The term dialect (from Latin dialectus, dialectos, from the Ancient Greek word διάλεκτος, diálektos, "discourse", from διά, diá, "through" and λέγω, légō, "I speak") is used in two distinct ways to refer to two different types of linguistic phenomena:

  • One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers.[1] Under this definition, the dialects or varieties of a particular language are closely related and, despite their differences, are most often largely mutually intelligible, especially if close to one another on the dialect continuum. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class or ethnicity.[2] A dialect that is associated with a particular social class can be termed a sociolect, a dialect that is associated with a particular ethnic group can be termed as ethnolect, and a regional dialect may be termed a regiolect.[3] According to this definition, any variety of a given language constitutes "a dialect", including any standard varieties. In this case, the distinction between the "standard language" (i.e. the "standard" dialect of a particular language) and the "nonstandard" dialects of the same language is often arbitrary and based on social, political, cultural, or historical considerations.[4][5][6] In a similar way, the definitions of the terms "language" and "dialect" may overlap and are often subject to debate, with the differentiation between the two classifications often grounded in arbitrary and/or sociopolitical motives.[7]
  • The other usage of the term "dialect", often deployed in colloquial settings, refers (often somewhat pejoratively) to a language that is socially subordinated to a regional or national standard language, often historically cognate or genetically related to the standard language, but not actually derived from the standard language. In other words, it is not an actual variety of the "standard language" or dominant language, but rather a separate, independently evolved but often distantly related language.[8] In this sense, unlike in the first usage, the standard language would not itself be considered a "dialect", as it is the dominant language in a particular state or region, whether in terms of linguistic prestige, social or political status, official status, predominance or prevalence, or all of the above. Meanwhile, under this usage, the "dialects" subordinate to the standard language are generally not variations on the standard language but rather separate (but often loosely related) languages in and of themselves. Thus, these "dialects" are not dialects or varieties of a particular language in the same sense as in the first usage; though they may share roots in the same family or subfamily as the standard language and may even, to varying degrees, share some mutual intelligibility with the standard language, they often did not evolve closely with the standard language or within the same linguistic subgroup or speech community as the standard language and instead may better fit various parties’ criteria for a separate language.

For example, most of the various regional Romance languages of Italy, often colloquially referred to as Italian "dialects", are, in fact, not actually derived from modern standard Italian, but rather evolved from Vulgar Latin separately and individually from one another and independently of standard Italian, long prior to the diffusion of a national standardized language throughout what is now Italy. These various Latin-derived regional languages are, therefore, in a linguistic sense, not truly "dialects" or varieties of the standard Italian language, but are instead better defined as their own separate languages. Conversely, with the spread of standard Italian throughout Italy in the 20th century, regional versions or varieties of standard Italian have developed, generally as a mix of national standard Italian with a substratum of local regional languages and local accents. While "dialect" levelling has increased the number of standard Italian speakers and decreased the number of speakers of other languages native to Italy, Italians in different regions have developed variations of standard Italian particular to their region. These variations on standard Italian, known as regional Italian, would thus more appropriately be called "dialects" in accordance with the first linguistic definition of "dialect", as they are in fact derived partially or mostly from standard Italian.[9][8][10]

A dialect is distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation (phonology, including prosody). Where a distinction can be made only in terms of pronunciation (including prosody, or just prosody itself), the term accent may be preferred over dialect. Other types of speech varieties include jargons, which are characterized by differences in lexicon (vocabulary); slang; patois; pidgins; and argots. The particular speech patterns used by an individual are termed an idiolect.

Standard and non-standard dialect

A standard dialect (also known as a standardized dialect or "standard language") is a dialect that is supported by institutions. Such institutional support may include government recognition or designation; presentation as being the "correct" form of a language in schools; published grammars, dictionaries, and textbooks that set forth a normative spoken and written form; and an extensive formal literature that employs that variety (prose, poetry, non-fiction, etc.). There may be multiple standard dialects associated with a single language. For example, Standard American English, Standard British English, Standard Canadian English, Standard Indian English, Standard Australian English, and Standard Philippine English may all be said to be standard dialects of the English language.

A nonstandard dialect, like a standard dialect, has a complete vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, but is usually not the beneficiary of institutional support. Examples of a nonstandard English dialect are Southern American English, Western Australian English, New York English, New England English, Mid-Atlantic American or Philadelphia / Baltimore English, Scouse, Brummie, Cockney, and Tyke. The Dialect Test was designed by Joseph Wright to compare different English dialects with each other.

Dialect or language

There is no universally accepted criterion for distinguishing two different languages from two dialects (i.e. varieties) of the same language.[11] A number of rough measures exist, sometimes leading to contradictory results. The distinction is therefore subjective and depends upon the user's frame of reference. For example, there has been discussion about whether or not the Limón Creole English should be considered "a kind" of English or a different language. This creole is spoken in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica (Central America) by descendants of Jamaican people. The position that Costa Rican linguists support depends upon which University they represent.

Mutual intelligibility

The most common, and most purely linguistic, criterion is that of mutual intelligibility: two varieties are said to be dialects of the same language if being a speaker of one variety confers sufficient knowledge to understand and be understood by a speaker of the other; otherwise, they are said to be different languages. However, this definition becomes problematic in the case of dialect continua, in which it may be the case that dialect B is mutually intelligible with both dialect A and dialect C but dialects A and C are not mutually intelligible with each other. In this case, the criterion of mutual intelligibility makes it impossible to decide whether A and C are dialects of the same language or not.

