Dialects

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Virtually every language in the world has dialects—varieties of the language that are particular to a group of speakers. Dialects vary by region and by social group. Dialect diversity, or language variation, reflects the fact that languages change over time and that people who live in the same area or maintain the same social identity share language norms; in other words, they speak the same dialect.

Although many people believe that the variety of language they and the people around them speak is not a dialect, in reality, everyone speaks a dialect, since dialects are simply varieties of the same language. Many people also believe that there is only one correct form of a language, but in truth, no dialect is superior to another on linguistic grounds. All dialects are systematic language varieties that follow regular patterns of vocabulary choice, grammar, and pronunciation.

However, misconceptions persist regarding the use of different language varieties in the United States, especially in schools. While these issues have been recognized for years, and linguists have been conducting research to develop a better understanding of dialect patterns and attitudes toward U.S.dialects, much work remains to be done to develop dialect awareness and acceptance. To help inform the discussion, the Center for Applied Linguistics has created and collected a variety of resources related to dialects and language diversity.

Projects

Do You Speak American? Teacher Development Materials

Made for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and for DVD release, Do You Speak American?  takes viewers on a journey through the United States, exploring how the language we use can define us, unite us, or separate us.

Resources

Dialects in Schools and Communities, Second Edition

Dialects in Schools and Communities, Second Edition

This book describes dialect differences in American English, explores the impact in education and daily life for dialect speakers, and outlines issues facing educational practitioners working with these students.

Literacy and Language Diversity in the United States, 2nd Edition

Literacy and Language Diversity in the United States, 2nd Edition

In this revised and updated edition, the author takes a fresh look at the differences between native and nonnative speakers of English in the United States in terms of their literacy performance and educational achievement. He also discusses the social and educational policy debates that surround literacy in the 21st century.

Sociolinguistic Variation: Theories, Methods, and Applications

Sociolinguistic Variation: Theories, Methods, and Applications

This publication features the work of widely recognized scholars in the field of sociolinguistics, brought together to honor the long and productive career of Walt Wolfram, a founder of the field and a strong believer in linking high-quality research to meaningful application.