Dialect vs Vernacular

topic posted Tue, November 8, 2005 - 4:08 PM by  klg
Could someone explain the technical difference between dialects and vernaculars? I'm too long out of school to remember.



posted by:
offline klg
  • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

    Sat, November 12, 2005 - 11:46 PM
    Dialects [of a same language] are related - the vernacular in a place need not be related to its literary/ecclesiastical/ceremonial language. The obvious example might be in Europe, where Latin had been the lingua franca of the educated elite, and the language of the Church. The Reformation brought forth a switch to the vernacular [German or French or Spanish, etc.].

    "Vernacular" can also be used to describe dialects that are spoken most commonly - even when Latin was spoken by the masses, it was thus distinguished from literary Latin.
    • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

      Mon, November 14, 2005 - 9:21 AM
      This shouldn't be read as doubting your definition, but just a requet for clarity.

      BEV is a vernacular of English... how do the terms relate, in this particular cause, so it's not just a dialect?
    • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

      Mon, November 14, 2005 - 9:22 AM
      Richard makes very good points. My first reaction was that, to linguists, "everything is a dialect" -- varieties of a given language which are either stigmatized or prestigious, so dialects are huge and pretty much represent what non-linguists think of a "languages". But the use of "vernacular" either as a common form or professional "shop talk" is very useful and accurate.
      • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

        Mon, November 14, 2005 - 9:49 PM
        Actually Craig you have it exactly opposite, what most is commonly thought of as a dialect is now considered a *language* to linguists.

        American English versus Australian English is a comparison of two separate languages by *formal linguistic standard*. I believe it was Shaw that said;

        "England and America are two countries divided by a common language."

        That was then and this is now.


        1a) A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists: Cockney is a dialect of English.
        1b) A variety of language that with other varieties constitutes a single language of which no single variety is standard: the dialects of Ancient Greek.
        2) The language peculiar to the members of a group, especially in an occupation; jargon: the dialect of science.
        3) The manner or style of expressing oneself in language or the arts.
        4) A language considered as part of a larger family of languages or a linguistic branch. Not in scientific use: Spanish and French are Romance dialects.


        Notice that the definition of *dialect* is given as a category (class or subset) of language in most of the applications. Today linguists tend to see a dialect as a variety of a language as described in numbers 1a & 1b.

        The common use that you attribute to dialect as in number 2 is more specifically referred to as a *register* by linguists.

        9) A variety of language used in a specific social setting: speaking in an informal register; writing in a scientific register.

        The definition of what constitutes a *language* in modern linguistics is both much broader and more specific. The reason that Southern English is a dialect of the same language as *Yankee* English is that they are both dialects, which are dependent on the *same* dictionary and rules of grammar.

        For this same reason British, American and Australian English are now considered separate languages; they all possess their own separate formal lexicons and distinct grammars albeit that they are derived of similar origin and are very similar in overall structure.


        1a) Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.
        1b) Such a system including its rules for combining its components, such as words.
        1c) Such a system as used by a nation, people, or other distinct community; often contrasted with dialect.

        2a) A system of signs, symbols, gestures, or rules used in communicating: the language of algebra.
        2b) Computer Science A system of symbols and rules used for communication with or between computers.
        3) Body language; kinesics.
        4) The special vocabulary and usages of a scientific, professional, or other group: "his total mastery of screen language camera placement, editing and his handling of actors" (Jack Kroll).
        5) A characteristic style of speech or writing: Shakespearean language.
        6) A particular manner of expression: profane language; persuasive language.
        7) The manner or means of communication between living creatures other than humans: the language of dolphins.
        8) Verbal communication as a subject of study.
        9) The wording of a legal document or statute as distinct from the spirit.

        Please note that definition number 1c addresses the specific intent of this topic and I suspect the original question. It is 1c that reflects the modern linguistic definition of *language*.

        Now I got into that because I wanted to distinguish the difference between a register that reflected the specific lexicon of a subgroup like lawyers or doctors from another aspect of language; formal and informal usage. A dialect is not the same as vernacular.

        A vernacular is like street lingo, slang. Cockney is a dialect but *dockworkers* might speak a vernacular that is specific to them although it is based on a Cockney dialect of the British English language.