Sociolinguistic definitions

West Germanic dialect diagram
Local varieties in the West Germanic dialect continuum are oriented towards either Standard Dutch or Standard German depending on which side of the border they are spoken.[12]

Another occasionally used criterion for discriminating dialects from languages is the sociolinguistic notion of linguistic authority. According to this definition, two varieties are considered dialects of the same language if (under at least some circumstances) they would defer to the same authority regarding some questions about their language. For instance, to learn the name of a new invention, or an obscure foreign species of plant, speakers of Westphalian and East Franconian German might each consult a German dictionary or ask a German-speaking expert in the subject. Thus these varieties are said to be dependent on, or heteronomous with respect to, Standard German, which is said to be autonomous.[12] In contrast, speakers in the Netherlands of Low Saxon varieties similar to Westphalian would instead consult a dictionary of Standard Dutch. Similarly, although Yiddish is classified by linguists as a language in the Middle High German group of languages, a Yiddish speaker would consult a different dictionary in such a case.

Within this framework, W. A. Stewart defined a language as an autonomous variety together with all the varieties that are heteronomous with respect to it, noting that an essentially equivalent definition had been stated by Charles A. Ferguson and John J. Gumperz in 1960.[13][14] Similarly, a heteronomous variety may be considered a dialect of a language defined in this way.[13] In these terms, Danish and Norwegian, though mutually intelligible to a large degree, are considered separate languages.[15] In the framework of Heinz Kloss, these are described as languages by ausbau (development) rather than by abstand (separation).[16]

Dialect and language clusters

In other situations, a closely related group of varieties possess considerable (though incomplete) mutual intelligibility, but none dominates the others. To describe this situation, the editors of the Handbook of African Languages introduced the term dialect cluster. Dialect clusters were treated as classificatory units at the same level as languages.[17] A similar situation, but with a greater degree of mutual unintelligibility, has been termed a language cluster.[18]

Political factors

In many societies, however, a particular dialect, often the sociolect of the elite class, comes to be identified as the "standard" or "proper" version of a language by those seeking to make a social distinction and is contrasted with other varieties. As a result of this, in some contexts, the term "dialect" refers specifically to varieties with low social status. In this secondary sense of "dialect", language varieties are often called dialects rather than languages:

  • if they have no standard or codified form,
  • if they are rarely or never used in writing (outside reported speech),
  • if the speakers of the given language do not have a state of their own,
  • if they lack prestige with respect to some other, often standardised, variety.

The status of "language" is not solely determined by linguistic criteria, but it is also the result of a historical and political development. Romansh came to be a written language, and therefore it is recognized as a language, even though it is very close to the Lombardic alpine dialects. An opposite example is the case of Chinese, whose variations such as Mandarin and Cantonese are often called dialects and not languages in China, despite their mutual unintelligibility.

Modern nationalism, as developed especially since the French Revolution, has made the distinction between "language" and "dialect" an issue of great political importance. A group speaking a separate "language" is often seen as having a greater claim to being a separate "people", and thus to be more deserving of its own independent state, while a group speaking a "dialect" tends to be seen not as "a people" in its own right, but as a sub-group, part of a bigger people, which must content itself with regional autonomy. The distinction between language and dialect is thus inevitably made at least as much on a political basis as on a linguistic one, and can lead to great political controversy or even armed conflict.

The Yiddish linguist Max Weinreich published the expression, A shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot ("אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמײ און פֿלאָט"‎: "A language is a dialect with an army and navy") in YIVO Bleter 25.1, 1945, p. 13. The significance of the political factors in any attempt at answering the question "what is a language?" is great enough to cast doubt on whether any strictly linguistic definition, without a socio-cultural approach, is possible. This is illustrated by the frequency with which the army-navy aphorism is cited.


By the definition most commonly used by linguists, any linguistic variety can be considered a "dialect" of some language—"everybody speaks a dialect". According to that interpretation, the criteria above merely serve to distinguish whether two varieties are dialects of the same language or dialects of different languages.

The terms "language" and "dialect" are not necessarily mutually exclusive, although it is often perceived to be. Thus there is nothing contradictory in the statement "the language of the Pennsylvania Dutch is a dialect of German".

There are various terms that linguists may use to avoid taking a position on whether the speech of a community is an independent language in its own right or a dialect of another language. Perhaps the most common is "variety";[19] "lect" is another. A more general term is "languoid", which does not distinguish between dialects, languages, and groups of languages, whether genealogically related or not.[20]



When talking about the German language, the term German dialects is only used for the traditional regional varieties. That allows them to be distinguished from the regional varieties of modern standard German.

The German dialects show a wide spectrum of variation. Some of them are not mutually intelligible. German dialectology traditionally names the major dialect groups after Germanic tribes from which they were assumed to have descended.[21]

The extent to which the dialects are spoken varies according to a number of factors: In Northern Germany, dialects are less common than in the South. In cities, dialects are less common than in the countryside. In a public environment, dialects are less common than in a familiar environment.

The situation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein is different from the rest of the German-speaking countries. The Swiss German dialects are the default everyday language in virtually every situation, whereas standard German is only spoken in education, partially in media, and with foreigners not possessing knowledge of Swiss German. Most Swiss German speakers perceive standard German to be a foreign language.

The Low German varieties spoken in Germany are often counted among the German dialects. This reflects the modern situation where they are roofed by standard German. This is different from the situation in the Middle Ages when Low German had strong tendencies towards an ausbau language.

The Frisian languages spoken in Germany are excluded from the German dialects.


Italy is home to a vast array of native regional minority languages, most of which are Romance-based and have their own local variants. These regional languages are often referred to colloquially or in non-linguistic circles as Italian "dialects", or dialetti (standard Italian for "dialects"). However, the majority of the regional languages in Italy are in fact not actually "dialects" of standard Italian in the strict linguistic sense, as they are not derived from modern standard Italian but instead evolved locally from Vulgar Latin independent of standard Italian, with little to no influence from what is now known as "standard Italian." They are therefore better classified as individual languages rather than "dialects."

