post thumbnail

Language is a dialect with an army and a navy…

This colourful expression was reportedly heard by the Yiddish linguist Max Weinrich, from a member of the audience at one of his lectures. It draws attention to the often political factors which decide whether a dialect can be classed as a language. In fact, even though dialects are generally viewed as sub-languages, belonging to a larger language family, dialects and languages can be defined in such similar ways that the boundaries between them are not always clear. Take the two following definitions, for example:

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

Language: a system of communication used by a particular country or community

The two definitions are basically paraphrased versions of one another, except “a particular form of a language” appearing in the definition of ‘dialect.’ This seems to uphold the view that dialects are variations on a main language. There are many regions in which different groups of people all speak a common dialect, even though they have their own separate languages. But who decides which are dialects and which are languages? For example, why is it that one language is classed as a language, and another is classed a dialect? Some dialects have hundreds of thousands of speakers, whereas some languages have less than one thousand.

Deciding what to class as a dialect is a major headache – some people, including many linguists, even believe that British regional accents count as dialects. I can see why – some regional accents are barely mutually intelligible. It’s not just that the accent differs – each region often has their own words for things (for example the Scottish ‘neeps,’ which to anyone further south would be ‘swede’). I’d love to be able to say that these are just superficial differences, and that the grammatical structures beneath them were the same (and I fully intended to, but the more I think about it, the less I believe it). But some regions even seem to have their own grammatical preferences. Take the Geordie habit of using ‘us’ in place of ‘me.’ This would confuse most English speakers, and each regional accent/dialect has its own peculiarities. One that never fails to confuse English people is the Welsh phrase “where to are you?” and its redundant preposition.

So, what do you think? Is this something that’s ever crossed your mind?


disney-institute-lingua-translations 178 × 75
amazon-lingua-translations 120 × 28
procter-gamble - Lingua Translations 114 × 92
london-partners-lingua-translations 154 × 101
Swansea City | Lingua Translations 154 x 146
Man City | Lingua Translations 154 × 154
FC_Barcelona_(crest) 154 × 156
Star_Wars_Logo.svg_-1 1280 × 773
FiFA | lingua Translations 154 × 86
The-Score 232x120
M & S 271 × 186
Walmart-Lingua Translations 232 × 65
Welsh Government & Lingua Translations 400 × 400
Costco & Lingua Translations 232 × 155


TUI-Group Testimonial 205 × 46 EN

Ian Chapman – Director of Holiday Experience –

“Lingua Translations provides instant multi-lingual options for TUI’s 24/7 Holidayline, so 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year TUI’s customers are connected to an interpreter instantaneously. This service is designed to help holidaymakers who find themselves in difficulty and require non-English language assistance.

The service offered by Lingua Translations provides us with instant translation for every destination we travel to, and has proved invaluable.”

Roland Garros 2018- Useful Vocab!

The French open 2018 Roland Garros is almost here!     On the 21st May, some of the best will take to the clay courts to compete for the French Grand Slam title. Now, when it comes to clay, we’re always going to think it will be Rafael Nadal, but this year, who knows! Could …

Read More

Signing up a birth

Signing up a birth You might’ve seen my blog a few weeks ago about an Iranian couple who required an interpreter for the birth of their child. I’m sure anyone who has given birth or been a birth partner will say it is a scary and traumatic experience. You are hoping that everything runs as …

Read More
Get a quote today