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Concise Encyclopedia of Sociolinguistics

Concise Encyclopedia of Sociolinguistics

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Sections

  • Multiculturalism and Language
  • Pragmatics and Sociolinguistics
  • Prescriptive and Descriptive Grammar
  • Saussurean Tradition and Sociolinguistics
  • Sociolinguistics of Sign Language
  • Conversational Maxims
  • Cooperative Principle
  • Deaf Community: Structures and Interaction
  • Dialogism
  • 2. Dialogism
  • Discourse
  • Discourse in Cross-linguistic and Cross-cultural Contexts
  • Doctor-Patient Language
  • Ethnography of Speaking
  • Ethnomethodology
  • Identity and Language
  • Kinesics
  • Kinship Terminology
  • Language in the Workplace
  • Narrative, Natural
  • Phatic Communion
  • Speech Accommodation
  • Speech Act Theory: An Overview
  • Business Language
  • Code, Sociolinguistic
  • Discourse Analysis and the Law
  • Formulaic Language
  • Institutional Language
  • Literary Language
  • Media Language and Communication
  • Medical Language
  • Religion and Language
  • Slang: Sociology
  • Speech and Writing
  • The Internet and Language
  • Adolescent Peer Group Language
  • Class and Language
  • Dialect and Dialectology
  • Dialect Humor
  • Ethnicity and the Crossing of Boundaries
  • Ethnicity and Language
  • Forensic Phonetics and Sociolinguistics
  • Gay Language
  • Gender and Language
  • Language Change and Language Acquisition
  • Maps: Dialect and Language
  • Social Class
  • Social Networks
  • Sociolinguistic Variation
  • Sociolinguistics and Language Change
  • Sociophonetics
  • Subcultures and Countercultures
  • Syntactic Change
  • The Atlas of North American English: Methods and Findings
  • Urban and Rural Forms of Language
  • Areal Linguistics
  • Bilingualism and Language Acquisition
  • Code-switching: Discourse Models
  • Code-switching: Overview
  • Code-switching: Sociopragmatic Models
  • Code-switching: Structural Models
  • Contact Languages
  • Endangered Languages
  • English as a Foreign Language
  • Ethnolinguistic Vitality
  • Foreigner Talk
  • Interlanguage
  • Intertwined Languages
  • Jargons
  • Koines
  • Language Enclaves
  • Language Loyalty
  • Language Maintenance, Shift, and Death
  • Language Spread
  • Language Transfer and Substrates
  • Lingua Franca
  • Migrants and Migration
  • Missionaries and Language
  • Pidgins and Creoles: An Overview
  • Pidgins and Creoles: Models
  • Pidgins and Creoles: Morphology
  • Sociolinguistic Area
  • Critical Language Awareness
  • Critical Sociolinguistics
  • Discrimination and Minority Languages
  • Language Conflict
  • Linguicide
  • Linguistic Imperialism
  • Manipulation
  • Marxist Theories of Language
  • Minority Languages
  • Politicized Language
  • Politics and Language
  • Power and Language
  • Power Differentials and Language
  • Representation
  • Semilingualism
  • Stereotype and Social Attitudes
  • Symbolic Power and Language
  • The Linguistic Marketplace
  • Academies: Dictionaries and Standards
  • Artificial Languages
  • Heritage Languages
  • International Languages
  • Language Adaptation and Modernization
  • Language Development
  • Language Diffusion Policy
  • Language Planning: Models
  • Linguistic Census
  • Linguistic Habitus
  • Multilingual States
  • National LanguagejOfficial Language
  • National Language/Official Language
  • Nationalism and Language
  • Orthography
  • Prescription in Dictionaries
  • Reversing Language Shift
  • School Language Policies
  • Standardization
  • Statistics: Principal Languages of the World (UNESCO)
  • Verbal Hygiene
  • Applied Linguistics and Sociolinguistics
  • Bilingual Education
  • Black English in Education: UK
  • Child Language: An Overview
  • Ebonics and African American Vernacular English
  • Education and Language: Overview
  • Educational Failure
  • English Grammar in British Schools
  • Gender, Education, and Language
  • Home Language and School Language
  • Pidgins, Creoles, and Minority Dialects in Education
  • Spoken Language in the Classroom
  • Standard English and Educational Policy
  • Teaching Endangered Languages
  • Attitude Surveys: Question-Answer Process
  • Corpus Linguistics and Sociolinguistics
  • Data Collection in Linguistics
  • Field Methods: Ethnographic
  • Field Methods in Modern Dialect and Variation Studies
  • Fieldwork and Field Methods
  • Fieldwork Ethics and Community Responsibility
  • Interactional Sociolinguistic Research Methods
  • Literacy: Research, Measurement, and Innovation
  • Observing and Analyzing Classroom Talk
  • Salvage Work (Endangered Languages)
  • Endangered Languages Projects (An Inventory)
  • Internet Resources for Sociolinguistics
  • Sociolinguistics Journals: A Critical Survey
  • Bakhtin, Mikhail M. (1895-1975)
  • Cooper, Robert Leon (1931- )
  • Das Gupta, Jyotirindra (1933- )
  • Edwards, John Robert (1947- )
  • Emeneau, Murray Barnson (1904- )
  • Fairclough, Norman (1941-)
  • Ferguson, Charles A. (1921-98)
  • Fishman, Joshua A. (1926- )
  • Halliday, Michael Alexander Kirkwood (1925- )