In addition to having evolved, for the most part, separately from one another and with distinct individual histories, the Latin-based regional Romance languages of Italy are also better classified as separate languages rather than true "dialects" due to the often high degree in which they lack mutual intelligibility. Though mostly mutually unintelligible, the exact degree to which the regional Italian languages are mutually unintelligible varies, often correlating with geographical distance or geographical barriers between the languages, with some regional Italian languages that are closer in geographical proximity to each other or closer to each other on the dialect continuum being more or less mutually intelligible. For instance, a speaker of purely Eastern Lombard, a language in Northern Italy's Lombardy region that includes the Bergamasque dialect, would have severely limited mutual intelligibility with a purely standard Italian speaker and would be nearly completely unintelligible to a speaker of a pure Sicilian language variant. Due to Eastern Lombard's status as a Gallo-Italic language, an Eastern Lombard speaker may, in fact, have more mutual intelligibility with a Occitan, Catalan, or French speaker than with a standard Italian or Sicilian language speaker. Meanwhile, a Sicilian language speaker would have a greater degree of mutual intelligibility with a speaker of the more closely related Neapolitan language, but far less mutual intelligibility with a person speaking Sicilian Gallo-Italic, a language that developed in isolated Lombard emigrant communities on the same island as the Sicilian language.

Modern standard Italian itself is heavily based on the Latin-derived Florentine Tuscan language. The Tuscan-based language that would eventually become modern standard Italian had been used in poetry and literature since at least the 12th century, and it first spread throughout Italy among the educated upper class through the works of authors such as Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Petrarch. Dante's Florentine-Tuscan literary Italian thus slowly became the language of the literate and upper class in Italy, and it spread throughout the peninsula as the lingua franca among the Italian educated class as well as Italian traveling merchants. The economic prowess and cultural and artistic importance of Tuscany in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance further encouraged the diffusion of the Florentine-Tuscan Italian throughout Italy and among the educated and powerful, though local and regional languages remained the main languages of the common people.

During the Risorgimento, proponents of Italian republicanism and Italian nationalism, such as Alessandro Manzoni, stressed the importance of establishing a uniform national language in order to better create an Italian national identity. With the unification of Italy in the 1860s, standard Italian became the official national language of the new Italian state, while the various unofficial regional languages of Italy gradually became regarded as subordinate "dialects" to Italian, increasingly associated negatively with lack of education or provincialism. However, at the time of the Italian Unification, standard Italian still existed mainly as a literary language, and only 2.5% of Italy's population could speak standard Italian.[22]

In the early 20th century, the vast conscription of Italian men from all throughout Italy during World War I is credited with facilitating the diffusion of standard Italian among less educated Italian men, as these men from various regions with various regional languages were forced to communicate with each other in a common tongue while serving in the Italian military. With the eventual spread of the radio and television throughout Italy and the establishment of public education, Italians from all regions were increasingly exposed to standard Italian, while literacy rates among all social classes improved. Today, the majority of Italians are able to speak standard Italian, though many Italians still speak their regional language regularly or as their primary day-to-day language, especially at home with family or when communicating with Italians from the same town or region. However, to some Italians, speaking a regional language, especially in a formal setting or outside of one's region, may carry a stigma or negative connotations associated with being lower class, uneducated, boorish, or overly informal.

Italians in different regions today may also speak regional varieties of standard Italian, or regional Italian dialects, which, unlike the majority of languages of Italy, are actually dialects of standard Italian rather than separate languages. A regional Italian dialect is generally standard Italian that has been heavily influenced or mixed with local or regional native languages and accents.

The languages of Italy are primarily Latin-based Romance languages, with the most widely spoken languages falling within the Italo-Dalmatian language family. This wide category includes:

Aside from the more common Italo-Dalmatian Romance languages in Italy, other native languages in Italy include:

The Sardinian language is considered to be its own Romance language family, separate not only from Italian and the wider Italo-Dalmatian family but from all the other Neo-Latin families; it is often subdivided into the Campidanese and Logudorese dialects. The Corsican-related Gallurese and Sassarese which are also spoken in Sardinia, on the other hand, are often considered closely related to or derived from Tuscan and are therefore fully part of the Italo-Dalmatian languages. Furthermore, the Gallo-Romance language of Ligurian and the Catalan Algherese dialect are also spoken in Sardinia, respectively in Carloforte/Calasetta and Alghero.

The Balkans

The classification of speech varieties as dialects or languages and their relationship to other varieties of speech can be controversial and the verdicts inconsistent. English and Serbo-Croatian illustrate the point. English and Serbo-Croatian each have two major variants (British and American English, and Serbian and Croatian, respectively), along with numerous other varieties. For political reasons, analyzing these varieties as "languages" or "dialects" yields inconsistent results: British and American English, spoken by close political and military allies, are almost universally regarded as varieties of a single language, whereas the national standards of Serbia and Croatia, which are closer to each other than some local vernacular dialects of Serbo-Croatian are to themselves, differing to a similar extent as the formal varieties of English, are treated by some linguists from the region as distinct languages, largely because the two countries oscillate from being brotherly to being bitter enemies. (The Serbo-Croatian language article deals with this topic much more fully.)

Similar examples abound. Macedonian, although largely mutually intelligible with Bulgarian, certain dialects of Serbo-Croatian and to a lesser extent the rest of the South Slavic dialect continuum, is considered by Bulgarian linguists to be a Bulgarian dialect, in contrast with the contemporary international view and the view in North Macedonia, which regards it as a language in its own right. Nevertheless, before the establishment of a literary standard of Macedonian in 1944, in most sources in and out of Bulgaria before the Second World War, the southern Slavonic dialect continuum covering the area of today's North Macedonia were referred to as Bulgarian dialects.


In Lebanon, a part of the Christian population considers "Lebanese" to be in some sense a distinct language from Arabic and not merely a dialect. During the civil war Christians often used Lebanese Arabic officially, and sporadically used the Latin script to write Lebanese, thus further distinguishing it from Arabic. All Lebanese laws are written in the standard literary form of Arabic, though parliamentary debate may be conducted in Lebanese Arabic.

