Dialects and dialect geography How do dialects arise
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Dialects and dialect geography
How do dialects arise? • Suppose a group of people, speaking the same language, live in three successive valleys. • Then a few people in one valley begin using some new words or pronunciations, which are naturally picked up by others in the valley, and gradually become general there. • It is possible that people in the next valley would also come to hear the new forms, and maybe they too would consider them prestigious or attractive and begin to use them. • But what happens if these people are not in routine contact with the third valley and the change is not transferred across to its inhabitants. • Obviously, the accumulated changes will create two different speech forms, divergent from each other.
How do dialects arise? • English language was brought to Britain by Germanic settlers about 1500 years who spoke various varieties. • As these settled next to each other the process of convergence took place and many differences levelled down. • But by the time Old English was recorded in the seventh and eighth centuries, marginal regional differences in the language were again beginning to appear again. • The inevitable processes of language change of course affected English: new words, new meanings, new pronunciations and new grammatical forms began to creep into the speech and, at the same time, old ones began to drop out of use.
How do dialects arise? • With the passage of centuries, then, the relatively homogeneous language of the ﬁrst English communities began to break up into regional varieties that became steadily more different. • Every local group of people spoke the language a little differently from their next-door neighbours, and these differences accumulated as one moved across the landscape, so that people living far apart from one another were speaking very different kinds of English indeed. • People in different parts of England had different words for things, and they used different grammatical endings and different constructions. • In short, English had broken up into what we call regional dialects, or dialects for short.
How do dialects arise? • Regional fragmentation of this kind is in no way peculiar to English: it happens to every language that is spoken over any signiﬁcant area. • Mountainous terrain and territories divided by open water encourage dialectal diversity. This is true for Norwegian, Scottish Gaelic, Italian and the languages of the Caucasus, etc. • In recenturies, especially in Europe, the extent of regional diversity has been somewhat obscured by the development of standard forms for the principal languages of nation states. • For example, a standard form of German has been created and is now learned by all educated speakers of German, and this is what Germans speak to other Germans from different places, although they continue to use their local dialects at home with family and friends.
Dialect geography • Before the nineteenth century, linguists in Europe had largely conﬁned their attention to dead languages like Latin and ancient Greek and to the standard forms of modern languages like English, French and German. • In the 19 th century, however, a number of scholars began to realize that regional forms were just as worthy of study as standard forms, and they turned their attention to constructing good linguistic descriptions of regional variation. • Dialect geography consists of the painstaking collection of the regional forms used at intervals across a large area. • This approach was initiated by Johannes Schmeller, who, in 1821, published a grammar of his own Bavarian dialect of German.
Dialect geography • Naturally, since variation is virtually limitless, the investigators must decide in advance which particular items they will look at and collect information on. • Georg Wenker introduced the questionnaire approach: he sent out questionnaires to schoolteachers in nearly 50, 000 localities in Germany and asked for the local equivalents of standard German sentences. • Jules Gilliéron trained a single worker, Edmond Edmont, in the skills of collecting information by personal interview, who visited a total of 639 localities in France during 1896 -1900 to interview people and ask his questions.
Dialect geography • Such data could be published merely as lists, but dialect geographers have always preferred another type of presentation, more laborious and expensive but far more illuminating: the preparation of dialect maps. • A single dialect map shows the regional variants found for a single linguistic variable. • If the boundary between two neighbouring forms turns out to be rather sharp, a line called an isogloss may be drawn on the map to show that boundary. • Most often, the results of such a study are presented in a volume of dialect maps, a dialect atlas. • Such atlases now exist for France, Germany (only in part), England, Scotland, the eastern USA and some other areas.
Past tense of verb dive in eastern USA
Past tense of verb see in England