13 July 2011

What Makes a Dialect a Dialect?

Sometimes people would ask about our African home, What dialect do they speak over there? In Kenya, about the size of Texas or France, there are about 85 languages. Then you want to look into the dozens of dialects of all those languages?

Do some people speak a language while others speak only a dialect? Hmmmnnn. Do you speak a dialect or a language? Why do the Kikuyus speak Kikuyu? Why do the Kumam people of Uganda speak differently from the related Acholi people?

Have you noticed that all (or most) people growing up in the same place speak the same way? Well, sure you have. Why is that? How did you learn the phrases you use, the words you choose in certain situations and purposes?

Why is it that the language children learn is the language of their parents! And why is that some children learn two or three languages at the same time, without even thinking about it?

Way back in our language learning prehistory the pattern operates. No, I don't mean when your ancestors were cavemen. No I mean yours and my own personal prehistory. Can you remember learning English? Me neither. Our brains just knew what to do.

But how did our brains know how to do it? How did our subconscious Learning Acquisition Device know what to "teach" us? Well, you brain is an amazing implement that just works on what it finds around us.

We talk like the people where we grew up because that is the Model of speech communication our ears heard. We learned the patterns and models available to us! This is what leads to our regional accents, and what makes the dialect of one area different from the speech of another.

Human communication is complex, frustrating and fascinating. Ever wonder which people speak a language and which people speak a dialect? Look into all this in my latest article on the question:
Accent, Dialect and Language

Mentioned or related to this Blog Topic:

Accents - Developing and Changing Them

Dialects, Languages and Ethnicity

Living and Working in Kenya

The Kikuyu People of Kenya

The Kumam People of Uganda