What is the difference between language and dialect?


Language is a system of sounds, symbols, or marks used to communicate ideas between individuals in a given community, while dialect is a variation of a given language used in a smaller region.

Dialects are a smaller category of a given language. Essentially, a dialect is a particular manner of speaking a given language and differs by region, while language is the overall structure and covers a much broader region.

For example, Business Insider identifies at least 24 different dialects of English in the United States. While the dialects are all English, they differ in pronunciation, vocabulary, syntax and grammar. The Pennsylvania German dialect of English allows strange syntactical constructions like "Throw your father out the window his hat." A Virginia Piedmont dialect includes individualized vocabulary like hoppergrass for the word grasshopper.

People speaking different dialects of the same language should be able to communicate, while people speaking different languages would not. The variations among dialects are much smaller than the variations among languages. In addition, a dialect is different from an accent. An accent is an even smaller variation and is primarily a matter of pronunciation of sounds and not a matter of broader differences like vocabulary and sentence structure.

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