Mar 2, 2018

Accent vs. Dialect

The words "dialect" and "accent" are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. An accent might be described by muddling up the difference between words people use and the sounds they make, their pronunciation. It is the distinct way that a group of persons or even one particular individual speaks with distinctive phonetics and phonology. Groups sharing an identifiable accent may be defined by any variety of common traits, such as regional, the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class, their first language (when the language in which the accent is heard is not their native language), etc. In the US, think Boston, New Orleans, etc.  For example, the Southern accent might refer to the pronunciation of the vowels like fire to 'fahr' or stress shift like 'po lice versus po 'lice.

A dialect is a variation in the language itself and not only in the pronunciation. Dialect is a type of language that is derived from a primary language. A dialect is a variety of language differing in vocabulary and grammar as well as pronunciation. Dialects are usually spoken by a group united by geography or class. It is a geographically or ethnically restricted form of a language characterized by a combination of distinctive phonetics (individual sounds), phonology (sound system rules), syntax, grammar, and vocabulary. The major native dialects of English are often divided by linguists into three general categories: British Isles dialect, North America dialect, and those of Australasia.


If someone from India were to move to London and start speaking English, we would refer to the speech as foreign accented speech, not a dialect.