        A Vernacular is filled with slang, jargon or acronymns. A vernacular is probably one of the most fluid aspects of language next to pidginization and creolization. It is also representative of formal and informal usage. BTW, formal usage is also a vernacular but as a profession must absorb new ideas along with them come new words.

        The common usage of vernacular to refer to an (#3) "idiom of a particular trade or profession" is what linguists define as a *register*. To use their vernacular ;~)

        1) The standard native language of a country or locality.

        2a) The everyday language spoken by a people as distinguished from the literary language. See Synonyms at dialect.
        2b) A variety of such everyday language specific to a social group or region: the vernaculars of New York City.
        3) The idiom of a particular trade or profession: in the legal vernacular.
        4) An idiomatic word, phrase, or expression.
        5) The common, nonscientific name of a plant or animal

        Does that help?
        • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

          Tue, November 15, 2005 - 7:13 AM
          "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy."
          [Usually attributed to Max Weinreich pr Antoine Meillet]
          • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

            Tue, November 15, 2005 - 1:21 PM
            Yes, I use this quote in my linguistics presentation to high school teachers. My best example is breakup of Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian from what used to be Serbo-Croatian.

            Hindi and Urdu are a similar case, I suppose.
        • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

          Tue, November 15, 2005 - 9:04 AM
          Exactly the opposite?
          I think I agree with you completely. Do we have our negatives in the wrong place? Yes, I agree that "to linguists" things that are "dialects" to laypeople are "languages" with or without an army.

          Example: If someone were to just say "German", they may believe the existence of an overall encompassing "language", whereupon I would reference a North German "dialect" from Holstein. I agree that linguists may categorize Australian and US English as different languages, but not all linguists do that. I guess my experience is one of elevating the status of dialects and fuzzifying the definition of "language". My main point was that plain folks associate dialects as always non-standard.

          Are not vernaculars then always subsets of dialects? I think they must be.

          • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

            Tue, November 15, 2005 - 9:06 AM
            I agree that linguists may categorize Australian and US English as different languages, but not all linguists do that.
            I'd honest to god be curious to see where any linguist has stated this. could any of you provide me a reference?

            Cause this flyes in the face of what i learned, but maybe things are totally differnt in the last 10 years.
            • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

              Tue, November 15, 2005 - 9:36 AM
              Hey, Kip:

              I guess I learned that saying Tuscan Italian and Sicilian Italian may be thought of, in general, as the "language" Italian by non-linguists, but as dialects have many differences which promote arguments for separation into "languages" recognized by linguists only, probably, maybe.

              Remember when I said "fuzzification"?
              • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

                Tue, November 15, 2005 - 10:37 AM
                I also should emphasize that the original question was for a *technical definition* of the distinction between dialect and vernacular and I weighed into this because it is interesting to me how the *technical definition* has drifted pretty far from the *common* one and how one part of the difficulty had to do with the evolution of the definition of language itself.

                If you note in the dictionary definition of language and dialect they clearly overlap and even when considering just the definition of language there is a difference between the various examples that reflects the distinctions we are discussing.

                This isn't about being right or wrong this time, it is about how fast the rules and concepts of linguistics are changing. What you ague Kip was a conservative standard for years but recently it has been subjected to a transformation based on sociolinguistics to reflect globalization and the profound amount of post WW2 data that is finally getting the full treatment it deserves. Please take note of the extensive amount of recent literature available on this subject.

                The difference between our perspectives reflects how significant these recent changes are and how far from the popular or common understanding they have gone.
        • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

          Tue, November 15, 2005 - 9:04 AM
          American English versus Australian English is a comparison of two separate languages by *formal linguistic standard*.
          Um, no. I fully disagree with this statement. English is defined far more by the structure of the language and the base vocab, than any slang differences, accents, etc.

          If you look at any linguistic site that catigoriezes languages, english is english, and isn't broken down any further into "localities" of english.
          • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

            Tue, November 15, 2005 - 10:24 AM
            Actually it is broken down exactly that way today Kip and the reason is that by today's formal standard of what constitutes a language it is predicated on having its own dictionary to reflect a distinct lexicon and a grammar structure. It is not about slang, dialect or accent, those are differences of vernacular and dialect.

