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Dialects and Dialectology

Dialect is a neutral label used by linguists to refer to any variety of a language shared by a group of speakers. Languages are invariably produced through their dialects, and to speak a language is to speak some dialect of that language. In this technical usage, there are no particular social or evaluative connotations to the term; that is, there are no inherently “good” or “bad” dialects. Dialect is simply how linguists refer to any language variety that correlates with a group of speakers within a language.

The particular social factors that correlate with dialect diversity may range from geographic location to complex notions of cultural identity and agency. In this definition, socially favored, or “standard,” varieties constitute dialects every bit as much as those varieties ...

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