnolect An ethnolect is generally defined as a language variety In sociolinguistics, a variety, also called an isolect or lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include language A language is a structured system of co ...
s), socioeconomic classes (sometimes called
sociolect In sociolinguistics, a sociolect is a variety (linguistics), form of language (nonstandard dialect, non-standard dialect, restricted register (sociolinguistics), register) or a set of lexicon, lexical items used by a socioeconomic class, a professi ...
s), or other social or cultural groups.
DialectologyDialectology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...
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 speech community is a group of people who share a set of linguistic norms and expectations regarding the . It is a concept mostly associated with and . Exactly how to define ''speech community'' is debated in the literature. Definitions of spe ...
, a group of people who share a set of norms or conventions for language use. More recently,
sociolinguists Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural Norm (sociology), norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used, and society's effect on language. It differs from socio ...
have adopted the concept of the
community of practice A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who "share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly". The concept was first proposed by cognitive anthropologist Jean Lave and educati ...
, 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. The words ''dialect'' and ''accent'' are often used synonymously in everyday speech, but linguists define the two terms differently. ''
AccentAccent may refer to: Speech and language * Accent (sociolinguistics), way of pronunciation particular to a speaker or group of speakers * Accent (phonetics), prominence given to a particular syllable in a word, or a word in a phrase ** Pitch accen ...
'' generally refers to differences in
pronunciation Pronunciation is the way in which a word or a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful d ...
, especially those that are associated with geographic or social differences, whereas ''dialect'' refers to differences in grammar and vocabulary as well.


Standard varieties

Many languages have a ''standard variety'', some lect that is selected and promoted prescriptively by either quasi-legal authorities or other social institutions, such as schools or media. Standard varieties are accorded more sociolinguistic prestige than other, nonstandard lects and are generally thought of as "correct" by speakers of the language. Since the selection is an arbitrary standard, standard forms are the "correct" varieties only in the sense that they are tacitly valued by higher socio-economic strata and promoted by public influencers on matters of language use, such as writers, publishers, critics, language teachers, and self-appointed language guardians. As Ralph Harold Fasold puts it, "The standard language may not even be the best possible constellation of linguistic features available. It is general social acceptance that gives us a workable arbitrary standard, not any inherent superiority of the characteristics it specifies."Fasold, Ralph. (2006) "The politics of language." In R.W. Fasold and J. Connor-Linton (eds) ''An Introduction to Language and Linguistics''. pp. 371-400. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sociolinguists generally recognize the standard variety of a language as one of the dialects of that language. In some cases, an authoritative
regulatory body A regulatory agency or regulatory authority, is a Public-benefit corporation, Public benefit corporation, public authority/jurisdiction, or government agency that is responsible for exercising autonomous dominion over some area of human activity ...
, such as the
Académie Française An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary or tertiary education, tertiary higher education, higher learning, research, or honorary membership. Academia is the w ...
, maintains and codifies the usage norms for a standard variety. More often, though, standards are understood in an implicit, practice-based way. Writing of Standard English, John Algeo suggests that the standard variety "is simply what English speakers agree to regard as good".


