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"If I can understand it, it's English. If they tell me it's English and I can't understand it, it's not!"Making detailed reference to two or more varieties, discuss whether this is an adequate description of the distinction between language and dialect

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"If I can understand it, it's English. If they tell me it's English and I can't understand it, it's not!" Making detailed reference to two or more varieties, discuss whether this is an adequate description of the distinction between language and dialect. My immediate reaction to this description was that it appeared somewhat na�ve, as distinguishing language and dialect is not simply a case of the ability to understand a particular spoken variety. The description helps to distinguish language and dialect on the basis of mutual intelligibility. There is, however, no clear-cut definition, therefore no method of definition will be completely adequate. There are always exceptions to any rule. It is necessary to look into further detail at other languages and dialects, comparing them according to their lexis, grammar and syntax. I have looked at African American Vernacular English (A.A.V.E) to illustrate how the description could be considered as an adequate distinction between language and dialect. I have also looked at Scots to illustrate why the description is not completely accurate, and is one of the reasons that other details must be considered in order to be able to differentiate language and dialect. ...read more.


Scots is a particularly interesting example of the latter. A.A.V.E A.A.V.E does not have a separate vocabulary to other varieties of American English. The level of understanding between A.A.V.E and other varieties of English suggests that A.A.V.E is a dialect of English, as opposed to a separate language. As well as A.A.V.E sharing English vocabulary, some of its own words have affected the English lexicon. Some examples include Jazz, riff and jam. These words are derived from African American descent, and are present in the English lexicon due to the influence of popular music. SCOTS Similarly, Scots shares some lexical items with certain dialects of the North of England, including Newcastle. The fact that Scots shares some lexical items suggests it could be considered as being a dialect of English rather than a language, as speakers of some other varieties of English can understand it without having to learn these words systematically. Some examples include: * Lass (Girl) * Bairn (Child) * Bonny (Beautiful) (Eagle 2002) Despite this, some lexical items are restricted to usage only by speakers of Scots. For example, * Airt (Direction) Fash (Brother) * Ay (Always) High-heid yin (Boss) ...read more.


in other varieties of English: * Gae (Go) Gaed (Went) Gone (Gone) * Hing (Hang) Hang (Hanged) Hingin (Hung) (Eagle 2002) Speakers of Standard English may have difficulties understanding the above. Again, as with the lexical differences, it throws into question the level of understanding. Speakers of Cockney English may have much lower level of understanding of Scots grammar than those living in the north of England. Therefore, those living further south may be inclined to call Scots a separate language based on the criteria of mutual intelligibility. Northerners, however, may consider it a dialect. CONCLUSION Overall, although it appears adequate on a simplistic level, I do not think that the description provides a comprehensive enough distinction between language and dialect. Firstly, it does not take into account the fact that languages and dialects can be displayed on a continuum. It assumes that variations are either languages or dialects and nothing in between, this is not the case, as illustrated above. It also only takes into account the linguistic factors. This is a problem because it is difficult to distinguish language and dialect on these alone. Other factors such as politics and geography should also be considered. Finally, if the criterion of mutual intelligibility were enough to be able to distinguish language and dialect, there probably would not be so many studies into the differences between the two. ...read more.

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