S. Romaine

Dialectology is a long-established branch of linguis-
tics: the existence of geographical diversity was
among the first observations made by the Greeks.
Dialectology determined to a great extent the nature
of scientific research into language in the nineteenth
century. The investigation of local dialects was seen
as a way to recapture linguistic history and to
provide the missing links for comparative historical
reconstruction, the primary enterprise of linguistics
at that time. It was believed that dialects preserved
older speech patterns in pure form. Research into
dialects was also spurred on by the Romantic
movement, which fostered a more general interest
in folklore. Robert Burns and many other poets

chose to write in their dialects rather than in the
standard literary language.

1. The Term 'Dialect'

In both its traditional and modern sense dialectology
has to do with the origins and distribution of dialects.
The term 'dialect' has generally been used to refer to
a subordinate variety of a language, such as English,
which has many dialects. A regional dialect is a
language variety associated with a place, such as the
Yorkshire dialect in England or the Bavarian dialect
in Germany. Dialects of a language tend to differ
more from one another the more remote they are
from one another geographically. In this respect

310

Dialect and Dialectology

dialectology has to do with boundaries, which often
coincide with geographical features such as rivers and
mountains. Boundaries are, however, often of a
social nature, e.g., between different social class
groups, 'social dialects' (see Language in Society:
Overview).

The term dialect also has historical connotations.
Historical linguists, for instance, speak of the
Germanic dialects, by which they mean the ancestors
of language varieties now recognized as modern
Germanic languages, such as English, Dutch, and
German. The entities labeled 'English language' or
'Flemish dialect' are not, however, discrete. Any
variety is part of a continuum in social and
geographical space and time. The discontinuities that
do occur, however, often reflect geographical and
social boundaries and weaknesses in communication
networks (see Language).
Some classic cases of related dialects are the West
Romance and Germanic dialect continua. The West
Romance dialect continuum stretches through rural
communities from the Atlantic coast of France
through Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Mutual intellig-
ibility exists between adjacent villages, although
speakers of the standard varieties of French, Italian,
Spanish, and Portuguese find one another mutually
unintelligible to varying degrees. Similarly, the
Germanic dialect continuum connects a series of
historically related varieties that differ from one
another with respect to one or more features.

2. The Term 'A Language'

The dividing line between the languages called Dutch
and German is linguistically arbitrary but politically
and culturally relevant. Max Weinreich's often
quoted dictum, 'a language is a dialect with an army
and a navy,' attests the importance of political power
and the sovereignty of a nation-state in the recogni-
tion of a variety as a language rather than a dialect.
Situations in which there is widespread agreement as
to what constitutes a language arise through the
interaction of social, political, psychological, and
historical factors, and not any inherent properties of
the varieties concerned.
Certain varieties of the West Germanic dialect
continuum are considered to be dialects of Dutch and
others, dialects of German because of the relation-
ship these varieties have to their respective standard
languages. The process of standardization is con-
nected with a number of sociohistorical factors such
as literacy, nationalism, and cultural and ethnic
identity. It results in the selection and fixing of a
uniform norm of usage, which is promoted in
dictionaries, grammars, and teaching. A standard
language is a variety that has been deliberately
codified so that it varies minimally in linguistic form
but is maximally elaborated in function.