North Africa

In Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, the Darijas (spoken North African languages) are sometimes considered more different from other Arabic dialects. Officially, North African countries prefer to give preference to the Literary Arabic and conduct much of their political and religious life in it (adherence to Islam), and refrain from declaring each country's specific variety to be a separate language, because Literary Arabic is the liturgical language of Islam and the language of the Islamic sacred book, the Qur'an. Although, especially since the 1960s, the Darijas are occupying an increasing use and influence in the cultural life of these countries. Examples of cultural elements where Darijas' use became dominant include: theatre, film, music, television, advertisement, social media, folk-tale books and companies' names.


The Modern Ukrainian language has been in common use since the late 17th century, associated with the establishment of the Cossack Hetmanate. In the 19th century, the Tsarist Government of the Russian Empire claimed that Ukrainian was merely a dialect of Russian and not a language on its own. According to these claims, the differences were few and caused by the conquest of western Ukraine by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. However, in reality the dialects in Ukraine were developing independently from the dialects in the modern Russia for several centuries, and as a result they differed substantially.

Following the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, the German Empire briefly gained control over Ukraine during World War I, but was eventually defeated by the Entente, with major involvement by the Ukrainian Bolsheviks. After Bolsheviks managed to conquer the rest of Ukraine from the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Whites, Ukraine became part of the USSR, whence a process of Ukrainization was begun, with encouragement from Moscow. However, in the late 1920s - early 1930s, the process started to reverse. Witnessing the Ukrainian cultural revival spurred by the Ukrainization in the early 1920s, and fearing that it might lead to an independence movement, Moscow started to remove from power and in some cases physically eliminate the public proponents of ukrainization. The appointment of Pavel Postyshev as the secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine marked the end of ukrainization, and the opposite process of russification started. After World War II, citing Ukrainian collaboration with Nazi Germany in an attempt to gain independence as the reason, Moscow changed its policy towards repression of the Ukrainian language.

Today the boundaries of the Ukrainian language to the Russian language are still not drawn clearly, with an intermediate dialect between them, called Surzhyk, developing in Ukraine.


There have been cases of a variety of speech being deliberately reclassified to serve political purposes. One example is Moldovan. In 1996, the Moldovan parliament, citing fears of "Romanian expansionism", rejected a proposal from President Mircea Snegur to change the name of the language to Romanian, and in 2003 a Moldovan–Romanian dictionary was published, purporting to show that the two countries speak different languages. Linguists of the Romanian Academy reacted by declaring that all the Moldovan words were also Romanian words; while in Moldova, the head of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, Ion Bărbuţă, described the dictionary as a politically motivated "absurdity".

Greater China

Unlike languages that use alphabets to indicate their pronunciation, Chinese characters have developed from logograms that do not always give hints to their pronunciation. Although the written characters have remained relatively consistent for the last two thousand years, the pronunciation and grammar in different regions have developed to an extent that the varieties of the spoken language are often mutually unintelligible. As a series of migration to the south throughout the history, the regional languages of the south, including Gan, Xiang, Wu, Min, Yue and Hakka often show traces of Old Chinese or Middle Chinese. From the Ming dynasty onward, Beijing has been the capital of China and the dialect spoken in Beijing has had the most prestige among other varieties. With the founding of the Republic of China, Standard Mandarin was designated as the official language, based on the spoken language of Beijing. Since then, other spoken varieties are regarded as fangyan (regional speech). Cantonese is still the most commonly-used language in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau and among some overseas Chinese communities, whereas Hokkien has been accepted in Taiwan as an important local language alongside Mandarin.


One language, Interlingua, was developed so that the languages of Western civilization would act as its dialects.[23] Drawing from such concepts as the international scientific vocabulary and Standard Average European, linguists developed a theory that the modern Western languages were actually dialects of a hidden or latent language. Researchers at the International Auxiliary Language Association extracted words and affixes that they considered to be part of Interlingua's vocabulary.[24] In theory, speakers of the Western languages would understand written or spoken Interlingua immediately, without prior study, since their own languages were its dialects.[23] This has often turned out to be true, especially, but not solely, for speakers of the Romance languages and educated speakers of English. Interlingua has also been found to assist in the learning of other languages. In one study, Swedish high school students learning Interlingua were able to translate passages from Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian that students of those languages found too difficult to understand.[25] It should be noted, however, that the vocabulary of Interlingua extends beyond the Western language families.[24]

Selected list of articles on dialects

See also


  1. ^ Oxford Living Dictionaries – English. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster Online dictionary.
  3. ^ Wolfram, Walt and Schilling, Natalie. 2016. American English: Dialects and Variation. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, p. 184.
  4. ^ Chao, Yuen Ren (1968). Language and Symbolic Systems. CUP archive.
  5. ^ Lyons, John (1981). Language and Linguistics. Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ Johnson, David. How Myths about Language Affect Education: What Every Teacher Should Know.
  7. ^ McWorther, John (Jan 19, 2016). "What's a Language, Anyway?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b Maiden, Martin; Parry, Mair (1997). The Dialects of Italy. Routledge. p. 2.
  9. ^ Loporcaro, Michele (2009). Profilo linguistico dei dialetti italiani (in Italian). Bari: Laterza.; Marcato, Carla (2007). Dialetto, dialetti e italiano (in Italian). Bologna: Il Mulino.; Posner, Rebecca (1996). The Romance languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  10. ^ Repetti, Lori (2000). Phonological Theory and the Dialects of Italy. John Benjamins Publishing. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  11. ^ Cysouw, Michael; Good, Jeff. (2013). "Languoid, Doculect, and Glossonym: Formalizing the Notion 'Language'." Language Documentation and Conservation. 7. 331–359. hdl:10125/4606.
  12. ^ a b Chambers, J. K.; Trudgill, Peter (1998). Dialectology (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-521-59646-6.
  13. ^ a b Stewart, William A. (1968). "A sociolinguistic typology for describing national multilingualism". In Fishman, Joshua A. Readings in the Sociology of Language. De Gruyter. pp. 531–545. doi:10.1515/9783110805376.531. ISBN 978-3-11-080537-6. p. 535.
  14. ^ Ferguson, Charles A.; Gumperz, John J. (1960). "Introduction". In Ferguson, Charles A.; Gumperz, John J. Linguistic Diversity in South Asia: Studies in Regional, Social, and Functional Variation. Indiana University, Research Center in Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics. pp. 1–18. p. 5.
  15. ^ Chambers & Trudgill (1998), p. 11
  16. ^ Kloss, Heinz (1967). "'Abstand languages' and 'ausbau languages'". Anthropological Linguistics. 9 (7): 29–41. JSTOR 30029461.
  17. ^ Handbook Sub-committee Committee of the International African Institute. (1946). "A Handbook of African Languages". Africa. 16 (3): 156–159. JSTOR 1156320.
  18. ^ Hansford, Keir; Bendor-Samuel, John; Stanford, Ron (1976). "A provisional language map of Nigeria". Savanna. 5 (2): 115–124. p. 118.
  19. ^ Finegan, Edward (2007). Language: Its Structure and Use (5th ed.). Boston, MA, USA: Thomson Wadsworth. p. 348. ISBN 978-1-4130-3055-6.
  20. ^ "Languoid" at Glottopedia.com
  21. ^ Danvas, Kegesa (2016). "From dialect to variation space". Cutewriters. Cutewriters Inc. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  22. ^ "Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition". Ethnologue.com. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
  23. ^ a b Morris, Alice Vanderbilt, General report Archived 2006-08-14 at the Wayback Machine. New York: International Auxiliary Language Association, 1945.
  24. ^ a b Gode, Alexander, Interlingua-English Dictionary. New York: Storm Publishers, 1951.
  25. ^ Gopsill, F. P., International languages: A matter for Interlingua. Sheffield: British Interlingua Society, 1990.

