5 Key Differences Between Languages And Dialects

5 Key Differences Between Languages And Dialects

What makes one language a language?

And what is a dialect?

Are there any differences between language and dialect?

The answer to all these questions, we'll start by defining languages and dialects first. Then, we'll proceed to talk about the 5 key differences between languages and dialects.

What Makes One Language a Language?

Language is a system of structure of communication between human beings.

It consists of structured phrases, that can be used verbally, by gestures, or by writing.

Language is also a system that is used in a particular country or by a particular community.

Therefore, a language can be described as a nation’s identity.

What Is a Dialect?

Dialect is a part of a language that is spoken in one part of the country or spoken by a particular group or community

Dialects often contain some different words and phrases, even grammar and pronunciation one from the others but they, generally, belong to the same language. 

English, for example, is a language but it has many different dialects, such as Yorkshire, Cockney, Welsh English, American English, Quebec English, etc.

5 Key Differences Between Language And Dialect

Now that you know the basic meanings of the terms of language and dialect, let’s take a look at the following key differences between language and dialect. 

They can help you not only understand the concept of language but also to easily learn languages from native speakers.

Language Is a System of Communications

As we’ve already explained, languages are structured communication systems people use to communicate among themselves.

To make it more clear, under one language, there are many different dialects used among a particular group of people or in a particular part of the country.

Therefore, one language equals many dialects, but one dialect doesn’t include several different languages.

A Language Has Written Form And Dialect is Mainly Spoken Form

Besides spoken, languages have written form, too.

Every language has standard grammar rules, patterns, and exceptions as well as written literature.

Dialects, however, mainly have only spoken form. If a dialect has a written form, it usually isn’t official.

Therefore, every language has different dialects, and one of them is declared as the official, so every paper and document has to be written in it. So, naturally, one dialect that is declared as the official is more standardized than other dialects of the same language.

Language=Country Vs. Dialect=Region

Not every, but most languages are connected to one country. In case you can’t connect a particular language to a particular country, you should have in mind that language is spoken by a community, which implies that language is ‘national.’

Dialects, on the other hand, are mainly spoken by a fewer group of people in a particular region within one country. According to this statement, dialects are more ‘regional’ than languages.

Languages Are Official, Dialects Aren’t

In every country, there is at least one official language, somewhere even more. It means that one dialect of the language was chosen to be the official and to be used in public documents and government activities. 

Dialects, however, don’t have to be official to be used. Dialects are spoken in different regions and they differ from each other in some words and phrases, pronunciation, even grammar, and linguistic patterns.

Therefore, language is endorsed by the country, while dialects aren’t. It, of course, doesn’t change the fact that dialects can be used by people whenever they want to.

Depending on your reasons, this fact can particularly help you learn what language you should learn.

Languages Are Dialects And Vice Versa

Sometimes, even for linguistics, it is quite difficult to draw the line between language and a dialect

As we’ve mentioned, one language has different dialects but all of them are similar, that is, share most of the similarities among themselves. It means that people speaking different dialects can understand each other perfectly fine.

Let’s take a look at the English dialects spoken in Great Britain. When two speakers, one of Cockney’s English dialect and the other of Yorkshire English dialect meet, they can understand perfectly fine each other, even if each one of them speaks in his own dialect.

There are many other situations, when people, for example, say that they speak two different languages fluently and understand each other perfectly even if they speak their own languages.

When, for example, Swedish and Norwegian native speakers meet, each one of them can talk in their native language and still understand each other perfectly.

It means that even though these two languages are declared as different languages, they do belong to the same language family and they are so similar that their speakers don’t have any issues understanding each other.

Languages Are Determined By History, Culture, And Politics; Dialects Aren’t

It’s not a secret that cultural, historical, and political factors are responsible for defining different languages.

Hindi and Urdu languages, for example, are two very similar languages. They are, however, divided into two different languages because of two different nations, India and Pakistan.

The same situation is among South Slavic languages. Countries of former Yugoslavia, especially Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia today have declared their languages called Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian. Linguistically, these languages are so similar that each of these native speakers can speak in their language and the other can understand the others perfectly fine.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes it is difficult to understand the difference between a language and a dialect, especially when these two are very similar.

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