Chambers and Trudgill (1998) distinguish between
autonomous and heteronomous speech varieties as
alternative labels to language and dialect. The Dutch
dialects are dependent on or heteronomous with
respect to standard Dutch, German dialects with
standard German. This means that speakers of
German are taught German in school. They look to
standard German as a reference point. The term
'language' is employed for a variety that is autono-
mous together with all those varieties with which it is
heteronomous.

Because heteronomy and autonomy reflect politi-
cal and cultural rather than purely linguistic factors,
they can change. Often through political develop-
ments formerly heteronomous varieties can achieve
autonomy, as in the case of Afrikaans in South
Africa, which was standardized in the 1920s and
recognized as a language and not a dialect of Dutch.
Conversely, autonomous varieties may lose their
autonomy, as Scots did when it ceased to function
as the language of the Scottish court after the Union
of Crowns in 1603.

3. Differences between Dialects

Some linguists make a further distinction between
accent and dialect. An accent consists of a way of
pronouncing a variety (see Accent). A dialect,
however, varies from other dialects of the same
language simultaneously on at least three levels of
organization: pronunciation, grammar or syntax,
and vocabulary. Thus, educated speakers of Amer-
ican English and British English can be regarded as
using dialects of the same language because differ-
ences of these three kinds exist between them. In
practice, however, speakers of the two varieties share
a common grammar and differ from each other more
in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation. Some
examples of these differences are illustrated in
Table 1.

4. Dialect Geography

The beginnings of traditional dialect geography
are found in the work of Georg Wenker who
prepared 40 sentences designed to yield information
on dialect differences in German, e.g., Im Winter
fliegen die trocknen Blatter herum 'In the winter the

Table 1. Some differences between American and British English

American

Pronunciation

Grammar;
Syntax
Vocabulary

British

/<:t/ (RP; see Accent)

(rhymes with met)
Jane had got used to it.
(pp of get)
Sam took the lift rather
than the stairs.

311

Language Variation and Change: Dialects and Social Groups

Figure 1. Dialect map for the names given to 'horse' in
Germany.

dry leaves fly around' (see Wenker, Georg). From
1876 onwards he sent these out to schoolteachers in
numerous localities. The teachers were asked to
transcribe the sentences using the speech character-
istics of the area. The material was then mapped and
the characteristic features of dialects were plotted by
the geographic location of their occurrence. The
linguistic boundaries between varieties are called

'isoglosses.'

Major dialect boundaries are often characterized
by a bundle of isoglosses. Figure 1 shows one of the
maps produced by this type of investigation. It
displays the names given to 'horse' in Germany. The
main terms used are Pferd (which has become
standard High German), Gaul, and Ross. Hengst is
also used in the northwest and Hest, in the north.
Most dialect investigations presented their results in
linguistic atlases which provided a geographical
representation of linguistic facts. Because such maps
were difficult and expensive to produce, many of the
results of dialect investigations took decades to
publish, and some such as Wenker's never appeared
in published form.
Wenker's methods had some other disadvantages,
a major one being the idiosyncrasies in the transcrib-
ing procedures used by the schoolteachers. His
sentences were also designed to elicit mainly phono-
logical (and lexical) rather than syntactic or mor-
phological variation. The Germans, however, remain
a major influence on dialectology, especially in the
English-speaking world. Much of the early work on
Scottish dialects was done by Germans and most
surveys owe much to the methodology of the
Germans.

In France, Jules Gillieron (see Gillieron, Jules)
drew on the work of Wenker and trained one
fieldworker, Edmont, to collect the material for the
French linguistic atlas which was published in

entirety in 1910. Edmont cycled to 639 locations in
France, where he personally gathered material by

direct questioning.

