The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by scholars of language.
- One usage refers to a variety of a language that is 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 RP which defines a 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 sharing an historic origin with the standard, but not a variety of it or in any other sense derived from it.
A dialect is distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Where a distinction can be made only in terms of pronunciation, the term accent is appropriate, not dialect. Other speech varieties include: standard languages (English: " Received English","BBC English" or "The Queen's English"), 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.
Although the word often seems to have some negative connotation it should be remembered that all varieties of a language are really dialects - including the standard or literary form.
- Sounds Familiar? — Listen to regional accents and dialects of the UK on the British Library's 'Sounds Familiar' website
- International Dialects of English Archive Since 1997
- whoohoo.co.uk British Dialect Translator
- thedialectdictionary.com — Compilation of Dialects from around the globe