            There are many similarities but in some ways the distinction reflects the same kind of difference as Swedish and Norwegian.

            You are referring to the larger aspect of what defines language as in the etymological root, or origin. For example how French, Latin, Romanian, Portuguese and Spanish are all *Romance* languages.

            For example check out the translator programs in most word processors, OS set ups or even google. You will quickly note that English is defined in a multitude of formats based on various regional language forms.

            The *English Language* has metastasized as it became the Global Second language. It is now many languages of a common origin the local variations being stand alone languages by definition in their formal form. Time will lead to either more homogeneity of form through globalization or more diversity or heterogeneity of form due to regionalization.

            These are basic sociolinguistic concepts.

            The same is now the case with Spanish as various Latin American forms are now elevated to the status of being their own *language*.

            There is good reason to treat Mexican Spanish as distinct from either Castilliano or Peruvian and that is the extent to which Mexican Spanish has absorbed a Nahuatl lexicon and Peruvian has absorb Quechua. BTW Spanish also has dialects as in the difference between Castilliano and Catalan or Barcelona but Mexican Spanish is arguably divided into subgroups of languages AND dialects like Chilango (DF's street lingo) versus Mayan that is very provincial due to its historic isolation and still using the *vosotros* form.

            The same is said of American or Australian English in relation to British or continental French in relation to Caribbean patois.

            >>>Are not vernaculars then always subsets of dialects? I think they must be. <<<

            I would say generally yes except as they reflect *registers* because those may hearken to a more universal standard the way the liturgy reflects classical Latin and medicine or law use it and Greek. These create specific vernaculars that are specific to the profession regardless of the *native language* of the speaker. Think Habeas Corpus.

            I'd honest to god be curious to see where any linguist has stated this. could any of you provide me a reference? <<<

            Ok Kip, my linguistics training is only a bit more recent( 6 years) from my study at the CELE (Centro Enseñaza de Lenguas Extranjeros) at the UNAM in Mexico but the point I am making is central to how sociolinguistics treats the definition of language today.

            Follow the article and links to the citations and authors on the sociolinguistic aspects of Natural Language and Language Awareness. The US is far behind but it s finally catching up.

            "Language is very difficult to put into words"

            English with an an Accent: Standard Language Ideology and Language Attitudes: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination


            In regards to what you were taught:

            Issues and Implications of English Dialects for Teaching English as a Second Language (part 1 of 3)

            >>>As a society, we still harbor language prejudice to a far greater degree than we tolerate other ethnically related bias, at least publicly (Wolfram, 1991). Schools have not developed scientifically based language awareness programs to illuminate language variation and its social meanings. Programs to strengthen the standard English skills that schools require do not consistently point out predictable contrasts between standard and vernacular dialect features, nor do they adequately address the social functions that dialects serve. Because educators contribute powerfully to defining students' school identities, this persistently weak educational response to dialect issues at school must be exposed and corrected. As the well-known Ann Arbor Decision (1979) showed, not taking dialect into account at school violates students' civil rights. Schools can rectify their neglect and ignorance of students' dialects when they must.<<<