The next major dialectological investigation took
place in the United States, where the methods of
Wenker, Gillieron, and Jaberg and Jud (1928-40)
were adapted (see Jaberg, Karl}. Hans Kurath (see
Kurath, Hans) attempted to overcome some of the
shortcomings in earlier European work by paying
more attention to the selection and training of
fieldworkers, as well as the selection of informants
and localities, and the preparation of a questionnaire.
The first large-scale dialect study in the United
States produced the Linguistic Atlas of New England
(referred to by the acronym LANE), a survey of 213
rural and urban communities. Subsequent atlases
such as PEAS (Pronunciation of English in the
Atlantic States), LAGS (Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf
States), LAUM (Linguistic Atlas of the Upper Mid-
west) dealt with other regions such as the Atlantic
States. Large-scale dialect geography began in
England slightly later with Orton's survey of 300
small villages in England and the Isle of Man.

5. Dialect Patterns

The availability of the American and English atlases
allowed dialect patterns in the United States and
Britain to be compared. American isoglosses rarely
terminate abruptly, which indicates a basic difference
between the structure of dialect differentiation in the
two countries. The American population has always
been more mobile both socially and geographically so
that the conditions for the development and main-
tenance of local dialects were never met to the same
extent in the United States as they were in Europe.
Nevertheless, the findings of American dialectol-
ogy dispelled the myth that there was a general
American speech. Instead there were a number of
speech areas, each of which was divided into a
number of smaller subareas. Each major region
constituted a unity and had its own regional standard
of pronunciation. In England, however, the most
local dialects were associated with the groups at the
lower end of the social hierarchy, while those at the
top spoke RP (Received Pronunciation), which
showed no trace of regionalisms. In the eastern
United States three major dialects were identified:
North (including New England and the Hudson
Valley); Midland (Pennsylvania and the Alleghenies);
and South (Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Piedmont, and
the Carolinas). Each major area is enclosed by a large
number of isoglosses representing differences in lexis,
grammar and phonology (see Fig. 2).
It also became possible to trace the transference of
patterns from Britain to the United States. Before
Kurath's work, the prevailing opinion was that
American English was essentially Southern Standard
English of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

312

Dialect and Dialectology

The North

1 Northeastern New England
2 Southeastern New England
3 Southwestern New England
4 Upstate New York and W. Vermont
5 The Hudson Valley
6 Metropolitan New York

The Midland
7 The Delaware Valley (Philadelphia area)
8 The Susquehanna Valley
9 The Upper Potomac and Shenandoah valleys
10 The Upper Ohio Valley (Pittsburgh area)
11 Northern West Virginia
12 Southern West Virginia
13 Western North and South Carolina

The South

14 Delamarvia (Eastern shore of Maryland
and Virginia, and Southern Delaware)
15 The Virginia Piedmont
16 Northeastern North Carolina (Albermarle Sound
and Neuse Valley)
17 Cape Fear and Peedee valleys
18 South Carolina

Figure 2. Speech areas of the Atlantic states (Kurath and McDavid 1961: map 2).

as modified locally. Kurath, however, demonstrated
that most of the dialect differences in the United
States have their basis partly in regional varieties of
British English which earlier settlers brought with
them. In Britain, for instance, the words brook, burn,
and beck show broad regional distribution. Brook is
dominant throughout the Midlands and into the

south; beck is found in the area of former Danish
settlement, and burn (from Scots) extends from
Scotland into the border counties of northern
England. Brook was transported across the ocean
and, although it had strong regional ties in England,
it was the form accepted as standard. Its rival
regional variants were left behind and two new

313

Language Variation and Change: Dialects and Social Groups

regional forms developed in the United States, run
(found in the Midland dialect) and branch (South-
ern). The form brook is northern. Thus, an item
showing a broad regional pattern in England became
narrowly local in the United States.
There is linguistic evidence for a historical
connection between American speech of the
north and west and that of northern England, and
to some extent that of the American south and
the pronunciation of southern England. These
linguistic similarities are well supported by the
history of American colonization, patterns of west-
ward movement, and later immigration. This is
illustrated in the distribution for postvocalic /r/, as
in cart, barn, etc.
In Britain the distribution of postvocalic /r/ based
on Orton's (1962) Survey of English Dialects shows
that nonrhotic dialects were the result of an historical
innovation which began somewhere in the east or
center of England before spreading northwards.
Before Irish immigration to the United States, the
population of eastern New England came from the
southeastern counties of England, where varieties
closest to RP are spoken. RP lacks postvocalic /r/.
Western New England, on the other hand, had a
large number of Scots-Irish immigrants, whose
dialects had postvocalic /r/. The Virginia tidewater
region and the coastal south were also settled largely
by the Scots-Irish. Thus, nonrhotic speech (i.e.,
without postvocalic /r/) was typical of coastal areas
and rhotic speech of inland areas. Hence there are
clusters of nonrhotic speech around the major ports
of Boston, New York, and Charlestown. This was
true not only for reasons of settlement pattern, but
for cultural reasons. The coastal areas which had
nonrhotic speech kept it because they were in touch
with English prestige patterns of speaking. The
population of the Mid-Atlantic states was mixed.
Philadelphia was an exception to the port pattern of
nonrhotic speech because of Quaker settlement. The
Quakers attracted immigrants from all parts of
Britain and the rest of Europe. They maintained less
trade with Britain and sent fewer children back to
English universities. Since World War II, rhotic
speech has become more prestigious in the United
States.

