Definitions Sociolinguistic: Dialect, Accent, Register, Style,


  • Dialect,
  • Accent
  • Register
  • Style


All speakers of a language can talk to each other & understand each other, yet no two speakers speak exactly alike. Some differences may be due to personal idiosyncrasies (unique characteristics), emotional state, personality, & also state of health that each person speaks somewhat differently from all others & it is shown by our ability to recognize people whom we know by hearing them talk. The unique characteristics of the language of an individual speaker are referred to as “The speaker’s idiolect”. We can say that a language contains as many idiolects as the number of its speakers. An idiolect is the unique features of a person’s speech or use of language. It characterizes individual speakers. It does not characterize social groups. Sociolinguists have no interest in the idiolectal variation because it does not shed lights on any social phenomenon.

=> What is the difference between a dialect & an idiolect ?

– Dialect is spoken by a group of individuals, whereas idiolect is spoken
only by individuals.


The term dialect should not be confused with the term accent. Dialect refers to every aspect of language (morphology, syntax, lexicon…) including pronunciation. Accent refers only to pronunciation. Ex: Standard English is spoken in a variety of accents with clear regional associations. Thus, we can say that many people who live in such places speak standard English because they show remarkable uniformity or similarity in grammar & vocabulary, & the differences are simply those of accent. So, we say that they don’t speak different dialect but one variety with different accents. There’s one English accent which has achieved a certain eminence is the known as “Received Pronunciation” (RP). This accent is used by a few people as few as 3% of those who live in England. This accent is usually associated with a high social or educational background. It is also associated with BBC & it’s taught to students learning English as a foreign language.

The small number of speakers who use RP do not identify themselves as coming from any particular geographical region, we say that RP is a “Nonlocalized” accent.

It’s not necessary to speak RP to speak standard English, because standard English can be spoken with any regional accent. It’s impossible to speak English without any accent. RP is an accent. It’s a social accent rather than a regional one.


The study of language variation is further complicated by the fact that speakers can adopt different styles of speaking. At times, speakers are more careful & at times they are more relaxed. They can speak very formally or very informally, the choice is determined by the relative formality of the occasion. Ceremonial occasions require very formal speech. Public lectures somewhat less formal. Casual conversations quite informal & conversations between intimates may be extremely informal & casual These various levels of style form a natural continuum, from the highly formal to the extremely informal.


Dialect concerns variation that are located regionally or socially. Style refers to differences in dgree of formality. Register concerns variations associated with a profession or occupation or other defined social groups & forming parts of its jargon or in-group variety. People who work at a particular trade or occupation develop new terms for new concepts.

Ex: Surgeons, airline pilots, lawyers, banker…employ different registers.

Registers facilitate speedy communication. A specialized register serves not just to label new concepts, but to establish connections between members of the in-group & enforce boundaries for outsiders.

Definitions Sociolinguistic: Dialect, Accent, Register, Style,

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