An Overview of Dialects in a Nutshell

Dialects originated at a time when most people spent their whole lives living and working within the same village or parish. Dialects will vary by region, even town or village and by social groups. They typically differ in terms of the pitch in accent, with the use of the verbs and adjectives, particle usage, overall vocabulary and in some cases pronunciation. However they differ they are inherently intelligible to each others’ speakers.

Dialect variety, or language disparity, reflects the fact that languages change over time and that people who live in the same area or maintain the same social distinctiveness share language norms; in other words, they speak the same dialect.

Dialects are language varieties differing in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar from each other and from the standard mother language which itself is a dialect descended from another older language. Hollywood will often use dialects in movies to provide comic relief or to produce stereotypes: northern dialects can be connected to greedy merchants; a Roman accent is associated with arrogant and simple street toughs; Neapolitan could remind one of a lack of honesty, cunning slackers, and, even in Italy, Sicilian is often unfortunately associated with the mafia. Dialects of course eventually pass into each other so that a combination of dialects occurs where one dialect merges into another.

    Languages are difficult to learn and few people gain the knowledge to speak and read more than a handful of the languages that exist. In fact a single student could spend a lifetime studying a specific language along with its dialects and not complete the task. As an example the languages of Asia are richly diverse and numerous. Some linguists also contend that Japanese contains elements of Southeast Asian languages.

    Many people on the continent of Asia can source their mother tongue to one of three great language ancestries; Altaic which is made up of Turkic, Mongolian, and Manchu-Tungus originating from the Tungusic sublanguages, Sino-Tibetan which consists of the Chinese and Tibeto-Burman languages, and Indo-European formed from Indo-Aryan, Iranian, and also Slavic. Quite a mix and illustrates a skeletal version of the history of Asia and judging on purely a linguistic argument, all languages — and all dialects — have equal worth.

    Throughout history there is evidence of governments trying to implement only one language on its population with mixed results. Many languages have gone entirely into oblivion, some are reduced to simple dialects of the imposed version and a mix of dialects have derived a new language altogether

    From a translating perspective CAT tools are highly recommended to manage the use of dialects. An adequate translation tool will keep a record of the meta data as well as dialect schemes which makes for easier querying and referencing.

    Also for business localization these tools will assist in XML/ document translation to different dialects depending on their destination company location. Is it that far fetched or far off for that matter where businesses will be able to communicate via a global dialect or global second language maintained right along side our many national and regional languages? Perhaps in another 500 years!