6. Dialects and Sound Change

Since its beginnings in the nineteenth century
dialectology has contributed both theory and meth-
ods to linguistics. The early work done in Germany
and France provided a basis for interpreting the
linguistic significance of the patterning of isoglosses.
Most importantly, however, it seriously challenged
prevailing views of sound change. Ironically, early
studies of dialects had set out to support the
neogrammarian hypothesis that sound change took
place according to sound laws that admitted no

exceptions. In the case of the second Germanic sound
shift, an important test case, neogrammarian princi-
ples would predict that all late Proto-Germanic
instances of /k/ would become /x/ all over the High
German territory.
It was Georg Wenker, who showed that the second
Germanic sound shift had exceptions. This can be
seen in the set of isoglosses in Fig. 3, which separates
Low from High German. The isoglosses run from
east to west across Germany (slightly north of Berlin)
and the Netherlands. The features comprising the
isoglosses include the pronunciation of final con-
sonants such as /p/, /t/, and /k/ in words such as dorp/
dorf ('village'), dat/das ('that,' 'the'), and ik/ich (T).
The first member of each of these pairs is the Low
German variant, as found in modern standard
Dutch; the second is the High German variant, as
found in modern standard German. The isoglosses
for machen cross the Rhein near Benrath, slightly
south of the point where the isogloss for ich crosses
the Rhein at Urdingen. This is one of the most
important dialect boundaries in German, the Ben-
rath-Urdingen line, which divides Low from High
German. As one moves eastward, the isoglosses for
the two words and also for dat/das, dorp/dorf, etc.,
are the same. The point at which the isoglosses meet
the Rhine is marked by a fanning out of the
isoglosses. For this reason the isogloss has been
called the Rhenish fan. In villages along this area
speakers may have some Low German features and
some High German features, for example, both dat
and dorf.

In practice, most changes are not completely
regular because all innovations diffuse through time
and space at different rates. In fact, many incon-
sistencies such as these were found, which illustrated
the complexity of dialect differentiation and the need
to invoke explanations from external historical
factors.

The explanation for the pattern of variation found
in the Rhenish fan comes from cultural history. The
Benrath line corresponds to the extent of influence of
the city of Cologne from the thirteenth century, and
the Urdingen line to its influence from the sixteenth
century. The forms for machen were fixed at an
earlier date than those for ich. The differences in the
isoglosses can be accounted for by assuming that a
sound change had taken place in southern Germany
and spread northward. The extent of spread of this
innovation was determined by both geographical and
social factors. Among the latter was the social
prestige of the urban speakers who used the new
forms.

Such areas of prestige form focal points
which transmit innovations into the surround-
ing hinterland. At the limits or peripheries of such
centers of diffusion we find transition areas which
typically show characteristics of two neighboring

314

Dialect and Dialectology

ich
machen
dorf
OSTMITTELDEUTSCH das

appel
(p)fund

••.

ich maken/machen ~\
dorp dat appel
pund

" MITTEL

ich machen don7

*..

,

dat appel pund •. DEUTSCH^OBERDEUTSCH

*•»" ^r

• •

• •• • • *.

"*

*

ich machen dorf
das
appel
pund

ich

machen

dorf

das
apfel
pfund

Figure 3. Distribution of isoglosses in Germany and the Netherlands.

focal areas. Beyond these are relic areas which are
removed from the effect of expanding isoglosses.
Relic areas are generally found in places that are not
so easily accessible. Prestige innovations and settle-
ment patterns can often be traced by examining
isoglosses and place names. Linguistic innovations
often hop from one urban center to another
(compare the American port cities pattern of rhotic
speech) and only later spread out to rural areas in
between.

