Open Journal of Modern Linguistics
2013. Vol.3, No.2, 157-160
Published Online June 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 157
Dialectology an Interactional Overlap
of Disciplines
Mortad-Serir I lh em
Department of Foreign Languages: English, Tlemcen University, Tlemcen, Algeria
Received February 9th, 2013; re vised March 11th, 2013; accepted March 21st, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Mortad-Serir Ilhem. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
Dialectology has long been stereotyped as a limited scope of research since dialectologists long lived with
the prejudice of being data collectors who amused their time to wander in rural meadows and converse
with old peoples; and if there was any relationship between dialectology with other disciplines it was of-
ten viewed as intricate and sometimes controversial through many classificatory approaches. It is a false
perception to view dialectology as autonomous discipline that inherits traditional dialect atlases; dialec-
tology transcends the work on grounds to scrutinize the way linguistic variables function in speech. Since
speech styles have social meaning that marks speakers’ social and personal identity, dialectology as an il-
lustrious field of research is related to many other disciplines to study the analysis of these markers: such
as anthropology, folklore, linguistics, phonology, sociology, psychology, history, sociolinguistics, educa-
tion and literature. This paper, thus, highlights the relationship of dialectology to other disciplines of lan-
guage in linguistic studies like sociolinguistics and education.
Keywords: Dialectology; Sociolinguistics; Education; Dialect
Dialectology and Sociolinguistics
The very concern of this point refers to my once reading an
article by Trudgill confessing that he changes the title of one of
his first teaching conferences in 1970 from “Sociolinguistics
and Dialectology” to “Sociolinguistics” without changing the
content of the lecture. Since that Trudgill has changed a lot of
his views towards dialectology via sociolinguistics and his se-
cond edition book with Chambers about dialectology justifies
this in many ways.
It is said that there is certain hostility between sociolinguists
mocking at dialectology as being an old discipline; and dialec-
tologists defending against the newness of a science supposed
to compete—or crash them down. Whether true or false my
concern is rather to examine any co-operation within differ-
ences and similarities between the two fields of research be-
cause it is common to find dialectal variation in most language
areas that has notably social implications.
Dialectology and sociolinguistics attempt to study language
variation in different communities through representative re-
sults of a sample population. Though they differ in so many
points as we will just see, they go in parallel with others be-
cause “for all their differences, dialectology and sociolinguis-
tics converge at the deepest point. Both are dialectologies, so to
speak. They share their essential subject matter. Both fix the
attention on language in communities. Prototypically, one has
been centrally concerned with rural communities and the other
with urban centres, but these are accidental differences, not es-
sential ones and certainly not axiomatic” (Chambers & Trudgill,
2004: pp. 187-188). The two fields of research disconnect and
meet together in different ways.
Parallel Methodological Issues
Dialectology and sociolinguistics depend on fieldwork.
Dialectology and sociolinguistics depend on recorded, in-
strumental analysis of data.
Dialect geography, urban dialectology, and human geogra-
phy are unified discipline. (Chambers & Trudgill, 1998).
Dialectology and sociolinguistics explicate access to lan-
guage system of human knowledge.
Dialectology and sociolinguistics infer language change
from language variation.
Separate Methodological Issues
Dialectology far pre dates Sociolinguistics in research and
method of data collection.
Dialectology is often referred to as traditional, geographical,
and/or rural while sociolinguistics is rather an urban dialec-
Rural dialectology is concerned with spatial differences of
language; urban dialectology is linking language with social
features as age, gender, group, social class, and ethnic back-
While dialectology tends to be diachronic at least in its be-
ginning, sociolinguistics concentrates on a typical speech of
a social group according to synchronic interest.
Sociolinguistics studies the differences in language among
members of speech community; dialectology is concerned
with systematic study of language variants.
Dialectological studies highlight the geographical range of
linguistic facts; sociolinguistics focuses on their social as-
Sociolinguistics stimulates the social aspect neglected by
linguistic theory; dialectology is rather concerned w it h mea-
suring the special diffusion of dialect features conceptual-
ized as dialectometry.
