What’s The Difference Between Dialect And Language?

What’s the difference between dialect and language? In the world of linguistics, we prefer talking about different languages. And language holds more importance in linguistics.


But have you ever seen a debate on the fundamental concept of language? Of course! When these terms get presented to the general public, things get a bit tangled.

But don’t worry! Here we’ll untangle every knot.

What’s The Difference Between Dialect And Language?

What’s the difference between a language and dialect? To your surprise, it’s a difficult question than it may seem.

But if you have a sheer interest in languages, then you will enjoy exploring the answer.

Those people are more fascinated by the concept of languages that translate to make a living.

So let’s dive into this article to see what’s that line between language and dialect.

1. What Is A Language?

We can define a language in different ways. Do you know why? Because a language is a whole new world with various cultural and linguistic factors.

1. Language is a system of communication used by the people of a country or community.

2. We, humans, use language as a method of communication with different words. It can be both oral or written.

Both these definitions are quite clear. Do you still think that language is a complicated thing? I hope you don’t do so.

What Is A Language

What’s that point where a language becomes a dialect and vice versa? Although there’s not a clear line between these two but still differentiable.

2. What Is A Dialect?

Dialect is a specific kind of language spoken by a defined group or region. So you see that language is a broader term, and dialect comes under its shade.

Language plays the role of a parent, and different dialects are stemming from it. We can view the difference between dialect and language while writing about it.

But in the real world, when things get practical, it’s harder to define the blurred line between these two.

Let’s dig into more detail to see what’s hidden in there.

Language VS Dialect – The Debate:

It’ll be a bit harder to define the difference between language and dialect in the real world.

We think that Portuguese and Spanish are different languages. Then how come a Spanish newspaper readable by a Portuguese speaker?

That is the actual riddle we have been solving for you. These two languages are distinct. But there’s a degree of mutual intelligibility that makes it possible to converse.

Doesn’t it mean to consider Spanish and Portuguese as dialects and not languages? People of Spain and Portugal will object to this.

But this is the truth! Hold on, let me complete the justification.

Spanish and Portuguese are romance languages. It means that both of these are dialects of parent romance language.

But should we take French, Italian, and Romanian in the same terms?

Mutual intelligibility is a herring in the difference between language and dialect.

English language has different dialects, mutually intelligible and spoken around the globe.

Difference Between Dialect And Language - The Debate

English speakers of South America say “howdy” while Australians use “G’day.” Still, these two can converse with each other easily.

Did you know? Is mutual intelligibility applicable to all languages?

Different language speakers can talk to each other. Should we start considering those languages as dialects?

What’s the matter with Chinese languages? Mandarin and Cantonese are dialects of Chinese, but these aren’t mutually intelligible.

Societal Or Cultural Implications:

Talking about the languages and dialects, we must not ignore the cultural considerations.

There can be two people speaking the same language, yet they don’t have any cultural similarity.

For instance, English speakers of the U.S. and that of South America have no cultural connection. Then what makes them speak the same language? Yes, historical background!

Flip the coin; you’ll see speakers of different languages having the same roots of culture.

So cultural implications aren’t as useful as mutual intelligibility while defining the difference.

What Place Standardized Languages Are Adjusted To?

Here comes the issue of standardized languages. Previously, all countries selected a dialect on which their standardized language was based.

E.g., the standardized language of England bases on a dialect spoken in the South East.

Germany’s standardized language is a blend of High German and Middle German. The standardized Vietnamese bases on the Hanoian dialect.

While the standardized Russian bases on the language spoken in Moscow. And the chain of examples continues!

All the dialects in a language are equally important no matter which time these got developed.

How Do Dialects Evolve?

Linguists believe that all languages got originated from one human language.

Can we consider all these languages of the modern world as dialects of that initial language?

If yes, then how come there are some many dialects and languages today? And these all are so different from one another, interesting!

More interesting is the reason, i.e., the geographical isolation. As people separated their regions, they developed their speech patterns and words.

How Do Dialects Evolve

Portuguese variants spoken in the old and new modern world are an excellent example of this. Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese sound different. But both of these got originated from the same mother tongue.

Dialects do relate to a geographical area and social class. Relations between dialects and social types have different examples.

These examples are visible in urban areas as rural areas have less diversity of dialects. But there are always exceptions in the case of languages and dialects. Isn’t it an exciting adventure?

Read these two main types of dialects to see what you’re missing out on.

1. Linguistic Dialects:

Linguistic dialects are variations of a language that are mutually intelligible.

People speaking one kind of language can comprehend other speakers. And they don’t have to learn the language beginning from scratch.

2. Sociopolitical Dialects:

For some social reasons, some languages are less important than a standard language.

A good example is the one you can see in Italy! Italy’s official language is standard Italian.

Other languages are considered Italian dialects like Romanesco and Occitan.

Sicilian language, recognized by UNESCO, is still not the official language of Italy.

Countries like Peru, Spain, and Columbia speak the same language. But all these versions are different from each other.

So each version should be categorized as the dialect of Spanish.

Let’s Finish It:

We started this article to find out the difference between a language and a dialect. But we’ve seen that there’s no clear answer to this question.

The reason is that the boundaries between the subjects are too blur to differentiate.

You’ll see some languages as proper dialects while some dialects have the right to be a language. Quite confusing, right?

But no worries! We can end up saying dialect is a regional variation of a language. We hope this debate is simple, including everything from geography to socioeconomic status!

Do you have any insights into the differences between a language and a dialect? We’d love to hear something from you about this.

Contact The Language Doctors team for any information about interpretation services. The young and passionate members of the group are ready to start this journey with you.

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