Dialect

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A dialect is a variation of a standard language spoken by a group of people. Sometimes people who live in the same place use a dialect. Sometimes people who are similar in some other way use a dialect.

There is no absolute difference between a dialect and a language. British English and American English are dialects of English. They differ slightly in spelling, in pronunciation and vocabulary. However, they are "mutually intelligible", which means speakers from both countries can understand each other.

On the other hand, Spanish and Portuguese are now different languages, but historically, Portuguese was a dialect of Spanish. Catalan is another dialect of Spanish, again so different that some call it a different language.

English is definitely a language, but once upon a time it was a dialect of Old Saxon called Anglo-Saxon.

In past times, travel was difficult. Then dialects developed in quite small regions of a country. In Britain there were dialects in the different parts of the country, and traces of this can be heard today.

Differences in dialects can be found:

  • in different words (for example, people who speak British English may go to church and people who speak Scottish English may go to kirk)
  • in different pronunciations. Words are written the same way but pronounced differently by different speakers
  • in different grammar (for example, most people who speak English may say I dived,but a few say I dove)