The Rhenish fan is an important isogloss not just
in dialectology, but also for the questions it raised
about change for historical linguistics more generally.
Table 2, which is a schematized description of the
isogloss bundle, shows a step-like patterning of the
isoglosses between north and south German in
geographical space. This model suggests that the
new pronunciations gained in frequency while both
shifted and unshifted forms coexisted. The numbers 1
to 7 can be thought of as different dialects. Stage 1
represents a dialect which has undergone no change
and stage 7 shows the completed change. Dialects 2
through 6 show intermediate stages in the shift. For

all practical purposes, the beginning and end stages
show that the net effect of the change is as if it
had applied uniformly and simultaneously to all
dialects.

Table 2 gives a picture of the transition phase and
the line drawn through it indicates the trajectory of
the change as it spreads from dialect to dialect and
from one lexical item to another. In the 1970s
theoretical discussions of this pattern of change
referred to it as 'lexical diffusion' (see Chen and
Wang 1975). On the basis of evidence from patterns
such as these, Gillieron proposed, instead of regular
sound change that chaque mot a son histoire ('Each
word has its own history').
Late twentieth-century work on dialect variation
has attempted to formalize this view of change which
assumes that innovations spread in waves. Models
proposed by Bailey (1973) and others predict that a
change moves through the grammar (in the case of
the Germanic sound shift, a rule which changes /p/ to
/f/, etc.), affecting one environment in one (iso) lect at
a time. Bailey has backformed the term 'lect' from
'dialect' as a more neutral term for a clustering of

315

Language Variation and Change: Dialects and Social Groups

Table 2. Implicational scale of isoglosses between Low and High German consonant shift /p t k/ -» /(p)f s x/.

Dialects

Low

German

Middle

German

High German

Lexical

items

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

ich

ik

ich

ich

ich

ich

ich

ich

machen

maken

maken

machen I

machen

machen

machen

machen

dorf

dorp

dorp

dorp

dorf

dorf

dorf

dorf

das

dat

dat

dat

dat

das

das

das

apfel

appel

appel

appel

appel

appel

apfel

apfel

pfund

pund

pund

pund

pund

pund

pund

pfund

Table 3. Implicational scale of isoglosses between Low and High German consonant shift /p t k/
(+) = environments with a rule; ( — ) = environments without a rule.

Dialects

Low

German

Middle

German

High German

Lexical
items

1.

f 2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

ich

dorf

Das

apfel

/(p)fsx/.

pfund

linguistic features. Many linguists now prefer the
term 'variety' or 'lect' to avoid the sometimes
pejorative connotations of the term 'dialect'.
Table 3 shows an implicational scale for the sound
shift in which lects and lexical items are implication-
ally ordered. Environments either have a rule (+) or
they don't ( —), while others are variable, i.e., in the
process of transition from plus to minus. Since
isolects are located in both space and time in such a
model, they participate either earlier or later in an
incipient rule change at any given point in the
spatiotemporal continuum. It is possible to incorpo-
rate many lects into a polylectal or panlectal
grammar, which would consist of all possible sets
of rules for an arbitrarily limited area in space and
time. Bailey and others maintain that such models
are also psychologically real because speakers have
polylectal competence rather than just competence in
their own lect.

Linguists have also made predictions about
the direction and rate of rule spread based on
considerations such as markedness. Bailey claims
that the farther a rule travels from its origin, the
fewer will be the environments above it on
an implicational scale. Change begins in the
most heavily weighted environment and works its
way through the grammar by spreading through

successively less heavily weighted environments.
This pattern of spread has the consequence that
rules generalize in time, but seem to become less
general in space because the temporally earlier
changes move farther than the later ones. Only
linguistic factors count in the Baileyan model
towards an explanation of variation. Bailey claims
that, since grammars are ongoing entities in time,
time alone accounts not only for spatial patterns of
variation, but for age, social class, and stylistic
patterns of variation.

