Language Varieties

August 14, 2018

In learning #languages, one might notice that people from different #regions may speak the language differently. Languages generally come in many varieties, or #dialects, but what exactly makes it a variation? #Vocabulary? #Accent? #Grammar? In truth, it depends. #English, #Spanish, and #American #Sign Language all have varieties that are mutually intelligible, that is, #speakers of those languages could in fact communicate with one another. Someone speaking American English can communicate with someone speaking #Australian English and someone who signs #West Coast American Sign can communicate with someone who signs #East Coast American Sign. While there may be some initial confusion regarding the differences in vocabulary and pronunciation, conversation is still understandable.


#China has two official dialects, #Mandarin and #Cantonese, which are not mutually intelligible. Meanwhile, #Dutch, #Swedish, and #Norwegian are mutually intelligible but are considered separate languages. In the case of Mandarin and Cantonese, they are literally completely separate languages with almost nothing in common. Swedish, Dutch, and Norwegian share a great deal of #vocabulary (sometimes with different meanings and #pronunciations). So why are Mandarin and Cantonese so different whilst Swedish, Dutch, and Norwegian are the same? It all boils down to the idea that “a dialect is a language with an #army and a #navy.”


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