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Dialect Levelling

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Dialect Levelling

A dialect is a form of language that is spoken among a specific group or in a particular region. To level is to make something equal or similar. With this understanding, what do you think dialect levelling is?

Dialect Levelling, silhouette of a man thinking, StudySmarterDialect levelling involves minimising or reducing one's dialectal features, Pixabay

Dialect levelling definition

Dialect levelling is the process by which the differences and variations between certain dialects are reduced or eliminated over time.

Reasons for dialect levelling

Dialect levelling occurs through the mixing of different cultures, typically through migration and other forms of interaction over a long period of time. As a result, the unique features of dialects are often lost. It seems to occur most frequently in languages following the industrialisation and modernisation of the areas where they are spoken.

Dialect levelling can occur over several generations, merging two or more dialects into one compromised dialect and typically erasing individual regional features. The dialects experience standardisation, eliminating the distinctiveness of each dialect and establishing a singular mainstream dialect.

As it unfolds over time, dialect levelling results in the dialects and speech varieties of various parts of a country becoming increasingly similar. It is the process of reducing language diversity.

Dialect Levelling, cartoon of several generations of a family, StudySmarterDialects can emerge over several generations and so can dialect levelling, Pixabay

Causes of dialect levelling

According to Gerard Van Herk, researchers in New Zealand concluded there is a three-stage process to dialect levelling:

  1. The 1st generation of immigrants maintains its dialect.

  2. The 2nd generation picks language from the linguistic options available where they live.

  3. The 3rd generation levels out any difference, opting for the most popular variant of language.

Dialect levelling and social interaction

How does social interaction lead to dialect levelling?

  • Increasing geographical mobility makes increasing interaction between speakers of different dialects possible as migrants settle in different communities.

  • Social mobility also means interaction between members of different social classes with different dialects. Oftentimes, lower classes attempting to assimilate with higher classes feel pressure to minimise any differences between their own dialect and the dialect of those from the higher class.

  • Adolescents often adopt language affectations from their peer group in shared spaces such as school or extracurricular clubs, rather than from their parents.

Regional dialect levelling

Dialect levelling happens in different ways and for different reasons depending on location. In this section, we'll focus on regional dialect levelling in Britain.

Dialects in Britain

Dialects in Britain reflect social class and geographical location, among other things. There are many examples of dialects in Britain. Consider how someone in the North might pronounce the word 'gutter' as 'gooh-tah' versus how a London youth might pronounce it as 'gu-ah', replacing the 't' with a glottal stop. Or consider how some Britons would say 'isn't', some would say 'ain't' and some would say 'in't'.

To give a past example of dialect levelling, take the evolution of the London dialect that occurred following the arrival of immigrants from the north of England in the fifteenth century. Their dialect evolved into more southern speech varieties.

Accent and dialect - English Language A-level

Accent and dialect are sometimes taken to mean similar things and indeed, they are closely related. However, they are not the same thing and it's important to know the distinction between them.

Accent and dialect - English Language A-level revision

An accent is:

  • how a person pronounces words and sounds in a particular language. There are many different accents within every different language, and accents can be based on a number of social factors such as region and social class.

A dialect is:

  • a variety of language specific to a region or social group. Each dialect may have it's own accent, vocabulary, and grammatical features.

As you can see from these descriptions, an accent is a part of what makes up a dialect. Different accents and dialects within a country enable people to connect with one another, differentiate themselves from others when desired, and help to preserve the cultural history and heritage of a certain place. Accent and dialect are two factors which will also contribute significantly to an individual's sense of identity.

Reasons for dialect levelling in Britain

Research points to a number of reasons for dialect levelling in Britain. Here are some possible reasons for it:

  • Economic change led to industrialisation and modernisation. Britons were no longer working in rural employment, and so they moved to other parts of the country.

  • World Wars meant soldiers, all with different British dialects, were forced into close proximity with each other. This obviously led to the merging and intermingling of individual dialects.

  • The popularity of media, TV and radio to be specific, may have contributed to the prevalence of southern accents in the North. This is because popular media typically broadcast from the south, London in particular.

Dialect Levelling, cartoon of a black and white tv, StudySmarterTechnology and industry are significant factors that influence dialect levellling, Pixabay

The future of the dialect

The English language is a rich and ever-evolving phenomenon that can be used in many diverse and interesting ways. Does dialect levelling threaten the future of dialects?

Dialect levelling and the future

There are some negatives to dialect levelling. Primarily, the erasure of the uniqueness of individuality of dialects. It means certain cultural quirks are now lost forever.

However, dialect levelling is a result of increased human interaction between speakers of different classes/ locations. This is surely a good thing, as it must mean society is becoming more integrated, sharing an increasingly uniform dialect.

Furthermore, it is unclear whether dialect levelling will eventually cause the erasure of dialects altogether. There is such a wide variety of dialects that it seems impossible. As immigration continues, it seems likely that groups will strive to maintain the unique qualities of their individual dialects. For this reason, dialect levelling can never truly erase different dialects. There will always be individual communities that will preserve their linguistic culture.

