Differences Between Language And Dialect: You must define and investigate each notion separately from the other in order to grasp and clearly explain fundamental contrasts between the concepts of language and dialect. One can appropriately determine the distinctions between the two terms by doing so. In this light, we go on to examine both words. What is Language? And what is Dialect?
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Table of Content
What is Language?
Language can be defined as the primary mode of human communication, consisting of structured and conventionally used words delivered by speech, writing, or gesture. A given culture, nation, or tribe may have its own language. Communication, identity expression, play, imaginative expression, and emotional release are all purposes of language. Every medically and intellectually normal individual learns as a youngster how to use a system of communication that consists of a limited number of symbols as both a sender and receiver (e.g., sounds, gestures, or written or typed characters).
This symbol set in spoken language comprises of noises produced by the movement of certain organs in the throat and mouth. These symbols in signed languages can be hand or body movements, gestures, or facial expressions. People can use these symbols to communicate information, convey sentiments and emotions, influence others’ actions, and behave with varied degrees of friendliness or animosity toward others who use a similar set of symbols.
Language interacts with every aspect of human life in society, and it can be understood only if it is considered in relation to society. Typically, humans learn only one language at a time—their first language, or native tongue, which is the language spoken by those who raised them from infancy.
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Following that, “second” languages are learned to varying degrees of proficiency under diverse circumstances. Bilingualism is defined as complete mastery of two languages; many children grow up bilingual as a result of their upbringing by parents who speak various languages at home or being raised in a multilingual community. Learning a second or other language, to any extent, is an activity superimposed on the past mastery of one’s primary language in traditionally monolingual cultures, and it is an intellectually distinct process.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It encompasses descriptive linguistics and historical linguistics, as well as other disciplines. Linguistics is currently a highly technical study that encompasses key divisions such as phonetics, grammar (including syntax and morphology), semantics, and pragmatics, and deals in depth with these diverse components of language, both descriptively and historically.
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Features of Language
Language as a concept has certain characteristics that identify it as language, without which it is unlikely to be referred to as language.
a. Phonetics and Phonology: Speech is the most visible aspect of language. Speech is not required for the definition of a language, which is an indefinitely productive communication system. However, speech is the universal substance of most human languages, and the conditions of speaking and listening have influenced and determined their development throughout human history.
Phonetics is the study of the anatomy, physiology, neurology, and acoustics of speech; this topic is discussed further below (see Physiological and physical basis of speech). Articulatory phonetics is concerned with the physiology of speech, whereas acoustic phonetics is concerned with the physics of sound waves, specifically their transmission and reception. Much of what is roughly referred to as pronunciation in language studies is covered by phonetics. Speech sounds, on the other hand, are explored in phonology from a distinct perspective.
Spoken language makes extensive use of the articulations and sounds produced by the human vocal and auditory systems. Each spoken language has a slightly varied range, which contributes to the difficulties of learning to speak a foreign language and speaking it “accentually.” However, sound libraries aren’t the only thing at stake. In any language, there are far fewer generic groups of sounds that are distinguishable (carry meaning distinctions) than there are real phonetically unique sounds. What is unique in one language may not be distinctive in another or may be used in a different way, which adds to the difficulty of learning a foreign language.
In Chinese and numerous other languages loosely referred to as tone languages, the pitch, or tone, on which a syllable is said helps to identify one word from another: ma in northern Chinese means “mother” on a level tone, “hemp” on a rising tone, and “to curse” on a falling tone. Pitch differences in English and most European languages (though not all—the exceptions include Swedish and Norwegian) do not distinguish one word from another; rather, they are part of the intonation tunes that contribute to the language’s structure and structural integrity.
The way consonant and vowel sounds are organized into syllables varies by language. Multiple consonant sounds are allowed before and after a single vowel sound in English and German: strengths has three consonant sounds before and three consonant sounds after a single vowel sound (ng and th stand for one sound each).