7. Theoretical Underpinnings

A dialect continuum can be social rather than
geographical. Implicational scales and polylectal
grammars have also been used to model post-Creole
continua. A good example is found in Jamaica, where
at one time those at the top of the social scale, the
British, spoke English, while those at the bottom
spoke Jamaican Creole. Over time the gap between
the two has been filled by a range of varieties that are
either more like the Creole or more like English.
Most speakers use several varieties that span a range
on this post-Creole continuum and shift among them
according to context or addressee. Any division of
the Jamaican social dialect continuum into English
versus Jamaican Creole would be linguistically as

316

Dialect and Dialectology

arbitrary as dividing the Germanic dialect continuum
into Dutch and German. There is no social, political,
or geographical reason for saying that English begins
at one particular point and Jamaican Creole at
another.

Other attempts to provide dialectology with
theoretical underpinnings can be found in Weinreich
(1968), who proposed a structuralist dialectology (see
Weinreich, Uriel). Most of the differences studied by
dialectologists are lexical, and concern the different
names people in different areas have for things. Thus,
in the north of England the term stee refers to the
same item which ladder refers to in the south of
England. Such cases are dealing with the mapping of
different names onto the same referent. The item
itself serves as a reference point. The maps produced
from such studies are known as 'onomasiological'
maps. American dialect geography has dealt exclu-
sively with onomasiology. The Survey of English
dialects is also largely concerned with differences in
naming practices. However, the words collected from
such an investigation will not necessarily be etymo-
logically connected, e.g., spade, shovel and spit, or
stee and ladder.
It is possible to start from names and to look at
how their meanings vary. In this case the point of
reference is the word itself which may have more than
one meaning. Thus, in Texas hydrant refers to an
outdoor 'faucet' or 'tap,' while fire plug refers to what
in most other areas of the United States is known as a
(fire) hydrant. Maps showing distributions of mean-
ings are called semasiological. Figure 4 is a semasio-
logical map depicting the meaning of shtul in East
European Yiddish. There are two major dialect
areas, A, where shtul means 'chair' and B, where it
means 'easychair.' Each semasiological map then
gives rise to as many onomasiological maps as the
number of dialect areas it contains and vice versa,
i.e., one has to chart the terms for 'easychair' in
dialect A and for 'chair' in dialect B. This can be seen
in Fig. 5. In dialect A benkl is the term used to refer
to a 'little bench,' while in dialect B it means a plain
'seat.' In dialect A the borrowed term/ote/ is used to
mean 'easychair.'
It is not sufficient to say that shtul in dialect A of
Yiddish is the same as in dialect B, if in A it is part of
a three-way opposition in meaning but only a two-
way one in B—similarly for phonology. As in
Bailey's polylectal grammar, this approach gave
dialectology a basis for the study of dialects with
reference to internal linguistic patterning. A diasys-
tem was constructed without consideration of geo-
graphical, or cultural factors. It was primarily a
linguistic method of analysis.
An example can be taken from the Linguistic
Survey of Scotland, which was one of the first dialect
investigations to be influenced by Weinreich's ideas
about structural dialectology. It also drew on the

'chair'

Figure 4. A semasiological map of the meaning of shtul in
East European Yiddish (Weinreich 1968: 318).

shtul

benkl

.

'little bench'

'chair'

fotel

'easychair'

shtul

'plain seat' 'easychair'

Figure 5. An onomasiological map of the terms in Fig. 4
(Weinreich 1968: 318).

polysystemic approach of Firth (see Firth, J. R.),
which viewed language or parts of language as
systems. The Linguistic Survey of Scotland examined
the distribution of vowel contrasts in eleven different
environments or subsystems based primarily on place
of articulation, e.g., before /r/, before /t/, etc.
Researchers identified a basic vowel diasystem
consisting of eight units whose phonetic realization
and distribution in lexical items varied from dialect to
dialect. Figure 6 shows this system, where E, Y, and
A refer to additions which may occur at the points
indicated. The unit E may contrast with the front
series in terms of length or quality or both, while Y
may contrast with /[/ and the front vowels in
rounding. Two modifications may take place in the
low, back area: A] represents a vowel which may
contrast with /a/ by being further back or rounded or
both; A2 refers to a rounded vowel between A and
/o/. Systems are classified in two ways, in terms of
number of units, i.e., inventory; and in terms of the
internal arrangement of contrast in the system.
The advantage of this approach is that it reveals
phonological similarity between dialects which might

