Dialect vs. Vernacular

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Dialect and Vernacular is that the Dialect is a variety of a language and Vernacular is a common speech variety of a specific population, as opposed to standard, national, literary or scientific idiom.

  • Dialect

    The term dialect (from Latin dialectus, dialectos, from the Ancient Greek word διάλεκτος, diálektos, “discourse”, from διά, diá, “through” and λέγω, légō, “I speak”) is used in two distinct ways to refer to two different types of linguistic phenomena:

    One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language’s speakers. Under this definition, the dialects or varieties of a particular language are closely related and, despite their differences, are most often largely mutually intelligible, especially if close to one another on the dialect continuum. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class or ethnicity. A dialect that is associated with a particular social class can be termed a sociolect, a dialect that is associated with a particular ethnic group can be termed as ethnolect, and a regional dialect may be termed a regiolect. According to this definition, any variety of a given language constitutes “a dialect”, including any standard varieties. In this case, the distinction between the “standard language” (i.e. the “standard” dialect of a particular language) and the “nonstandard” dialects of the same language is often arbitrary and based on social, political, cultural, or historical considerations. In a similar way, the definitions of the terms “language” and “dialect” may overlap and are often subject to debate, with the differentiation between the two classifications often grounded in arbitrary and/or sociopolitical motives.

    The other usage of the term “dialect”, often deployed in colloquial settings, refers (often somewhat pejoratively) to a language that is socially subordinated to a regional or national standard language, often historically cognate or genetically related to the standard language, but not actually derived from the standard language. In other words, it is not an actual variety of the “standard language” or dominant language, but rather a separate, independently evolved but often distantly related language. In this sense, unlike in the first usage, the standard language would not itself be considered a “dialect”, as it is the dominant language in a particular state or region, whether in terms of linguistic prestige, social or political status, official status, predominance or prevalence, or all of the above. Meanwhile, under this usage, the “dialects” subordinate to the standard language are generally not variations on the standard language but rather separate (but often loosely related) languages in and of themselves. Thus, these “dialects” are not dialects or varieties of a particular language in the same sense as in the first usage; though they may share roots in the same family or subfamily as the standard language and may even, to varying degrees, share some mutual intelligibility with the standard language, they often did not evolve closely with the standard language or within the same linguistic subgroup or speech community as the standard language and instead may better fit the criteria of a separate language.

    For example, most of the various regional Romance languages of Italy, often colloquially referred to as Italian “dialects”, are, in fact, not actually derived from modern standard Italian, but rather evolved from Vulgar Latin separately and individually from one another and independently of standard Italian, long prior to the diffusion of a national standardized language throughout what is now Italy. These various Latin-derived regional languages are therefore, in a linguistic sense, not truly “dialects” or varieties of the standard Italian language, but are instead better defined as their own separate languages. Conversely, with the spread of standard Italian throughout Italy in the 20th century, regional versions or varieties of standard Italian have developed, generally as a mix of national standard Italian with a substratum of local regional languages and local accents. While “dialect” levelling has increased the number of standard Italian speakers and decreased the number of speakers of other languages native to Italy, Italians in different regions have developed variations of standard Italian particular to their region. These variations on standard Italian, known as regional Italian, would thus more appropriately be called “dialects” in accordance with the first linguistic definition of “dialect”, as they are in fact derived partially or mostly from standard Italian.

    A dialect is distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation (phonology, including prosody). Where a distinction can be made only in terms of pronunciation (including prosody, or just prosody itself), the term accent may be preferred over dialect. Other types of speech varieties include jargons, which are characterized by differences in lexicon (vocabulary); slang; patois; pidgins; and argots. The particular speech patterns used by an individual are termed an idiolect.

  • Vernacular

    A vernacular, or vernacular language, is the lect used in everyday life by the common people of a specific population. It is distinguished from national, literary, liturgical or scientific idiom, or a lingua franca, used to facilitate communication across a large area. It is usually native, mostly spoken informally rather than written and usually seen as of lower status than more codified forms. It can be a distinct stylistic register, regional dialect, sociolect or an independent language.

    In the context of language standardization, the term “vernacular” is also used specifically to refer to nonstandard dialects of a certain language, as opposed to its prestige normative forms.

  • Dialect (noun)

    A variety of a language that is characteristic of a particular area, community{{,}} or group, often differing from other varieties of the same language in minor ways as regards vocabulary, style, spelling and pronunciation.

  • Dialect (noun)

    Language that is perceived as substandard or wrong.

  • Dialect (noun)

    A language (often a regional or minority language) as part of a group or family of languages, especially if they are viewed as a single language, or if contrasted with a standardized variety that is considered the ‘true’ form of the language (for example, Cantonese as contrasted with Mandarin Chinese, or Bavarian as contrasted with German).

    “patois q|often derogatory”

  • Dialect (noun)

    A variant of a non-standardized programming language.

    “Home computers in the 1980s had many incompatible dialects of BASIC.”

  • Dialect (noun)

    A variant form of the vocalizations of a bird species restricted to a certain area or population.

  • Vernacular (noun)

    The language of a people or a national language.

    “A vernacular of the United States is English.”

  • Vernacular (noun)

    Everyday speech or dialect, including colloquialisms, as opposed to standard, literary, liturgical, or scientific idiom.

    “Street vernacular can be quite different from what is heard elsewhere.”

  • Vernacular (noun)

    Language unique to a particular group of people; jargon, argot.

    “For those of a certain age, hiphop vernacular might just as well be a foreign language.”

  • Vernacular (noun)

    The indigenous language of a people, into which the words of the Mass are translated.

    “Vatican II allowed the celebration of the mass in the vernacular.”

  • Vernacular (adjective)

    Of or pertaining to everyday language, as opposed to standard, literary, liturgical, or scientific idiom.

  • Vernacular (adjective)

    Belonging to the country of one’s birth; one’s own by birth or nature; native; indigenous.

    “a vernacular disease”

  • Vernacular (adjective)

    Of or related to local building materials and styles; not imported.

  • Vernacular (adjective)

    Connected to a collective memory; not imported.

  • Dialect (noun)

    a particular form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group

    “the Lancashire dialect seemed like a foreign language”

  • Dialect (noun)

    a particular version of a programming language.

  • Vernacular (noun)

    the language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular country or region

    “he wrote in the vernacular to reach a larger audience”

  • Vernacular (noun)

    the terminology used by people belonging to a specified group or engaging in a specialized activity

    “gardening vernacular”

  • Vernacular (noun)

    architecture concerned with domestic and functional rather than public or monumental buildings

    “buildings in which Gothic merged into farmhouse vernacular”

  • Vernacular (adjective)

    (of language) spoken as one’s mother tongue; not learned or imposed as a second language.

  • Vernacular (adjective)

    (of speech or written works) using the mother tongue of a country or region

    “vernacular literature”

  • Vernacular (adjective)

    (of architecture) concerned with domestic and functional rather than public or monumental buildings

    “vernacular buildings”

Oxford Dictionary

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