External links

British English

British English is the standard dialect of English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken, so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".When distinguished from American English, the term "British English" is sometimes used broadly as a synonym for the various varieties of English spoken in some member states of the Commonwealth of Nations.


Cantonese is a variety of Chinese spoken in the city of Guangzhou (also known as Canton) and its surrounding area in southeastern China. It is the traditional prestige variety and standard form of Yue Chinese, one of the major subgroups of Chinese.

In mainland China, it is the lingua franca of the province of Guangdong (being the majority language of the Pearl River Delta) and neighbouring areas such as Guangxi. It is the dominant and official language of Hong Kong and Macau. Cantonese is also widely spoken amongst overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia (most notably in Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as in Singapore and Cambodia to a lesser extent) and throughout the Western world.

While the term Cantonese specifically refers to the prestige variety, it is often used in a broader sense for the entire Yue subgroup of Chinese, including related but largely mutually unintelligible languages and dialects such as Taishanese. When Cantonese and the closely related Yuehai dialects are classified together, there are about 80 million total speakers. Cantonese is viewed as a vital and inseparable part of the cultural identity for its native speakers across large swaths of southeastern China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as in overseas communities.

Although Cantonese shares a lot of vocabulary with Mandarin, the two varieties are mutually unintelligible because of differences in pronunciation, grammar and lexicon. Sentence structure, in particular the placement of verbs, sometimes differs between the two varieties. A notable difference between Cantonese and Mandarin is how the spoken word is written; both can be recorded verbatim, but very few Cantonese speakers are knowledgeable in the full Cantonese written vocabulary, so a non-verbatim formalized written form is adopted, which is more akin to the Mandarin written form. This results in the situation in which a Cantonese and a Mandarin text may look similar but are pronounced differently.

Cebuano language

The Cebuano () or Cebuan language ( seh-BOO-ən), also often referred informally to by most of its speakers simply as Bisaya (English translation: "Visayan", not to be confused with other Visayan languages), is an Austronesian language spoken in the Philippines by about closely 45 million people in Central Visayas, western parts of Eastern Visayas and most parts of Mindanao, most of whom belong to various Visayan ethnolinguistic groups, mainly the Cebuanos. While Filipino (Tagalog) has the most number of speakers of Philippine languages, Cebuano had the largest native language-speaking population in the Philippines until about the 1980s. It is by far the most widely spoken of the Visayan languages, which are in turn part of the wider Philippine languages.

It is the lingua franca of the Central Visayas, western parts of Eastern Visayas, some western parts of Palawan and most parts of Mindanao. The name Cebuano is derived from the island of Cebu, which is the Urheimat or origin of the language. Cebuano is also the prime language in Western Leyte, noticeably in Ormoc and other municipalities surrounding the city, though most of the residents in the area name the Cebuano language by their own demonyms such as "Ormocanon" in Ormoc and "Albuerahanon" in Albuera. Cebuano is given the ISO 639-2 three-letter code ceb, but has no ISO 639-1 two-letter code.

Hakka Chinese

Hakka, also rendered Kejia, is one of the major groups of varieties of Chinese, spoken natively by the Hakka people throughout southern China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and throughout the diaspora areas of East Asia, Southeast Asia, and in overseas Chinese communities around the world.

Due to its primary usage in scattered isolated regions where communication is limited to the local area, Hakka has developed numerous varieties or dialects, spoken in different provinces, such as Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Fujian, Sichuan, Hunan, Jiangxi and Guizhou, as well as in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Hakka is not mutually intelligible with Yue, Wu, Southern Min, Mandarin or other branches of Chinese, and itself contains a few mutually unintelligible varieties. It is most closely related to Gan and is sometimes classified as a variety of Gan, with a few northern Hakka varieties even being partially mutually intelligible with southern Gan. There is also a possibility that the similarities are just a result of shared areal features.Taiwan, where Hakka is the native language of a significant minority of the island's residents, is a center for the study and preservation of the language. Pronunciation differences exist between the Taiwanese Hakka dialects and Mainland China's Hakka dialects; even in Taiwan, two major local varieties of Hakka exist.

The Meixian dialect (Moiyen) of northeast Guangdong in China has been taken as the "standard" dialect by the People's Republic of China. The Guangdong Provincial Education Department created an official romanization of Moiyen in 1960, one of four languages receiving this status in Guangdong.