Registers and styles

A ''register'' (sometimes called a ''style'') is a variety of language used in a particular social setting.Ottenheimer, Harriet Joseph. (2006) ''The Anthropology of Language''. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage. Settings may be defined in terms of greater or lesser formality, or in terms of socially recognized events, such as
baby talk Baby talk is a type of speech associated with an older person speaking to a child. It is also called caretaker speech, infant-directed speech (IDS), child-directed speech (CDS), child-directed language (CDL), caregiver register, parentese, or mot ...
, which is used in many western cultures to talk to small children or as a joking register used in
teasing Teasing has multiple meanings and uses. In human interactions, teasing exists in three major forms: ''playful'', ''hurtful'', and ''educative''. Teasing can have a variety of effects, depending on how it is used and its intended effect. When teasi ...
or playing
The Dozens The Dozens is a game of spoken words between two contestants, common in African American, black communities of the United States, where participants insult each other until one gives up. It is customary for the Dozens to be played in front of an aud ...
. There are also registers associated with particular professions or interest groups;
jargon Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The conte ...
refers specifically to the vocabulary associated with such registers. Unlike dialects, which are used by particular
speech communities Arnold Lakhovsky, ''The Conversation'' (circa 1935) A speech community is a group of people who share a set of linguistic norms and expectations regarding the use of language. It is a concept mostly associated with sociolinguistics Sociolingui ...
and associated with geographical settings or social groupings, registers are associated with particular communicative situations, purposes, or levels of formality, and can constitute divisions within a single regional lect or standardized variety. Dialect and register may thus be thought of as different dimensions of
linguistic variation Variation is a characteristic of language: there is more than one way of saying the same thing. Speakers may vary pronunciation (accentAccent may refer to: Speech and language * Accent (sociolinguistics), way of pronunciation particular to a sp ...
. For example, Trudgill suggests the following sentence as an example of a
nonstandard dialect A nonstandard dialect or vernacular dialect is a dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...
that is used with the technical register of physical geography: Most speakers command a range of registers, which they use in different situations. The choice of register is affected by the setting and topic of speech, as well as the relationship that exists between the speakers.Saville-Troike, Muriel. (1982) ''The Ethnography of Communication: An Introduction''. Oxford and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell. The appropriate form of language may also change during the course of a communicative event as the relationship between speakers changes, or different social facts become relevant. Speakers may shift styles, as their perception of an event in progress changes. Consider the following telephone call to the Embassy of Cuba in
Washington, DC ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, United States Capitol, Washington Metro, National Air and Space Museum, Air and Spac ...
.
Caller: (''Is this the Cuban embassy?'')
Receptionist: (''Yes, may I help you?'')
Caller: (''It's Rosa.'')
Receptionist: (''Oh, Rosa! How's it going?'')
At first, the receptionist uses a relatively formal register, as befits her professional role. After the caller identifies herself, the receptionist recognizes that she is speaking to a friend, and she shifts to an informal register of
colloquial Colloquialism or colloquial language is the style (sociolinguistics), linguistic style used for casual (informal) communication. It is the most common functional style of speech, the idiom normally employed in conversation and other informal conte ...
Cuban Spanish Cuban Spanish is the variety of the Spanish language Spanish ( or , ) is a Romance languages, Romance language of the Indo-European language family that evolved from colloquial spoken Latin in the Iberian Peninsula. Today, it is a world la ...
. The shift is similar to metaphorical
code-switching In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
, but since it involves styles or registers, it is considered an example of style-shifting.


Idiolect

An
idiolect Idiolect is an individual's distinctive and unique use of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages ha ...
is defined as "the language use typical of an individual person". An individual's idiolect may be affected by contact with various regional or social dialects, professional registers and, in the case of
multilingual in Seattle Seattle ( ) is a port, seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the county seat, seat of King County, Washington, King County, Washington (state), Washington. With a 2020 population of 737,015, it is the la ...

multilingual
s, various languages. For scholars who view language from the perspective of
linguistic competence Linguistic competence is the system of linguistic knowledge possessed by native speakers of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign lan ...
, essentially the knowledge of language and grammar that exists in the mind of an individual language user, the idiolect, is a way of referring to the specific knowledge. For scholars who regard language as a shared social practice, the idiolect is more like a dialect with a speech community of one individual.Barber, Alex. (2004) "Idiolects."
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
'. Retrieved 07-01-2009.


See also

*
Abstand and ausbau languages In sociolinguistics, an abstand language is a variety (linguistics) , language variety or cluster of varieties with significant linguistic distance from all others, while an ausbau language is a standard language , standard variety, possibly with ...
*
Language localization A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language A spoken language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), g ...
* List of language subsystems *
Koiné language In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
, a standard language or dialect that arises due to contact between mutually intelligible varieties (dialects) of the same language *
Variation (linguistics) Variation is a characteristic of language: there is more than one way of saying the same thing. Speakers may vary pronunciation (Accent (sociolinguistics), accent), word choice (lexicon), or morphology and syntax (sometimes called "grammar"). But w ...


References

{{Authority control Sociolinguistics Linguistics terminology