Sociolinguistics involves social attitude and spatial com-
munity networks while dialectology considers the geogra-
phical dispersions of dialectal variants.
Dialectologists preserve the linguistic varieties but socio-
linguists succeed to divide them to variability.
Many of the sharing and non-sharing points, aforementioned
between dialectology and sociolinguistics, have changed their
direction of implication nowadays mainly because these two are
speedily altering fields all along time. Therefore some concepts
are renewed, others born anew to label both disciplines with
innovative areas of resear ch as shows the following section.
Sociolinguistic Dialectology
Undoubtedly, I am not sure which of sociolinguistics or dia-
lectology has contributed to realize a rapid growth in many
other related linguistic disciplines and to which extent the for-
mer sets up methods and approaches for the latter or vice versa;
however, so often I have heard of the term sociolinguistics cal-
led urban dialectology or social dialectology but what merits
one has for the other is heatedly discussed. The real nature of
sociolinguistics/dialectology relationship results from competi-
tive views sorted out of repetitive discussions; whatever view
may be adopted, I am self confident that sociolinguistics since
the 1960’s has always developed to complement dialectology
studies and many other language studies, hence, “sociolinguis-
tics merits our attention just insofar as it signals an effort to
change the practice of linguistics and other disciplines, because
their present practice perpetuates a fragmented, incomplete un-
derstanding of humanity” Dell Hymes (1977: vii). Dialectology
has now drifted towards the stream of several crucial topics that
are updated like: urban dialects, speech community, and vari-
ability in language which enable dialectological research to in-
vestigate social factors such as age and gender. Sociolinguistics
has special emphasis on dialectology which may develop values
for both fields. Unlike traditional research studies, dialectology
is no more restricted to rural, mountainous areas, or to old men
only; it has now transcended to deal with women and city areas
as well as like New York (Labov, 1966), Detroit (Wolfram,
1969), and Norwich (Trudgill, 1974), followed then by Glas-
gow (Macaulay, 1977), Edinburgh (Reid & Romaine, 1978),
and Belfast (Milroy, 1980). This has led to a new conceptu-
alisation in language variation and change recently adopted by
prolific researchers (Britain D., Trudgill P., Cheshire J., et al.)
called sociolinguistic dialectology which reflects the growth of
the discipline in multifaceted quests, naturally because the stu-
dy of human language is a multidisciplinary field. Since dialect
differences are not clearly qualitative but almost quantitative,
sociolinguistic dialectology then compares between different
neighbouring dialects assuming that one of the groups focuses
on one dialectal feature more than others. Sociolinguistics brought
new methodologies and applications to data analysis through
collaborative efforts shared in common, “Trudgill thus notes
that currently dialectologists and sociolinguists now seem to be
moving towards ‘a new ear of cooperation, integration and
synthesis in the field’” (Bolton & Kwok, 1992: p. 69) and that
“one of the strengths of sociolinguistics and dialectology, or if
you prefer, sociolinguistics including dialectology, is that this
subject (or subjects) permits us to study language use, in real-
life social contexts, both by social groups and by individuals”
(ibid: 79).
Dialectology/sociolinguistics relationship is difficult and con-
troversial since none of the two can do without the other in
view of the fact that both fit for different fields of research in
society and human real life unlike “a decade or two ago, it
might have been possible to think that the common subject mat-
ter of dialectology and sociolinguistics counted for next to no-
thing. Now we know it counts for everything. Dialectology
without sociolinguistics at its core is a relic. No serious per-
spective on dialectology can grant urban research and variation
theory less than a central role” (Chambers & Trudgill, 2004: p.
188). Notwithstanding many of elements that constitute the
confluence of the discipline, a lot is still left to revitalise rural
dialect ology that continues t o stimulate sociolingui stics field of
research advocating a coherent single discipline—a wish that
most of our scholars cited in this guidebook have pursued.
Dialectology and Education
Actually, there is much more interest in dialect study in
schools than any other past time due to the development of
dialectology as a data-oriented discipline that has proved uni-
queness in its subdivision of linguistics. Long ago dialect
speech inside the classroom looked inferior, a burning shame,
or bitter say, a crime. Since then things have changed and op-
portunities to question and discuss problem-save in dialect are
now clearly stated as a curricular right of children in schools.
