College of the
Liberal Arts

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

You are here: Home / Lesson 3 / Language Varieties

Language Varieties

The term language varieties refers to any form of a language---whether a regional or social dialect, a pidgin, creole, or some other language code.  Most of us use a range of language forms that differ in some ways from the standard English that has been codified in grammar books and upheld by efforts to prescribe the way that people use English.  For example, consider the forms that you might use in conversing with friends at a soccer match versus the language you might use when speaking with your boss in a work context or with one of your adult students. The differences may be related to the formality of the context, but language varieties also are associated with geographic patterns in the way people talk as well as social contexts or groupings.  These sociocultural and regional differences in the use of English are of great importance to the people who use them because they serve as group identity symbols for the speakers.  The language variety that a person associates with a particular social or regional identity may carry much psychological and emotional weight.

In this section, you will read sections of Trumbull and Pacheco's (2005), “THE TEACHER’S GUIDE TO DIVERSITY: BUILDING A KNOWLEDGE BASE. Volume II: Language.”  (You may download and save to your computer by going to and clicking on the Volume II: Language 'Download' link.)

Read pp. 29-32, Language Varieties: Pidgins, Creoles, & Dialects

thinking.jpgSTOP & THINK:
Answer the following questions based on the Trumbull and Pacheco reading.
  1. What is the difference between an accent and a dialect?
  2. In what specific way is a creole different from a pidgin?
  3. Peter Trudgill noted that “increased geographical mobility during the course of the 20th century led to the disappearance of many dialects and dialect forms through a process we can call dialect levelling — the levelling out of differences between one dialect and another" (2005, p. 155).  Do you think that ‘dialect levelling’ is continuing in the geographical area you are most familiar with?  Does this mean there will eventually be only one dialect?  What other forces are at work that would cause new dialects to emerge?

(questions from:  Yule, 2006, pp. 203-204)


Next, visit the website that accompanies the film Do You Speak American? and complete the quiz there to see if you can easily identify regional U.S. dialects.

Spinning icon indicates page loading.