Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Ethnolect

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Ethnolect

Dialects, sociolects, ethnolects... What are they, and how do they differ? Today, we will focus on ethnolect, a type of dialect that focuses on ethnicity.

Definition of Ethnolect

An ethnolect is a distinctive form of a language that is specific to certain ethnic groups.

Ethnolects are used by members of different ethnic groups to help establish personal and ethnic identity, as well as reflect their position in society. They also help outsiders understand the characteristics of certain ethnic groups and the different ways people can express themselves through language.

The word 'ethnolect' is a portmanteau word (a blend of two words to create a new one) - it combines the words 'ethnic' and 'dialect.'

Race vs ethnicity

What is the difference between race and ethnicity? These are two terms that are often confused with one another, but it is important to be aware of their differences:

Race - refers to the biological characteristics and physical traits of a group of people, such as skin colour, eye colour, hair texture etc.

Ethnicity - focuses more on cultural identity and background, and the way a group of people expresses themselves. This could refer to someone's race, nationality, religion, culture etc.

Migrant Ethnolects

Many ethnolects are created as a result of the immigration of people from other countries. These ethnolects are often used amongst migrant families to communicate more effectively, particularly amongst those who do not speak English as a first language. It is common within today's society for the younger generations of migrant families to use ethnolects to better communicate with the older generations.

Ethnolect Image of visa approval StudySmarter

Most ethnolects are used by migrant families, Pixabay

Most of the examples of ethnolects we will look at below were (and still are) used by immigrants. Let's take a look at them:

Ethnolect Examples

Some examples of ethnolects are as follows:

African American Vernacular English

One of the most well-known ethnolects is African American Vernacular English (AAVE), also known as 'ebonics'. This is a language variety influenced by African languages, spoken mostly by working or middle-class African Americans (and some Black Canadians).

AAVE originated in the 17th and 18th centuries, during the British colonisation of the USA. Over this period of time, the transatlantic slave trade was taking place, meaning many Africans were shipped to the USA and forced into slavery. Many of the African captives spoke different native languages, so needed a common language to communicate with each other (and communicate with their captors too). While captive, they were introduced to a range of different British dialects and were influenced by the language. As a result, this led to a gradual language change and the development of AAVE.

Have you heard of any of the following phrases? They are examples of current AAVE phrases:

  • We been knew.
  • Chile, anyways.
  • I'm finna do it.
  • I ain't never seen anything like it.

Although AAVE is a dialect, it is often wrongly mistaken for Gen Z slang. This leads to younger generations possibly appropriating words rooted in AAVE. It is important to respect the origin of ethnolects and be aware of appropriating a language that is rooted in history or slavery.

Chicano English

Chicano English, also known as Hispanic Vernacular English, is a Mexican ethnolect influenced by Spanish. It is spoken mostly by native Mexican Americans. Although Chicano English speakers are often bilingual (speaking two languages), many are monolingual (speaking one language). Chicano English was created as a result of mass Mexican immigration into the USA in the 20th century.

Chicano English sometimes anglicises Spanish words, which means changing the form and/or pronunciation of a Spanish word to make it more familiar to English speakers. For example, the suffix 'ing' could be added to the end of a Spanish word to make it sound more English:

"My sister is bailanding."

Here, 'bailanding' has been anglicised from the Spanish word 'bailando', which means 'dancing.'

Chicano English is a fully formed English ethnolect and is not to be confused with Spanglish, which is the blending of both Spanish and English words and grammar.

Jewish American English

Jewish American English refers to the language variety spoken by Jews in America that is often influenced by Yiddish and Hebrew. It first developed after the mass migration of Yiddish-speaking Jews from Eastern Europe to the US. However, it is worth mentioning that not all Jewish Americans are descended from Yiddish-speakers.

Did you know that the following English words have Yiddish origins?

Bagel - ring-shaped bread

Glitch - a fault/malfunction

Kitsch - meaning tacky/trashy

Nosh - slang term for a snack/food

Schmooze - slang term for small talk

Schtick - a comic routine

Greek Australian English

This is a Greek ethnolect spoken by Greek immigrants in Australia. It has been used for the past 170 years. One prominent feature of Greek Australian English is the deletion of certain words. For example:

"How they know?" instead of "How do they know?"

"I'll go shops" instead of "I'll go to the shops."