            >>> central issue for school language policies and programs is the mutual intelligibility of language varieties. In linguistic study, intelligibility is an important criterion by which languages and dialects are distinguished: Language systems that contrast with each other in some ways but can be mutually understood by their speakers are dialects of a language; systems that contrast and cannot be understood are distinct languages. However, intelligibility is not a fail-safe criterion. Some dialects are hard to understand at first but only take time; others require learning. At schools, U.S. English speakers may have difficulty understanding varieties of World English with which they are less familiar, such as those of West Africa and Southeast Asia, and those World English-speaking students may have trouble understanding teachers and students who speak U.S. English dialects. More familiar nonindigenous dialects, such as the Received Pronunciation (RP) dialect of Britain and the variety of Australian English spoken by educated people, do not present such problems. Beyond familiarity, though, is the matter of social status. Although there is no linguistic reason to prefer one dialect to another, RP is generally regarded as more prestigious than the Englishes of the Caribbean, India, and West Africa. This bias may affect intelligibility judgments. Questions arise as to the role of the speaker's ethnicity or race in judgments about intelligibility and the locus of responsibility for making interaction intelligible. Must all World English speakers learn U.S. English? If not all, then who? What aspects of U.S. English must they learn? What changes are expected of students, and what of teachers? Despite the difficulties surrounding intelligibility as a criterion, it remains a useful notion in considering the changing responsibilities of ESL programs. In the case of English-based creole languages, intelligibility seems more straightforward because creoles are generally agreed to be not fully comprehensible to speakers of English dialects.5 Yet language prejudice persists: Even among creole speakers there is the view that creoles are deficient versions of English. To meet the language performance demands of schools and career, creole speakers need English language instruction that respects their language as a legitimate linguistic system. Instructional programming for these students needs to pay attention to the similarities between the creole and English as well as the differences, and to combat linguistically unwarranted language bias.<<<

            >>>World Englishes
            An impressive body of research into World Englishes has built on work in several linguistic research traditions, including the study of pidgins and creoles (e.g., Winer, 1989). This work offers an increasingly important resource for educators, both because it challenges some sociolinguistic myths,6 such as the privileged status of the native speaker as a source of linguistic knowledge, and because it provides some sociolinguistic understandings and descriptive knowledge of varieties of World Englishes.

            Scholars have represented in several ways the relationships among English varieties. Kachru's (1992) intersecting circles show that English is expanding most rapidly among nonnative speakers. McArthur's (1987) circle of World English echoes the sociolinguistic insight that the varieties of a language are related to each other in terms of where structural variants of a dialect fall along a standardness/nonstandardness range. McArthur posits a "remarkably homogeneous but negotiable 'common core' of World Standard English" (McArthur, 1987, p. 11), a written variety, around which other somewhat heterogeneous standard varieties cluster. In juxtaposition to these standards are other varieties, many of them vernaculars.

            In sum, updating professional development regarding variation in English can appeal to a broad and vibrant research base. At the same time, however, the familiar need to explicitly translate theory into practice has not been addressed with any thoroughness. Forming partnerships among educators and researchers to apply the various strands of research to educational policy and strategy is of the essence.

            Program Development
            Until quite recently, educational programs related to dialect differences have focused on teaching standard U.S. English to students from indigenous vernacular language backgrounds. Earlier views of variable features as errors in "proper" or "correct" English gave way, at least in theory, to the view that these variants were regular features of nonstandard language varieties; and standard English has been seen as constituting a second dialect for vernacular speakers, rather than a replacement. One instructional approach involved contrastive analysis of formal features and emphasized the contrasting domains of use for vernacular and standard dialects (e.g., Feigenbaum, 1970). Despite the numbers of vernacular English speakers in U.S. schools and the enduring public perception that success beyond school requires standard English, these products did not become commercially available.8 Newer programs to teach standard English, such as one now being tested in Los Angeles (Butler, Sata, & Snyder, 1992), have developed their own materials. Devising materials that reflect the local dialect(s) is certainly advisable because social dialects vary regionally, but there seem to be few linguistically accurate materials available.

            A very different approach to dialects involves teaching students about language variation, in contrast to teaching them the standard dialect. One such program, described here, involves sociolinguistic education for all students, including English language learners.

            Language Awareness
            Language awareness arose as a topic of study in England, where educational policy had endorsed the notion that World English speakers, many of them from countries that had been British colonies, ought to learn to speak standard British English and that the way to accomplish that goal was to introduce them to sociolinguistic facts surrounding language variation. British language awareness programs acknowledge the viability of students' own language systems, but they gloss over the matter of language dominance, implying that speaking a standard is politically neutral (Clark, Fairclough, Ivanic, & Martin-Jones, 1990).