Syllables in Italian are simpler, and the ratio of consonant to vowel sounds in syllables and words in Japanese and Swahili, for example, is much more balanced. Speakers of such languages have trouble pronouncing English terms like those listed above, despite the fact that they are totally natural to a native English speaker, natural in this context meaning “within the sounds and sound sequences mastered in English“. All these considerations relating to the use of speech sounds in particular languages fall under the general heading of phonology, which may be defined as the sound system of a language; phonology is often regarded as one component of language structure.
b. Grammar: Grammar is another aspect of language structure. Language is more than simply sounds, and words are more than just a collection of syllables. The word is a grammatical concept; in speech, words are recognized as repeating units that make up sentences, rather than as pauses. Grammar is concerned with the interactions that exist between words in sentences in general. Because they occupy distinct places in sentence structure and some of them appear in different forms depending on their purpose, most languages distinguish between different classes of words, or parts of speech (English man, men; walk, walked; I, me; and so on).
Different languages use word-form variation to varying degrees. The two parts of grammar that are traditionally divided are syntax and morphology. Syntax is concerned with how words interact in the construction of sentences, whereas morphology is concerned with how words grow up internally and grammatically. Syntax would contain the syntactic interaction between the girl [or woman] is here and the girls [or women] are here, while morphology would include the morphological relationship between girl and girl, as well as the (irregular) link between woman and woman.
It’s worth noting, though, that the difference between the two isn’t quite as sharp as this graphic suggests. Some linguists argue that morphology and syntax should not be separated at all, and that grammatical structure should instead be referred to as grammatical structure. Grammatical forms and structures are part of a language’s communicative machinery, and they, along with vocabulary, or lexicon (a language’s stock of individual words), serve to communicate all of the meanings required.
In addition, spoken language offers resources such as forceful emphasis and intonation. This isn’t to suggest that grammatical categories can’t be linked to specific meanings in some cases. In English, plural and past tense are pretty obvious in terms of meaning, but even here there are ambiguities: in if I knew his address, I would inform you, the past-tense form knew alludes to an unfulfilled condition in the present, not to the past.
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c. Semantics: This deals with the individual meaning of words. Language exists to convey meaning; semantics is the study of meaning, both in broad theoretical terms and in relation to a given language. Semantics is concerned with the meanings of phonological aspects such as intonation, as well as grammatical structures and specific word meanings. Much of semantics’ subject matter is based on this last domain, the lexicon. A language’s word bank is enormous; the Oxford English Dictionary, for example, contains over 600,000 terms.
When you factor in the lexicons of specialized, dialectal, and worldwide English variations, the total must certainly approach one million. Less commonly spoken languages have lexicons that are just as big. The sense links between words (such as synonymy and antonymy), the nature of “semantic aspects” of word meaning (e.g., woman = [adult, female, human]), and the manner in which words organise themselves into domains (“semantic fields”) are just a few of the numerous areas of study in semantics. It must be emphasized once more that issues resulting from the relationships between semantics, grammar, and phonology are still a source of debate.
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What is Dialect?
It has already been stated that no two people speak the same way, and that within all but the tiniest speech communities (groups of people speaking the same language), there are subdivisions of recognizably different types of language, known as dialects, that do not make intercommunication impossible or significantly difficult. Because intercomprehensibility is measured on a scale, the degree of intercomprehensibility required for two or more forms of speech to qualify as dialects of a single language rather than separate languages is difficult to quantify or predict in advance, and the actual cutoff point must be arbitrary in the end.
However, in reality, the terms dialect and language can be used interchangeably. In essence, people of a particular culture sharing a common language can also have subdivisions of the same language referred to as dialect. A typical example is the Nigerian ibo language having different dialects.
Standard and non-standard dialects are the two types of dialects. A standard dialect is one that has been authorized by institutions and is promoted by them. Non-standard dialects, on the other hand, are ones that are not promoted by institutions. American English, Indian English, and Australian English, for example, are all dialects of English. Within these dialects, there are also sub-dialects.
Features of Dialect
It is unlikely to have its own written literature, and it is also unlikely to be distinct to a single state or nation. It is more likely to be specific to a region, and maybe to the socioeconomic class of its speakers.
It demonstrates changes in grammar, demonstrates variations in vocabulary, demonstrates variations in rhythm, intonation, emphasis, and other speech characteristics. Variations in usage patterns are shown.
