Dialect Usage and Language Development

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  • Everyone who speaks a language speaks a dialect of that language, defined generally as a variety associated with a specific region or social group and identified by consistent patterns of phonology, lexicon, and grammar. Certain dialects, such as broadcast English—or academic English in the school setting—are considered to be the standard against which other dialects are judged. However, standard is a social judgment, not a linguistic one. There is no linguistic superiority of one dialect over another, but in practice, the dialect associated with mainstream culture in a country has broad institutional support in mass media, education, and legal and political discourse, which facilitates its acquisition. The same institutions often stigmatize the nonmainstream dialect and label its speakers poor language learners. In contexts that do ...

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