The term dialect (from the ancient Greek word Διάλεκτος diálektos, "discourse", from διά diá, "through" + λέγω legō, "I speak") is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class. A dialect that is associated with a particular social class can be termed a sociolect; a regional dialect may be termed a regiolect or topolect. The other usage refers to a language socially subordinate to a regional or national standard language, often historically cognate to the standard, but not a variety of it or in any other sense derived from it. This more precise usage enables one to distinguish between varieties of a language, such as the French spoken in Nice, France, and local languages distinct from the superordinate language, e.g. Nissart, the traditional native Romance language of Nice, known in French as Niçard.
A dialect is distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation (phonology, including prosody). Where a distinction can be made only in terms of pronunciation, the term accent is appropriate, not dialect. Other speech varieties include: standard languages, which are standardized for public performance (for example, a written standard); jargons, which are characterized by differences in lexicon (vocabulary); slang; patois; pidgins or argots.
The particular speech patterns used by an individual are termed an idiolect.
Famous quotes containing the word dialect:
“The eyes of men converse as much as their tongues, with the advantage that the ocular dialect needs no dictionary, but is understood all the world over.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)