It’s imprtant to remember that not all of these standards must be met. Linguists have identified a few of the most important traits related with dialects.
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Differences Between Language And Dialect
The terms “language” and “dialect” have no objective meaning. They’re both instruments of communication used by a large number of native speakers. It’s quite easy to try to make direct analogies. However, in linguistics, some notions are not as simple as we want them to be.
It’s crucial to be familiar with the numerous accents and dialects of the language you’re learning, irrespective of which one you’re learning. Even if you decide to specialize in one (for example, Taiwanese Mandarin rather than Mainland Mandarin), being familiar with others prepares you for conversations or dialogues with native speakers from all around the world and helps you to consume information in your goal language.
1. A Country Has A Language, While A Dialect Is Region Specific: Language is the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way. You might have noticed that there’s not much daylight between these definitions. But it’s always pointed out that languages are “national,” while dialects are said to be “regional” and are often spoken by a fewer number of people.
Dialect is a particular form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group. Every country has at least one official language that is utilized in government papers and operations (like crafting laws and ordinances).
However, whereas the majority of people stop there, we can go a little further (read: more linguistically accurate).
By edict or declaration, a dialect becomes a “language.” As a “official language,” the state grants a spoken system particular status. To put it another way, a language is regarded a “language” because the government has endorsed it.
For the fact that “languages” are actually dialects, there are many instances in which persons who claim to speak two different languages can communicate perfectly. The term “mutually intelligible” refers to the similarity of two languages or dialects.
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2. A Language Usually Has A Standard Written Form, While Dialects Are Largely Oral: In languages, standard grammatical concepts and a substantial body of literature are prevalent. They can be found not just in the form of oral forms, but as well as in written records. Dialects, on the other hand, are spoken more frequently than they are written. Even if they exist, they are rarely published in official or national publications.
That distinction is valid, but only to a certain extent.
A substantial amount of existing literature is certainly an influence in settling on a “official language,” but it also works in the opposite direction.
Declaring a dialect to be an official language is self-sustaining because it encourages writers to write in the dialect. Because the state has designated “X language” as its official language, all of the state’s or country’s official documents must be written in that language and because there are so many written records of “X language,” standardization becomes easier. Because the written form is more changeable than the sounds produced by oral recitation, users of the language “X” can now begin discussing grammar rules. As a result, “X” appears to be more “evolved” than other dialects. But we must never forget that “X” may have been chosen as an official language in the first place due to a historical oddity, the luck of the draw, or some other weak reason.
3. A Language Is Very Qualitatively Different From A Dialect: Others claim that languages are just more “elegant” and “complex” by definition than dialects. If language sophistication is measured by the difficulty or complexity of the language, Archi, a Russian dialect spoken in the mountains, would make your French homework look like child’s play.
Archi has a lot of phonemes, a complicated morphology, and a conjugation system that may produce 1,502,839 distinct forms from a single verb root. If, on the other hand, you believe that a language’s “elegance” is defined by its simplicity, you’ll find it difficult to defend the use of challenging languages in everyday contexts. Chinese, for example, includes over 50,000 characters (but only 5,000-7,000 are needed to read a newspaper.) It’s a tonal language as well. This means that a single syllable, such as “ma,” can mean “mother” or “horse,” depending on how you pronounce it. (Each syllable can be pronounced four different ways, and “ma” can also indicate “rough” or “scold.”)
So, who is to say what constitutes a beautiful language? Not to mention that there are dialects that are just as valuable as recognized languages. A language may appear to have inherent characteristics that justify its standing over dialects at first glance, but as linguists dug deeper into the matter, the difference becomes less obvious. It’s as if “languages” showed up at a social event in a good looking black suit, wearing the most expensive perfume, while “dialects” showed up in their khakis and a plain white shirt.
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On the surface, the two are undeniably opposed. Furthermore, language can be categorized into two main parts: spoken language and written language, while dialects can be categorized into two main parts: standard dialects and non-standard dialects. From the above it cannot more apparent that though language and dialects differ in some sense, they complement each other, for one cannot function without the other.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ACMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.