Teachers should be pleased by the basic linguistic competence
brought by pupils to schools especially that “a child’s back-
ground (intelligence, pre-school learning, home circumstances,
parents, etc.) contributes approximately 85% to what is achiev-
ed in school. The other 15% is contributed by schooling” (Har-
rison, 1996: p. 9). This brings to reflection that any marginali-
zation to the pupils’ language, culture, and all that is involved
may cause the failure in learning which may urge children to
give up school. Moreover the tendency to devalue the child’s
first language or put it side-lined may make him lose confi-
dence and feeble his powers in speech.
Dialect Awareness in Schools
Many groups linguistically debate whether to accommodate
dialect differences with the standard in classroom or not. They
struggle an intricate battlefield about the false misconception
that Standard language is correct form and dialects are imper-
fect erroneous forms of the standard because they stem from ig-
norance and thus impede communication. Supporting this view,
dialect has long been rejected out of school, from the part of the
deficit position believing that “speakers of dialects with non-
standard forms have a handicap-socially and cognitively-be-
cause the dialects are illogical, or sloppy, or just bad grammar”
(Adger et al., 2007: p. 17). Negative attitudes towards collo-
quial speech springs from prejudiced belief that dialects are lin-
guistically inferior to standard language. For this reason many
schools witnessed discrimination in the “cataloging” of group-
classes according to the pupils’ cultural background and lan-
guage; in many cases throughout the world students/pupils are
either categorized with lower achievers or set in particular edu-
cation classes because of their dialect speech features. Fortu-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
nately, this begins to disappear basically because other scholars,
though they feel a minority, are convinced that dialect use in
classroom does not erode the standard since there is no superior
variety than another “because no one linguistic system can be
shown to be inherently better, there is no reason to assume that
using a particular dialect can be associated with having any
kind of inherent deficit or advantage” (ibid: 18). Be that as it
may, it is wise that educators should test ability and achieve-
ment through different varieties since dialect is not a deficient
language, accordingly, “an understanding of the social attitudes
and values concerning dialects and their speakers is thus essen-
tial for dealing with language differences” idem. Notwithstan-
ding that dialect taught in classroom is not easy for many tea-
chers it is more convincing for them that ignoring the dialect is
a mistaken traditional judgment especially after what happened
to the Oakland school where Ebonics the dialect of Black Eng-
lish was imposed as an instructional tool in the classroom.
Since then, researchers expand lot of studies towards a policy to
include dialect in the classroom. Therefore, dialect awareness in
schools should be raised for the following reasons:
Motivate children to use their knowledge in their first lan-
guage to create a suitable e du ca ti on al e nv i ro nm ent.
Using the language with all its varieties, be it standard or
dialect is a good way of teaching accurately and appropri-
ately in the classroom.
Forbidding dialect in classroom leads to isolation and dis-
Explicate dialect variation at all the levels of grammar, pho-
nology, and vocabulary, to improve the reading skills of
children using different accents.
The children’s linguistic competencies should be used as a
means and source for language development.
Dialect discrimination is to be avoided from schools since
all dialects are inherently equal.
Standard language is one variety among others, and teach-
ing it cannot be practical without all the varieties.
Dialect differences have an effect on the quality of educa-
tion received by some students both academically and so-
cially (Labov, 1995) since research clearly supports the po-
sition that variation in language is a natural reflection of
cultural and community differences (Labov, 1972).
The use of the standard should be used in parallel with some
conversational dialectal styles that help develop speaking an d
reading skills with the child.
Correct form of language is governed by no rule or author-
ity except the speaker’s context, intention, and audience.
Change is fundamental in all human languages that inte-
grate language variation all the times in the entire world.
Wherever there is dialect there should be geography, an
area, a history, a society and a culture that can be kept alive
through preserving it in its original vernacular dialect.
Learning popular culture paves the way for children to
know what constitutes a whole nation’s heritage.