Hokkien (; from Chinese: 福建話; pinyin: Fújiànhuà; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hok-kiàn-ōe) or Minnan language (閩南語/闽南语), is a Southern Min Chinese dialect group originating from the Minnan region in the south-eastern part of Fujian Province in Southeastern China, and spoken widely there. It is also spoken widely in Taiwan and by the Chinese diaspora in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia, and by other overseas Chinese all over the world. It is the mainstream form of Southern Min.

It is closely related to Teochew, though it has limited mutual intelligibility with it, whereas it is more distantly related to other variants such as Putian dialect, Hainanese and Leizhou dialect due to historical influences.

Hokkien historically served as the lingua franca amongst overseas Chinese communities of all dialects and subgroups in Southeast Asia, and remains today as the most spoken variety of Chinese in the region, including in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and some parts of Indochina (particularly Thailand, Laos and Cambodia).The Betawi Malay language, spoken by some five million people in and around the Indonesian capital Jakarta, includes numerous Hokkien loanwords due to the significant influence of the Chinese Indonesian diaspora, most of whom are of Hokkien ancestry and origin.

List of dialects of English

The following is a list of dialects of English. Dialects are linguistic varieties which may differ in pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling and grammar. For the classification of varieties of English in terms of pronunciation only, see Regional accents of English.

Dialects can be defined as "sub-forms of languages which are, in general, mutually comprehensible." English speakers from different countries and regions use a variety of different accents (systems of pronunciation), as well as various localized words and grammatical constructions; many different dialects can be identified based on these factors. Dialects can be classified at broader or narrower levels: within a broad national or regional dialect, various more localized sub-dialects can be identified, and so on. The combination of differences in pronunciation and use of local words may make some English dialects almost unintelligible to speakers from other regions.

The major native dialects of English are often divided by linguists into three general categories: the British Isles dialects, those of North America, and those of Australasia. Dialects can be associated not only with place, but also with particular social groups. Within a given English-speaking country, there will often be a form of the language considered to be Standard English – the Standard Englishes of different countries differ, and each can itself be considered a dialect. Standard English is often associated with the more educated layers of society.

Low German

Low German or Low Saxon is a West Germanic language spoken mainly in Northern Germany and the northeastern part of the Netherlands. It is also spoken to a lesser extent in the German diaspora worldwide (e.g. Plautdietsch).

Low German is most closely related to Frisian and English, with which it forms the Ingvaeonic group of the West Germanic languages. Like Dutch (Istvaeonic), it is spoken north of the Benrath and Uerdingen isoglosses, while (Standard) German (Irminonic) is spoken south of those lines. Like Frisian, English, Dutch and the North Germanic languages, Low German has not undergone the High German consonant shift, as opposed to High German.

The Low German dialects spoken in the Netherlands are mostly referred to as Low Saxon, those spoken in northwestern Germany (Lower Saxony, Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen, and Saxony-Anhalt west of the Elbe) as either Low German or Low Saxon, and those spoken in northeastern Germany (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, and Saxony-Anhalt east of the Elbe) mostly as Low German. This is because northwestern Germany and the northeastern Netherlands were the area of settlement of the Saxons (Old Saxony), while Low German spread to northeastern Germany through eastward migration of Low German-speakers into areas with a Slavic-speaking population (Germania Slavica).

It has been estimated that Low German has approximately 6.7 million native speakers – 5 million in Germany, primarily Northern Germany, and 1.7 million in the Netherlands. A 2005 study by H. Bloemhof, Taaltelling Nedersaksisch, showed 1.8 million spoke it daily in the Netherlands.


Luxembourgish, Luxemburgish ( LUK-səm-bur-gish) or Letzeburgesch ( LETS(-ə)-bur-GESH or LETS(-ə)-bur-gish) (Luxembourgish: Lëtzebuergesch) is a West Germanic language that is spoken mainly in Luxembourg. About 390,000 people speak Luxembourgish worldwide.A variety of the Moselle Franconian language, Luxembourgish has similarities with other varieties of Moselle Franconian and the wider group of West Germanic languages. However, the status of Luxembourgish as an official language in Luxembourg and the existence there of a regulatory body, has removed Luxembourgish, at least in part, from the domain of Standard German, its traditional Dachsprache.

Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin ( (listen); simplified Chinese: 官话; traditional Chinese: 官話; pinyin: Guānhuà; literally: "speech of officials") is a group of related varieties of Chinese spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of Standard Mandarin or Standard Chinese. Because Mandarin originated in North China and most Mandarin dialects are found in the north, the group is sometimes referred to as the Northern dialects (北方话; běifānghuà). Many local Mandarin varieties are not mutually intelligible. Nevertheless, Mandarin is often placed first in lists of languages by number of native speakers (with nearly a billion).

Mandarin is by far the largest of the seven or ten Chinese dialect groups, spoken by 70 percent of all Chinese speakers over a large geographical area, stretching from Yunnan in the southwest to Xinjiang in the northwest and Heilongjiang in the northeast. This is generally attributed to the greater ease of travel and communication in the North China Plain compared to the more mountainous south, combined with the relatively recent spread of Mandarin to frontier areas.

Most Mandarin varieties have four tones. The final stops of Middle Chinese have disappeared in most of these varieties, but some have merged them as a final glottal stop. Many Mandarin varieties, including the Beijing dialect, retain retroflex initial consonants, which have been lost in southern dialect groups.

The capital has been within the Mandarin area for most of the last millennium, making these dialects very influential. Some form of Mandarin has served as a national lingua franca since the 14th century. In the early 20th century, a standard form based on the Beijing dialect, with elements from other Mandarin dialects, was adopted as the national language. Standard Chinese is the official language of the People's Republic of China and Taiwan and one of the four official languages of Singapore. It is used as one of the working languages of the United Nations. It is also one of the most frequently used varieties of Chinese among Chinese diaspora communities internationally.

