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Dialect Levelling

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English

A dialect is a form of language that is spoken amongst a specific group or in a particular region. To level is to make something equal or similar. With this understanding, what do you think dialect levelling is?

What is dialect levelling?

Dialect levelling is the process by which the differences and variations between certain dialects are reduced or eliminated over time.

When and why does dialect levelling occur?

Dialect levelling occurs through the mixing of different cultures typically through migration and other forms of interaction over a long period of time. As a result, the most unique features of dialects are often lost. It seems to occur most frequently in languages following the industrialization and modernization of the areas where they are spoken.

Dialect levelling can occur over several generations, merging two or more dialects into one compromised dialect and typically erasing individual regional features. The dialects experience standardization, eliminating the distinctiveness of each dialect and establishing a singular mainstream dialect.

As it unfolds over time, dialect levelling results in the dialects and speech varieties of various parts of a country becoming increasingly similar. It is the process of reducing language diversity.

How does dialect levelling occur?

According to Gerard Van Herk, researchers in New Zealand concluded there is a three-stage process to dialect levelling:

  1. The 1st generation of immigrants maintains its dialect.
  2. The 2nd generation picks language from the linguistic options available where they live.
  3. The 3rd generation levels out any difference, opting for the most popular variant of language.

Why does dialect levelling occur?

  • Increasing geographical mobility makes increasing interaction between speakers of different dialects possible as migrants settle in different communities.
  • Social mobility also means interaction between members of different social classes with different dialects. Oftentimes, lower classes attempting to assimilate with higher classes feel pressure to minimize any differences between their own dialect and the dialect of those from the higher class.
  • Adolescents often adopt language affectations from their peer group in shared spaces such as school or extra-curricular clubs, rather than from their parents.

Dialect Leveling in Britain

Dialects in Britain

Dialects in Britain reflect social class and geographical location, amongst other things. There are many examples of dialects in Britain. Consider how someone in the North might pronounce the word 'gutter' as 'gooh-tah' versus how a London youth might pronounce it as 'gu-ah', replacing the 't' with a glottal stop. Or consider how some Britons would say 'isn't', some would say 'ain't' and some would say 'in't'.

To give a past example of dialect levelling, take the evolution of the London dialect that occurred following the arrival of immigrants from the north of England in the fifteenth century. Their dialect evolved into more southern speech varieties.

Why has dialect levelling occurred in Britain?

Research points to a number of reasons for dialect levelling in Britain. Here are some possible reasons for it:

  • Economic change led to industrialization and modernization. Britons were no longer working in rural employment and so they moved to other parts of the country.
  • World Wars meant soldiers, all with different British dialects, were forced into close proximity with each other. This obviously led to the merging and intermingling of individual dialects.
  • The popularity of media, TV and radio to be specific, may have contributed to the prevalence of southern accents in the North. This is because popular media typically broadcast from the south, London in particular.

The Future of the Dialect

What does dialect levelling mean for the future?

There are some negatives to dialect levelling. Primarily, the erasure of the uniqueness of individuality of dialects. It means certain cultural quirks are now lost forever.

However, dialect levelling is a result of increased human interaction between speakers of different classes / locations. This is surely a good thing, as it must mean society is becoming more integrated, sharing an increasingly uniform dialect.

Furthermore, it is unclear as to whether dialect levelling will eventually cause the erasure of dialects altogether. There is such a wide variety of dialects that it seems impossible. As immigration continues, it seems likely that groups will strive to maintain the unique qualities of their individual dialects. For this reason, dialect levelling can never truly erase different dialects. There will always be individual communities that will preserve their linguistic culture.

Dialect Levelling - Key takeaways

  • Dialect levelling is the process by which the differences and variations between certain dialects are reduced or eliminated over time.
  • Dialect levelling the occurs through the mixing of different cultures Typically through migration and other forms of interaction over a long period of time.
  • Dialect levelling seems to occur most frequently in languages following the industrialization and modernization of the areas where they are spoken.

  • The three-step process of dialect levelling:

    • The 1st generation of immigrants maintains its dialect.
    • The 2nd generation picks language from the linguistic options available where they live.
    • The 3rd generation levels out any difference, opting for the most popular variant of language.
  • The main reasons for dialect levelling are: increased social and geographical mobility, youth culture, popularity of media like TV / radio, industrialization / modernization.

Dialect Levelling

Dialect levelling is the process by which the differences and variations between certain dialects are reduced or eliminated over time.

The main argument against dialect leveling is the diminution of diversity. If dialects are losing their uniqueness, that is to some degree a loss of cultural identity to the speakers of that dialect.

Final Dialect Levelling Quiz

Question

What is a dialect?


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Answer

A dialect is a form of language that is spoken amongst a specific group or in a particular region.

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Question

Fill in the blanks: Dialect levelling is the process by which the differences and variations between certain dialects are ________ or ________ over time.

A: reduced; eliminated

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Answer

reduced; eliminated

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Question

In the context of dialect levelling, what does it mean to ‘level’ something?

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Answer

To drop it

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Question

TRUE or FALSE: Dialect levelling occurs over the space of 15 years

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Answer

TRUE: It has been proven that dialect levelling typically occurs over the space of 15 years 

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Question

What is step 1 in the process of dialect levelling?


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Answer

The original generation to immigrate to this location kept and continued their home dialect

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Fill in the blanks: As it unfolds over time, dialect levelling results in the dialects and speech varieties of various parts of a country becoming increasingly _______

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Answer

similar

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Question

When does dialect levelling seemingly occur the most?


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Answer

It seems to occur most frequently in languages following the industrialisation and modernisation of the areas where they are spoken.

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Which of the following are valid reasons for dialect levelling?

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Answer

Decreased social mobility

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Question

  1. In the dialect levelling process, what is step 2 that leads to the final step of dialect levelling?

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Answer

The second generation picked and chose language from the linguistic options available to them

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What is the biggest problem with dialect levelling?

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Answer

The erasure of the uniqueness of individuality of dialects which means certain cultural quirks are now lost forever.

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Can you think of any examples of different dialects in Britain?

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Answer

Cockney, Brummie, Scouse, Yorkshire, Geordie...etc

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What event can we point to in Britain that led to the mixing of dialects?

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Answer

Economic change led to industrialisation and modernisation (migration of Britons), close proximity of soldiers during the World Wars, the popularity of media like TV and radio

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Question

How likely is it that dialect levelling will eventually lead to one uniform dialect in Britain?

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Answer

Not very likely, as many close-knit communities/cultures will probably want to preserve the uniqueness of their own dialects

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How are the dialects of many adolescents often influenced by other adolescents?


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Answer

 Agemates likely to influence each other, as they are often in close proximity through youth group activities like schools and clubs

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Question

How does social mobility often lead to dialect levelling?



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Answer

 Different social classes typically have had different dialects. Lower classes often  have to assimilate by their own dialect and the dialect of those from the higher class

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