In fact the issue of nonstandard dialects in education is
highly disputed, it is very well advanced in the United States
and England and the whole Europe but less resolved in our
country and the rest of the Arab world for the conviction that
dialects do not fulfill communication’s needs and consequently
is not constructive. Many of scholars believe that dialect in
schools is intricate because “the unchallenged position of the
standard as the medium of education has seemed to necessitate
savage and uncompromising attacks on the vernacular… spea-
kers of British non-standard dialects were characterised as hav-
ing ‘evil habits of speech’” (Cheshire, 1989: p. 5). Dialects are
not impediment to education but sources of better learning to
the language which varies through time and space. As for Eng-
lish, teachers endeavour to teach the different pronunciations of
words different from the standard as for “tin/ten, kin/ken” or
“sinned/send” where /i/ and /e/ are pronounced the same in
southern English dialects. African American vernacular dialect
of English has been imposed in Oakland California School
since December 1996 which has aroused increasingly promi-
nent researches about dialect impact on the children’s academic
success, developing resources for teachers, solving the dilemma
home/language in a non contrastive way, permitting children’s
use of home varieties in the classroom. After continuing con-
flicts about Ebonics, the latter succeeds to be “a legitimate lin-
guistic system, different from the standard English system,
Oakland schools use students’ knowledge of Ebonics in teach-
ing Standard English. In this way, the schools respect and ex-
ploit students’ linguistic competence as a resource for language
development rather than a deficit” (Adger et al., 19/20). The
event took place in 1979 when African American parents com-
plained to Ann Arbour Court in Michigan that their children
were neglected by the educational system of the town “William
Labov presented evidence showing that African American
Vernacular English was a systematic, rule-governed linguistic
variety. The court ruled that the education system should take
account of the fact that children came to school speaking a
structured language variety which is linguistically different
from Standard English” (Trudgill, 2003: p. 8). Educators are
more aware about dialect differences that can interfere in edu-
cation exactly the same for “Ebonics a synonym for AAVE is
considered as the primary language of African American chil-
dren, and to take into account in their language arts lessons”
(Nero, 2006: p. 7). Diverse linguistically students are found and
teachers should be well equipped to face such population “once
students who speak diverse varieties and creoles are in the
classroom, teachers are faced with choosing effective resources,
materials, and strategies for teaching them” (ibid: 13).
Any dialect is by and large a systematic rule-governed like
any other natural speech varieties and it is no more accepted to
judge or misjudge a dialect as ungrammatical, misspelled, slang,
distorted, lazy, imperfect, erroneous and corrupting exactly as it
is no more convenient to think that earth is flat. Therefore, it is
most important for educators to understand that there are many
advantages to dialect variation that have proved scientific, so
any helping strategy to raise dialect awareness inside classroom
can only be beneficial for a good learning of the standard itself
since the learner can distinguish dialect patterns from the stan-
dard formal ones through ultimate comparison between the two
rather than purposeful marginalization of the former. The child
should be permitted to use some of the nonstandard forms
while writing in the standard language as Trudgill calls bidia-
lectism a policy successfully applied in Switzerland, and Nor-
way; it is “an educational policy which is intended to give pu-
pils who are not native speakers of the standard language profi-
ciency in writing in the standard language while respecting and
helping to maintain their local nonstandard dialects” (Trudgill,
2003: pp. 14-15). The policy is now stimulating the interest of
many educators and practitioners in whole Europe.
Dialectology is an ongoing field of research heavily empiri-
cal, in which the process of development as a discipline was
only related to both the revitalization of dialect geography and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 159
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
the rise of sociolinguistics. So many books about it have known
reprints in order to give them a more up-to-date looks. Dialec-
tology has now become an institutionalized academic discipline
which has been expanded in various methodological issues
beginning by its representatives: Jules Gilliéron who studied
the history of the word and Louis Gauchat who favoured the
phonetic evolution of it till today’s prolific researchers who
mainly contribute to conceptualize notions in dialectology that
are still shaken. Accordingly, dialectology is not an autono-
mous field of research nor would linguistic theories develop
without the contribution of dialectological studies.
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