• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"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

Extracts from this document...


"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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Language: Context, Genre & Frameworks section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Language: Context, Genre & Frameworks essays

  1. Investigation into Gender Differences in the Language of Personal Profiles on Dating Websites

    i love travel and different culures. Lots of favourite destinations, Portugal, greece and usa best, trying Turkey soon. favorite things: My children and too much to type not a techno girl so typing takes forever! last read: Man and Boy Tony Parsons and still reading da vinci code (hmmm..)

  2. How do Politicians gain support through language? AQA English coursework

    The complex interrogative sentence, "Can you imagine what it feels like to have saved for your retirement only to find that the money you put aside isn't there?" insinuates that the public have been deceived by Labour. The infinitive verb "to find" suggests that the person was unaware that their

  1. The language situation in Kenya, and in particular the shift and choice of English, ...

    This observation by Rhodes has caused most parents not to educate their children, as they fear that the language of their ancestors would be lost. In my (Maasai) community for example, almost 50% of children do not go to school because of this kind of belief.

  2. An investigation into the similarities and differences between written social interactions through the new ...

    Abbreviations are words that are formed by the shortening of an existing word. For example, the use of the word 'bruv' at the beginning of Text C, as opposed to the standard and complete word 'brother'. These word formations have developed to become part of the internet jargon, although we

  1. The Outsider - Shakespeare's Othello

    It is almost as if Grenouille is disabled from interacting with people and does not understand the way of life of ordinary people. It is because of this isolation that Grenouille begins to undergo inconceivable actions that are looked upon as immoral and he is again perceived as an outsider.

  2. "It's easy to become a football hooligan!" - Discuss

    world such as countries in Holland, Germany, Italy, Hungary, France, South American Countries, African Countries and parts of Asia. It is known that many of them have formed their own radical group, having their own unique chants and symbols. Though, evidence suggests that the English exported many hooligans abroad to

  1. Studying Language Variation in Singapore.

    My uncle can is also proficient in Mandarin because he has business dealings in China, namely Shanghai. He uses Teochew when speaking to my grandparents and English when speaking to the 2nd and 3rd generations. Most of the time, he converses with his girlfriend in Cantonese and tries to translate anything we say, which she does not understand, in Cantonese.

  2. An analysis of variations in style in comparison to Standard English.

    According to him the accent, as we have seen, does not have the diphthongal pronunciations of the long 'a' vowel in made, gate, face that are more typical of the south of England, and the same is true of long 'o' as in boat, road, load.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work