"Can I buy oranges" instead of "Can I buy some oranges."

Multiethnolect Example

A multiethnolect is a kind of ethnolect that is not restricted to a single ethnic group. Multiethnolects are influenced by many different languages, and the speakers of these multiethnolects often come from diverse ethnic backgrounds. There is more of a focus on where people live and the neighbourhoods they grow up in, as opposed to their nationality (or the nationalities of their parents).

Ethnolect Image of ethnic diversity StudySmarterMultiethnolects are not restricted to one ethnicity, Pixabay

In Europe - and especially larger European cities - there are many different ethnolects due to a large amount of immigration and ethnic diversity. Let's take the German multiethnolects as an example:

German multiethnolect

In Germany, there have been a variety of multiethnolects, all of which have slightly different language influences. However, the one language that has had the most notable influence on each German multiethnolect is Turkish. The multiethnolect that is primarily influenced by Turkish is known as Türkendeutsch.

Difference Between Ethnolect and Dialect

Although ethnolects and dialects can become confused with one another, there are differences between them both. Let's begin by defining what a dialect is.

A dialect is a form of language that is spoken by a specific group of people. It may not be understood by outsiders. An example of a dialect is Southern American.

Unlike an ethnolect, a dialect is not dependent on ethnicity alone. Instead, the specific groups of people are connected through a range of social factors, such as region, gender, age, ethnicity, job, etc. On the other hand, an ethnolect is a type of dialect that focuses solely on ethnic groups.

Ethnolect - Key Takeaways

  • An ethnolect is a distinctive form of a language that is specific to certain ethnic groups.
  • Many ethnolects are created as a result of the immigration of people from other countries.
  • Some examples of ethnolects are African American Vernacular English, Chicano English, Jewish American English and Greek Australian English.
  • A multiethnolect is a kind of ethnolect that is not restricted to a single ethnic group.

  • A dialect is a form of language that is spoken by a specific group of people. Unlike an ethnolect, a dialect is not dependent on ethnicity alone.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ethnolect

A few examples of ethnolects are:


A dialect is a form of language that is spoken by a specific group of people - a group is dependent on a variety of social factors, such as region, gender, age, ethnicity, job, etc. An ethnolect is a type of dialect that is focused solely on ethnicity.

Australian English is not an ethnolect in itself, but Australia has many ethnolects (e.g. Greek Australian English, German Australian English, etc.). 

Ethnolects are used by members of different ethnic groups to help establish personal identity and reflect their position in society. They are also often used amongst migrant families as a way for more effective communication; particularly amongst those who do not speak English as a first language. 

An ethnolect is connected to ethnicity as it is a specific type of dialect that focuses on certain ethnic groups.

Final Ethnolect Quiz

Question

True or false?


Ethnolects are a specific type of dialect.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


An ethnolect is a distinctive form of a language that is specific to certain ______ groups.

Show answer

Answer

ethnic

Show question

Question

The word 'ethnolect' is what?

Show answer

Answer

a portmanteau

Show question

Question

'Ethnolect' is a blend of which two words?

Show answer

Answer

Ethnic and dialect

Show question

Question

Chicano English is also known as what?

Show answer

Answer

Hispanic Vernacular English 

Show question

Question

True or false?


AAVE is a type of gen z slang.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What does AAVE stand for?

Show answer

Answer

African American Vernacular English

Show question

Question

True or false?


Spanglish is a fully formed English ethnolect.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

True or false?


A dialect is not dependent on ethnicity alone.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


Ethnolects are used by members of different ethnic groups to help establish personal ________ and reflect their position in _______.

Show answer

Answer

identity, society

Show question

Question

Chicano English sometimes anglicises Spanish words. What does this mean?

Show answer

Answer

Changing the form and/or pronunciation of a Spanish word to make it more familiar to English speakers.

Show question

Question

What is Spanglish?

Show answer

Answer

The blending of both Spanish and English words and grammar.

Show question

Question

True or false?


Not all Jewish Americans are descended from Yiddish-speakers.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What is a multiethnolect?

Show answer

Answer

A kind of ethnolect that is not restricted to a single ethnic group.

Show question

Question

What is the one language that has the most notable influence on each German multiethnolect?

Show answer

Answer

Turkish

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Ethnolect quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.