North Germanic languages

The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages, a sub-family of the Indo-European languages, along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East Germanic languages. The language group is sometimes referred to as the "Nordic languages", a direct translation of the most common term used among Danish, Faroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish scholars and laypeople.

In Scandinavia, the term "Scandinavian languages" refers specifically to the generally mutually intelligible languages of the three continental Scandinavian countries and is thus used in a more narrow sense as a subset of the Nordic languages, leaving aside the insular subset of Faroese and Icelandic. Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish are also referred to as Scandinavian or Nordic languages, while Faroese and Icelandic are grouped together as Insular Nordic languages. The term Scandinavian arose in the 18th century as a result of the early linguistic and cultural Scandinavist movement, referring to the people, cultures, and languages of the three Scandinavian countries and stressing their common heritage.

The term "North Germanic languages" is used in comparative linguistics, whereas the term "Scandinavian languages" appears in studies of the modern standard languages and the dialect continuum of Scandinavia.Approximately 20 million people in the Nordic countries speak a Scandinavian language as their native language, including an approximately 5% minority in Finland. Languages belonging to the North Germanic language tree are also commonly spoken on Greenland and, to a lesser extent, by immigrants in North America.

Persian language

Persian (), also known by its endonym Farsi (فارسی fārsi [fɒːɾˈsiː] (listen)), is one of the Western Iranian languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan (officially known as Dari since 1958), and Tajikistan (officially known as Tajiki since the Soviet era), Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script, which itself evolved from the Aramaic alphabet.The Persian language is classified as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of the Sasanian Empire, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenid Empire. Its grammar is similar to that of many contemporary European languages. A Persian-speaking person may be referred to as Persophone.There are approximately 110 million Persian speakers worldwide, with the language holding official status in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. For centuries, Persian has also been a prestigious cultural language in other regions of Western Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia by the various empires based in the regions.Persian has had a considerable (mainly lexical) influence on neighboring languages, particularly the Turkic languages in Central Asia, Caucasus, and Anatolia, neighboring Iranian languages, as well as Armenian, Georgian, and Indo-Aryan languages, especially Urdu (a register of Hindustani). It also exerted some influence on Arabic, particularly Bahrani Arabic, while borrowing much vocabulary from it after the Arab conquest of Iran.With a long history of literature in the form of Middle Persian before Islam, Persian was the first language in the Muslim world to break through Arabic's monopoly on writing, and the writing of poetry in Persian was established as a court tradition in many eastern courts. Some of the famous works of Persian literature are the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the works of Rumi, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the Panj Ganj of Nizami Ganjavi, the Divān of Hafez and the two miscellanea of prose and verse by Saadi Shirazi, the Gulistan and the Bustan.

Portuguese language

Portuguese (português or, in full, língua portuguesa) is a western Romance language originating in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the sole official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe. It also has co-official language status in East Timor, Equatorial Guinea and Macau in China. As the result of expansion during colonial times, a cultural presence of Portuguese and Portuguese creole speakers are also found in Goa, Daman and Diu in India; in Batticaloa on the east coast of Sri Lanka; in the Indonesian island of Flores; in the Malacca state of Malaysia; and the ABC islands in the Caribbean where Papiamento is spoken, while Cape Verdean Creole is the most widely spoken Portuguese-based Creole. A Portuguese-speaking person or nation may be referred to as "Lusophone" in both English and Portuguese.

Portuguese is part of the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia and the County of Portugal, and has kept some Celtic phonology and lexicon. With approximately 215 to 220 million native speakers and 250 million total speakers, Portuguese is usually listed as the sixth most natively spoken language in the world, the third-most spoken European language in the world in terms of native speakers, and the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also the most spoken language in South America and the second-most spoken in Latin America after Spanish, one of the 10 most spoken languages in Africa and is an official language of the European Union, Mercosur, OAS, ECOWAS and the African Union.

Scots language

Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster in Ireland (where the local dialect is known as Ulster Scots). It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language which was historically restricted to most of the Highlands, the Hebrides and Galloway after the 16th century. The Scots language developed during the Middle English period as a distinct entity.As there are no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing a language from a dialect, scholars and other interested parties often disagree about the linguistic, historical and social status of Scots and particularly its relationship to English. Although a number of paradigms for distinguishing between languages and dialects exist, they often render contradictory results. Broad Scots is at one end of a bipolar linguistic continuum, with Scottish Standard English at the other. Scots is often regarded as one of the ancient varieties of English, but it has its own distinct dialects. Alternatively, Scots is sometimes treated as a distinct Germanic language, in the way that Norwegian is closely linked to but distinct from Danish.A 2010 Scottish Government study of "public attitudes towards the Scots language" found that 64% of respondents (around 1,000 individuals being a representative sample of Scotland's adult population) "don't really think of Scots as a language" but it also found that "the most frequent speakers are least likely to agree that it is not a language (58%) and those never speaking Scots most likely to do so (72%)". In the 2011 Scottish census, a question on Scots language ability was featured.

Southern American English

Southern American English or Southern U.S. English is a regional dialect, or collection of dialects, of American English spoken throughout the Southern United States, though increasingly in more rural areas and primarily by white Americans. The dialect is commonly known in the United States simply as Southern, while formal, much more recent terms within American linguistics include Southern White Vernacular English and Rural White Southern English.A regional Southern American English consolidated and expanded throughout all the traditional Southern States since the last quarter of the nineteenth century until around World War II, largely superseding the older Southern American English dialects. With this younger and more unified pronunciation system, Southern American English now comprises the largest American regional accent group by number of speakers. As of 2006, its Southern accent is strongly reported throughout the U.S. states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky, as well as most of Texas, eastern and southern Oklahoma, southern Missouri, southeastern Maryland, Southern Virginia, West Virginia, northern Florida, and southeastern New Mexico. The accent of some Midland American English (often identified as a South Midland accent) is documented as sharing key features with Southern American English, though to a weaker extent, including in northern Oklahoma, eastern and central Kansas, Missouri generally, the southern halves of Illinois and Indiana, southern Ohio, western Delaware, and south-central Pennsylvania.Southern American English as a regional dialect can be divided into various sub-dialects, the most phonologically advanced (i.e., the most innovative) ones being southern varieties of Appalachian English and certain varieties of Texan English. African-American English has many common points with Southern American English dialects due to the strong historical ties of African Americans to the South. Recently, the Southern accent has been receding, particularly among younger people and in urban areas.