            Walt Wolfram and his colleagues have been experimenting with an approach to language awareness that does not link to teaching standard English necessarily, although it provides linguistic knowledge that is useful for learning a second dialect (Wolfram, Detwyler, & Adger, 1992; Wolfram, Schilling-Estes, & Hazen, 1996). Language awareness curricula address the following goals:

            Scientific: Students discover the rule-governed nature of English dialects by examining sets of phonological and syntactic data, developing hypotheses, and testing them against more data. They also gather and analyze data in their own speech communities.
            Sociohistorical: Students learn about historical and social bases for dialect development with particular focus on the dialect of their community.
            Humanistic: Students confront the social attitudes surrounding language variation through a variety of video and audio exercises involving language differences.
            Versions of these curricular materials have been pilot tested in Baltimore City Public Schools with upper elementary and middle school students, and in five different North Carolina communities. Student evaluations report enthusiasm for activities such as role playing a language contact situation in which speakers must innovate a rudimentary pidgin and make generalizations about data sets.

            Language Awareness and Teaching Standard English
            Other language development programs combine sociolinguistic education about languages and dialects as human systems with instruction in standard U.S. English. An exemplary program is the Caribbean Academic Program (CAP) at Evanston Township High School, Illinois, which is designed to teach English to classes including speakers of several Caribbean English-based creoles (in this school, primarily those of Jamaica and Belize) (Fischer, 1992). This is the sociolinguistically complicated case of a creole language with dialects, but because the language is viewed by many, including its speakers, as a deviant form of English, variability may be regarded as evidence of deficiency. The CAP program confronts these language attitudes by providing students with historical and linguistic information to substantiate the claim that these creoles are languages distinct from English though related to it. Through reading and writing Creole, students experience its regularities and discover inter-island dialectal differences in Jamaican Creole as well as regular contrasts among Caribbean creoles. Fischer reports that "students who clearly distinguish English as a separate language from Creole develop the motivation to tackle English language acquisition" (p. 100). In addition to sociolinguistic education, she supports students' sociolinguistic inclinations concerning code switching, teaches English grammar using activities from ESL textbooks, emphasizes written English, uses Caribbean literature, and organizes "Creole Days" during which students perform in Creole.

            Given the society's idealized view that schools should allow only standard U.S. English, it seems remarkable that this program is not challenged in the community. The key to the CAP program, as well as to experimental programs in California that are reviving the dialect reader (Rickford & Rickford, 1995), is parent involvement. The CAP program is carefully explained to parents by teacher and students, and a CAP parent group meets regularly. "Parents are usually supportive when they see that someone at the school is taking a personal interest in their children, and addressing the special needs which their children have" (Fischer, 1992, p. 110).

            Language awareness instruction -- sociolinguistics in the schools -- is relevant to language variation in schools on several fronts. When it underlies standard U.S. English instruction, it addresses two key barriers to learning that dialect: misinformation and motivation. Asking students to learn standard English because it is important for career development indexes a vague future. Showing them how standard English plays a role in their lives currently and how their own dialect contrasts with other systems gives students a knowledge base for developing a second language or dialect. In addition, language awareness instruction can play an important role in exposing dialect prejudice when all students -- not only vernacular speakers -- have the benefit of this knowledge.<<<


            Language and Social Identity

            Sociolinguistic Theory

            Linguistics and Sociolinguistics

            Foundations of Statistical Natural Language Processing
            Christopher D. Manning and Hinrich Schiitze
            (Stanford University and Xerox Palo Alto Research Center)

            Understanding Natural Language

            Language, Contact, Creolization and Genetic Linguistics

            Language and Linguistics

            Languages or dialects?

            The Methods and Purpose of Linguistic Genetic Classification

            Theoretical model for the evolution of the linguistic diversity
            Viviane M. de Oliveira, M. A. F. Gomes†and I. R. Tsang‡
            October 9, 2005

            In this last reference you will note the use of the term *Ancestor Language* by today's more rigorous definition of Language, American, Australian, and even modern British are all derivative of the same Ancestor Language but by definition can be classified not as dialects but distinct languages. As I suggested before language is in flux, (plastic) and not something that is really as fixed as the various academies have treated. The point of trade and globalization versus regionalization is that we are witnessing within a remarkably short period a process which has normally required many generations to evolve in the past.

            I once wrote a paper on this subject:

            "Internet English as the Global Second Language" and the basis of it was an attempt to analyze the dynamics of two very different and perhaps even polar forces, regionalization and globalization with respect to language.