Dialect Levelling - Key takeaways

  • Dialect levelling is the process by which the differences and variations between certain dialects are reduced or eliminated over time.
  • Dialect levelling occurs through the mixing of different cultures. Typically, through migration and other forms of interaction over a long period of time.
  • Dialect levelling seems to occur most frequently in languages following the industrialisation and modernisation of the areas where they are spoken.

  • The three-step process of dialect levelling:

    • The 1st generation of immigrants maintains its dialect.
    • The 2nd generation picks language from the linguistic options available where they live.
    • The 3rd generation levels out any difference, opting for the most popular variant of language.
  • The main reasons for dialect levelling are: increased social and geographical mobility, youth culture, popularity of media like TV/ radio, industrialisation/ modernisation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dialect Levelling

Dialect levelling is the process by which the differences and variations between certain dialects are reduced or eliminated over time.

The main argument against dialect leveling is the diminution of diversity. If dialects are losing their uniqueness, that is to some degree a loss of cultural identity to the speakers of that dialect.

Dialect levelling can signal power as people can alter their ways of speaking and using language in order to appear a certain way to others and gain a more favourable position. For example, if a person changes their language use to a more formal or standard variety of English, they might be viewed as more intellectual or important by others. 

People can use dialect levelling to fit in more easily with different social groups, or to fit in more with people who have similar backgrounds to their own. This can help to strengthen community ties as well as help people to build new relationships.

Dialect levelling is caused by contact between different dialects, most commonly through migration and other extended interactions. Dialect levelling can also happen over generations as dialects and language use evolve over time. 

Final Dialect Levelling Quiz

Question

What is a dialect?


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Answer

A dialect is a form of language that is spoken amongst a specific group or in a particular region.

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Question

Fill in the blanks: Dialect levelling is the process by which the differences and variations between certain dialects are ________ or ________ over time.

A: reduced; eliminated

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Answer

reduced; eliminated

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In the context of dialect levelling, what does it mean to ‘level’ something?

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Answer

To drop it

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Question

TRUE or FALSE: Dialect levelling occurs over the space of 15 years

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Answer

TRUE: It has been proven that dialect levelling typically occurs over the space of 15 years 

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What is step 1 in the process of dialect levelling?


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Answer

The original generation to immigrate to this location kept and continued their home dialect

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Fill in the blanks: As it unfolds over time, dialect levelling results in the dialects and speech varieties of various parts of a country becoming increasingly _______

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Answer

similar

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Question

When does dialect levelling seemingly occur the most?


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Answer

It seems to occur most frequently in languages following the industrialisation and modernisation of the areas where they are spoken.

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Which of the following are valid reasons for dialect levelling?

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Answer

Decreased social mobility

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Question

  1. In the dialect levelling process, what is step 2 that leads to the final step of dialect levelling?

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Answer

The second generation picked and chose language from the linguistic options available to them

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What is the biggest problem with dialect levelling?

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Answer

The erasure of the uniqueness of individuality of dialects which means certain cultural quirks are now lost forever.

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Can you think of any examples of different dialects in Britain?

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Answer

Cockney, Brummie, Scouse, Yorkshire, Geordie...etc

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What event can we point to in Britain that led to the mixing of dialects?

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Answer

Economic change led to industrialisation and modernisation (migration of Britons), close proximity of soldiers during the World Wars, the popularity of media like TV and radio

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How likely is it that dialect levelling will eventually lead to one uniform dialect in Britain?

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Answer

Not very likely, as many close-knit communities/cultures will probably want to preserve the uniqueness of their own dialects

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How are the dialects of many adolescents often influenced by other adolescents?


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Answer

 Agemates likely to influence each other, as they are often in close proximity through youth group activities like schools and clubs

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How does social mobility often lead to dialect levelling?



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Answer

 Different social classes typically have had different dialects. Lower classes often  have to assimilate by their own dialect and the dialect of those from the higher class

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Question

What is an accent?

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Answer

An accent refers to how a person pronounces words and sounds in a particular language. 

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Is accent a part of a dialect or is a dialect a part of an accent?

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Answer

Accent is part of a dialect

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What is the key cause for dialect levelling?

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Answer

Contact of different dialects, especially through migration. 

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True or false, dialect levellilng reduces linguistic diversity.

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Answer

True

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Why does dialect levelling often occur in adolescents' speech?

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Answer

Adolescents will often adopt language features from their peer group, making the way they speak more similar to their friends. 

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True or false, a person can change their accent in order to connect themselves more to other people, as well as to distance themselves from other people.

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Answer

True. Changing one's accent can have both effects.

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According to Gerard Van Herk, what is the third stage of dialect levelling?

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Answer

The 3rd generation levels out any difference, opting for the most popular variant of language.

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Name three key features that make up a dialect.

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Answer

  • accent
  • vocabulary
  • grammatical features

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Question

What effect has the popularity of TV and radio featuring Southern British dialects had on language use in the North?

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Answer

There has been a lot of dialect levelling in the North as people have adapted their speech to mimic popular tv and radio shows. 

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Question

True or false, accents and dialects can help to preserve a community's cultural heritage. 

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Answer

True

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