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February 01, 2011

Do You Speak A Language Or A Dialect?

I usually think of a language as a the major - and for the most part, stable - body of language and a dialect as a...

...subgroup or a variable part that is somehow not as good or perhaps linguistically "pure" as the basic tongue.

That may be true, but what about those languages that are approximately equal?

The distinctions between "The Queen's English" and American English are many. But would you consider one of them a dialect? And if so, which one?

Do you think your answer would be true fifty years from now? Which would you imagine (or want) your grandchildren to learn?

"The Queen's English" is obviously more rooted in history and several cultures around the world, but American English is probably more popular across technology and pop culture - which also basically means more deeply resonant with the future and emerging economies.

I don't think of myself as speaking a dialect - but perhaps no one does. Maybe everyone takes their language as the basic - the Lingua Franca - and assumes that everyone else speaks a dialect derivation of the master language.

Take a look at this article that explores the differences (or not) between Norwegian, Swedish and Danish - http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2011/01/scandinavian?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/bl/scandinavian?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/bl/dialects.

Are the Scandinavian languages deeply - or barely - different? Do you think they are becoming more different - or more similar - over time?

Are all the "Englishes" becoming more distinct? Or is our common language becoming truly "common" as in the common ground we can all share and understand?

The shifts and turns our language takes makes it a continuing challenge to native speakers as well as new learners. But that just proves how alive it is. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Send us any links or other resources that you think any teachers, students or even just normal people might find interesting or useful. Let us all know about words that make you crazy, aspects of language and expression you find challenging, and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf is currently a radio host (http://www.tacoma.fm/) and a newspaper columnist http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/columnists/morf_morford/.

Posted by mmorf at February 1, 2011 10:24 PM


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