            Internet English is becoming a new language onto itself and it is tending to universalize its form and absorb elements of the various contributory cultures while also contributing to the dissemination of lexicon into the various regional variations of linguistic families.

            Sorry about the overload Kip, but you did ask ;~)
          • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

            Tue, November 15, 2005 - 10:52 AM
            I meant to also include the Wiki site on the list. It provides a very pragmatic explanation that is pretty current.


            Languages are not just sets of symbols. They also contain a grammar, or system of rules, used to manipulate the symbols. While a set of symbols may be used for expression or communication, it is primitive and relatively unexpressive, because there are no clear or regular relationships between the symbols. Because a language also has a grammar, it can manipulate its symbols to express clear and regular relationships between them.<<<

            >>>Language taxonomy
            The classification of natural languages can be performed on the basis of different underlying principles (different closeness notions, respecting different properties and relations between languages); important directions of present classifications are:

            1) paying attention to the historical evolution of languages results in a genetic classification of languages—which is based on genetic relatedness of languages,
            2) paying attention to the internal structure of languages (grammar) results in a typological classification of languages—which is based on similarity of one or more components of the language’s grammar across languages,
            3) and respecting geographical closeness and contacts between language-speaking communities results in areal groupings of languages.
            The different classifications do not match each other and are not expected to, but the correlation between them is an important point for many linguistic research works.

            • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

              Tue, November 15, 2005 - 1:11 PM
              Yes, but this and many of your other artilcles do not suggest that English: British English, american english, canadian english are different *languages* but differnt dialetcs or vaniculers.

              At least that's how i read the sites you give.
              • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

                Tue, November 15, 2005 - 2:26 PM
                Yes, this classification of the various "Englishes" seems bizarre to me, particularly when, according to Lazarus, Catalan is merely a "dialect" of Spanish rather than a separate language with the same roots (in Vulgar Latin). I can readily understand, speak, write and read British, Australian, Canadian, even Carribean versions of English, however most speakers of Castillian Spanish find Catalan completely unintelligible (because Catalan speakers are in a politically dependent position, most of them learn Castillian or French as children and can communicate in these languages).

                Catalan, which has a well-documented history and texts dating back to the end of the 10th century CE, relies on spelling conventions and pronunciations distinctly different than those of Spanish, and a large body of words more closely related to the Gallo-Romance vocabulary than to the Ibero-Romance vocabulary of Spanish. And Catalan itself has two main dialect groups (the Occidental and the Oriental), divided into six dialects and many subdialects.

                Given all this, its history and our current knowledge of the transformation of Vulgar Latin after the fall of the Roman Empire, it's clear that Catalan is, like Spanish, French, Occitan, etc. a derivative of Vulgar Latin and only related to Spanish in the same way as the other languages derived from this source. However, to come back to Kip's question, Australian English is a direct descendant of British English, with a very brief independent history and complete mutual intelligibility-in what way does it qualify as a separate language while the present example of Catalan does not?
                • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

                  Tue, November 15, 2005 - 2:48 PM
                  See, instictivly - from working in the arena - i classify things that are virtually the same, save some minor vocab use differences, and are obviously mutually intelligble, as teh same language. Doing otherwise is as usless as sayign a Lion is not a Cat. There is a reason for language trees. Lions are cats, cats and dogs are carnivores, etc. English is english, in all its forms, english and german are germanic, english, german and French are all one branch of indo-eurpoean, etc. When you start classifyign dialects as different languages, you've destroyed any notion of what a single language is.

                  I work in native american language fields, and i respect that there is a point where you don't know if you have a dialect shift, or a full 'new language', but like pornagraphy, when two speakers are set side by side, attempting to communicate, 'i know it when i see it'. if they aren't able to understand eachother, its not the same language. if they *mostly* can... then its in that grey area.
                • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

                  Tue, November 15, 2005 - 4:22 PM
                  You are correct Marie about the language Catalan. I was referring to the Spanish spoken in the region associated with Catalan speakers. I was trying to emphasize how regional distinctions and contributory aspects like the influence of the Catalan language create a *dialect*.

