In this episode I look into the differences between languages and dialects, and talk a bit about where they come from and how they develop.
Max Weinreich (1894-1969), a Russian linguist who specialised in sociolinguistics and Yiddish, popularised the saying,
אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמיי און פֿלאָט
(a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot)
A language is a dialect with an army and navy
There are various definitions of language. This is one from the Free Dictionary:
- Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.
- Such a system including its rules for combining its components, such as words.
- Such a system as used by a nation, people, or other distinct community; often contrasted with dialect.
Merriam-Webster defines language as:
- the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community
- a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings
There are also different definitions of dialect. The Free Dictionary define it as:
- A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists.
Merriam-Webster defines dialect as:
- a regional variety of language distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation from other regional varieties and constituting together with them a single language