Southern Min

Southern Min or Minnan (simplified Chinese: 闽南语; traditional Chinese: 閩南語), literally "Southern Fujian" while "Min" is short for "Fujian" and "Nan" is "South", also known as Hokkien-Taiwanese, is a branch of Min Chinese spoken in certain parts of south and eastern China including Fujian (especially the Minnan region), most of Taiwan (many citizens are descendents of settlers from Fujian), eastern Guangdong, Hainan, and southern Zhejiang. The Minnan dialects are also spoken by descendants of emigrants from these areas in diaspora, most notably the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. It is the largest Min Chinese branch and the most widely distributed Min Chinese subgroup.

In common parlance and in the narrower sense, Southern Min refers to the Quanzhang or Hokkien-Taiwanese variety of Southern Min originating from Southern Fujian in Mainland China. It is spoken mainly in Fujian, Taiwan, as well as certain parts of Southeast Asia. The Quanzhang variety is often called simply "Minnan Proper" (simplified Chinese: 闽南语; traditional Chinese: 閩南語). It is considered the mainstream Southern Min Chinese Langauge.

In the wider scope, Southern Min also includes other Min Chinese varieties that are linguistically related to Minnan proper (Quanzhang). Most variants of Southern Min have significant differences from the Quanzhang variety, some having limited mutual intelligibility with it, others almost none. Teochew, Longyan, and Zhenan may be said to have limited mutual intelligibility with Minnan Proper, sharing similar phonology and vocabulary to a small extent. On the other hand, variants such as Datian, Zhongshan, and Qiong-Lei have historical linguistic roots with Minnan Proper, but are significantly divergent from it in terms of phonology and vocabulary, and thus have almost no mutual intelligibility with the Quanzhang variety. Linguists tend to classify them as separate Min languages.

Southern Min is not mutually intelligible with other branches of Min Chinese nor other varieties of Chinese, such as Mandarin.

Swahili language

Swahili, also known as Kiswahili (translation: language of the Swahili people), is a Bantu language and the first language of the Swahili people. It is a lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and other parts of eastern and south-eastern Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Comorian, spoken in the Comoros Islands is sometimes considered to be a dialect of Swahili, though other authorities consider it a distinct language.The exact number of Swahili speakers, be it native or second-language speakers, is unknown and a matter of debate. Various estimates have been put forward and they vary widely, from 50 million to over 100 million. Swahili serves as a national language of four nations: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the DRC. Shikomor, the official language in Comoros and also spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is related to Swahili. Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and officially recognised as a lingua franca of the East African Community. South Africa legalized the teaching of Swahili in South African schools as an optional subject beginning in 2020.A significant fraction of Swahili vocabulary derives from Arabic, in part conveyed by Arabic-speaking Muslim inhabitants. For example, the Swahili word for "book" is kitabu, traceable back to the Arabic word كتاب kitābu (from the root k-t-b "write"). However, the Swahili plural form of this word ("books") is vitabu, following Bantu grammar in which ki- is reanalysed as a nominal class prefix, whose plural is vi-.

Teochew dialect

Teochew (Chinese: 潮州話 or 潮汕話; pinyin: Cháozhōuhuà or Cháoshànhuà, Chaozhou dialect: Diê⁵ziu¹ uê⁷; Shantou dialect: Dio⁵ziu¹ uê⁷) is a Southern Min dialect spoken mainly by the Teochew people in the Chaoshan region of eastern Guangdong and by their diaspora around the world. It is sometimes referred to as Chiuchow, its Cantonese name, due to the english romanisation by English colonial officials and explorers. It is closely related to some dialects of Hokkien, as it shares some cognates and phonology with it, though both are not largely mutually intelligible.

Teochew preserves many Old Chinese pronunciations and vocabulary that have been lost in some of the other modern varieties of Chinese. As such, many linguists consider Teochew one of the most conservative Chinese dialects.

Xhosa language

Xhosa () is an Nguni Bantu language with click consonants ("Xhosa" begins with a click) and is one of the official languages of South Africa. It is also an official language of Zimbabwe. "Xhosa is spoken as a first language by 8.2 million people and by 11 million as a second language in South Africa, mostly in Eastern Cape Province. Total number of users in all countries is 19.2 million (Ethnologue)". Like most other Bantu languages, Xhosa is a tonal language; the same sequence of consonants and vowels can have different meanings, depending on intonation. Xhosa has two tones: high and low.Xhosa is written with the Latin alphabet. Three letters are used to indicate the basic clicks: c for dental clicks, x for lateral clicks and q for post-alveolar clicks (for a more detailed explanation, see the table of consonant phonemes below). Tones are not normally indicated in writing.

Yue Chinese

Yue or Yueh (English: or ; Cantonese pronunciation: [jyːt̚˧˥]) is one of the primary branches of Chinese spoken in southern China, particularly the provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi, collectively known as Liangguang.

The name Cantonese is often used for the whole branch, but linguists prefer to reserve that name for the variety of Guangzhou (Canton), Hong Kong and Macau, which is the prestige dialect. Taishanese, from the coastal area of Jiangmen located southwest of Guangzhou, was the language of most of the 19th-century emigrants from Guangdong to Southeast Asia and North America. Most later migrants have been speakers of Cantonese.

Yue varieties are not mutually intelligible with other varieties of Chinese. They are among the most conservative varieties with regard to the final consonants and tonal categories of Middle Chinese, but have lost several distinctions in the initial and medial consonants that other Chinese varieties have retained.

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