                  I was not trying to assert that Catalan itself was a dialect of Spanish. The same may be said of Quechua, Maya and Nahuatl in relation to their influence on Spanish but as they contribute whole lexicons and additional rules or conditional grammars they create sufficient distinction that the result can be arguably considered a Natural Language and not a mere dialect.

                  A lot of what is considered dialect is derivative of the legacy of colonialism when today sociolinguists would say ithey are actually distinct language forms.

                  Intelligibility is important but as in the case of Swedish and Norwegian the level of intelligibility is not necessarily bidirectional. They actually share much the same lexicon with profoundly different pronunciation.

                  The point of intelligibility across varieties of World Englishes is that the divergence is very recent historically. happening rapidly and is being overtaken or mitigated by globalization even as regionalization establishes new forms. There is insufficient time for the new form to establish itself in the manner that isolation and cultural success would have in past times.

                  However there are rules of spelling and grammar that are distinctly different between British and American English. They tend to be subtle and not profound but they are considerable. They revolve around spellings, accentuation and things like the use of the definite article.

                  A part of the American revolution was formalized by Webster and it was an intentional act of rebellion to incorporate new world language forms and finalize the separation from the *mother tongue*.
        • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

          Sat, February 11, 2006 - 9:32 AM
          >> Does that help? <<

          Very much so, Lazarus. Thank you for the detailed analysis - and for the list of books in one of your other posts. I've been wanting to review my linguistics, and this will be a great start on updating my knowledge as well. Your posts confirm my memory of the difference between the dialects and vernaculars, and add a great deal to my current knowledge.

          Sorry for the delay in responding. I thought I'd posted a thank you months ago, but I am only now seeing that it apparently didn't actually post.

  • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

    Wed, December 7, 2005 - 3:57 PM
    Sorry if this sounds trite after reading so much of what's been written here but isn't the degree of cross-intelligibility absolute key in defining Language vs. Dialect and isn't that same definition necessarily fuzzy and a bit arbitrary (and HEAVILY politically-laden)

    There is NO difficulty understanding Americans when they speak English (well not the words anyway - chuckle) nor Australians nor South Africans, Canadians, Kiwis etc. There are a few word variations and that to me constitutes dialect difference. To my understanding the Oxford English Dictionary is still the underpinning lexicon of the whole of the English Language, which is from the Germanic group of the Indo-Aryan Language Family.
    The OED, and I believe the Webster, both reference the spellings and terms of the other English "dialects" do they not?
    Anyone reading a book in English is not going to have difficulty figuring out that "organise" and "organize" are the same thing in two dialects nor that (god-help-me-for-even-typing-this) "wanna" and "gonna" are vernacular abbreviations/bastardisations of "want to" and "going to" but they'd never be taught in an American School (Oh please say they wouldn't!) nor would they be written.

    Just because someone publishes a bastardised version of the language including slang/vernacular does not suddenly make it a new language, even in a purely academic linguistic sense.

    Croation is not a separate language to Serbian, no matter how much they try to create differences and new words based on German-influenced compound words. They are fundementally two dialects of the same South Slavic language. As is Bosnian, even with it's Turkish loan-words, and if the Montenegrins finally decide to go it alone, I'd laugh my tits off if they published an Australian English-Montenegrin dictionary!

    Anyways, I digress because I'm curious and interested.

    The key question was around dialect and vernacular. To me, and yes it's been a while since my formal linguistics, a dialect is as described above and can certainly be found in written form and vernacular is a polite way of saying crude slang that is not used in written form.

    "gonna" is not dialect, it's vernacular, you'd never write it in a book unless purposefully trying to depict a particular spoken crudeness in dialogue.

    truck, lorry, ute, van are, to me, dialectic differences.

    Americans may have dropped the "ly" from adverbs in their vernacular recently but they wouldn't publish a paper with that omission.

    And don't even get me started on "whom"...
  • Re: Dialect vs Vernacular

    Tue, February 21, 2006 - 9:48 AM
    I don't think 'Vernacular' can be distinguished from anything else in the U.S., inasmuch as coherent usage is the only law here.

    The U.S. 'Vernacular' would seem to include all U.S. dialects as used coherently.

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