317

Language Variation and Change: Dialects and Social Groups

be otherwise overlooked since comparison at the
phonetic level tends to emphasize differences. This
method can also be used to generate testable
hypotheses about the types of systems likely to be
found. The basic system plus various additions yields
12 theoretical possibilities, two of which have not
been discovered in investigations so far, i.e., the basic
system plus E and the basic system plus E and Y.
Figure 7 shows how the various vowel systems are
distributed geographically. The maximal 12-vowel
system occurs in three widely separated areas: Shet-
land; south Kincardineshire, north Angus, east
Perthshire; and the extreme southwest. This similar-
ity may reflect the historical fact that many of the
Scots who settled Shetland came from the metropo-
litan area of Fife and the Lothians. Although the 12-
vowel system is no longer found in the latter area, it

u

o

A

A or A i.

Figure 6. Basic Scots dialect vowel system (from Catford
1958: 111-12).

still occurs along the northern periphery. This
suggests that the 12-vowel system is a survival, and
that sixteenth-century Scots may have had such a
system. Its occurrence in Galloway also supports this
hypothesis since Gaelic was replaced there at around
the same time as Norn (a variety of Norwegian) was
in Shetland.

The structuralist model provided a basis for a
generative interpretation of dialect variation (see, for
example, Newton 1972). If a diaphonemic inventory
is a composite of all the individual inventories of
dialects which comprise a language, then it is possible
to relate all dialects directly to a single underlying
diaphonemic system on the basis of which dialects
may be compared as to the number, scope, order, and
form of rules needed to derive their distinctive
characteristics.

8. Envoi

Some linguists have been critical of dialectology
because it is biased towards rural speech of elderly
informants and thus does not provide any knowledge
of how the majority of people residing in urban areas
speak. Dialect surveys have also for the most part
relied on individuals, generally men, as the source of
data for a particular area (see, however, Kurath

SHETLAND

rj= Basic (8V system)
E = A

} (9V system)

H":

jj=c«

JH=AY J (10V system)

B=AA }

B-EAY}(11VSyStem)
•=EAAY (12V system)

a - * 3

w^-a

Figure 7. Some Scots dialect vowel systems, classified in terms of the internal arrangement of the system.

318

Dialect Humor

1939). Traditional dialectology was often seen as a
rescue operation to record traditional forms of
speech before they died out. Dialects are not in
principle always more archaic nor is there any
evidence to suggest that dialect speakers are progres-
sively adopting more standard forms of speech.
Although dialects do often preserve forms which
were standard at a previous stage and have since been
superseded, in some cases they innovate in different
directions from the standard. Dialect surveys have
been started in new areas such as Australia (Bryant
1991) and the more general study of language
varieties has taken a central place in modern
linguistics. The high point of twentieth-century
dialectology is the Atlas of North American English,
combining computer generated maps with modern
field methods (Labov, Ash, and Bober, in press; see

The Atlas of North American English: Methods and
Findings).

See also: Language; Maps: Dialect and Language;
Areal Linguistics; The Atlas of North American
English: Methods and Findings.

Bibliography

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Midwest, 3 Vols. University of Minnesota Press, Min-
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Bach A 1950 Deutsche Mundartforschung. Carl Winter
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Bailey C-J 1973 Variation and Linguistic Theory. Center for
Applied Linguistics, Washington, DC

Bryant P 1991 A survey of regional usage in the lexicon of
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Catford J C 1958 Vowel systems of Scots. Transactions of
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Chambers J K, Trudgill P 1998 Dialectology, 2nd edn.
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Davis L M 1983 English Dialectology: An Introduction.
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Kurath H, McDavid R 1961 The Pronunciation of English in
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Arbor, MI
Labov W, Ash S, Boberg C in press Atlas of North American
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ton de Gruyter, Berlin
Mather J Y, Speitel H H 1975-77 The Linguistic Atlas of
Scotland, Vols. I and 2. Croom Helm, London
Mclntosh A 1952 An Introduction to a Survey of Scottish
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Mitzka W 1952 Handbuch zum deutschen Sprachatlas.
Marburg, Germany
Newton B 1972 The Generative Interpretation of Dialect.
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