Traditional and Modern Dialectology
Traditional and modern dialectology are two related studies of dialects. Their scientific focus differs, however:
|Traditional Dialectology||Modern Dialectology|
|Since 19th century||Since 1960s|
|Geographical Sociolinguistics||Sociological Sociolinguistics|
|Focus on rural areas||Focus on urban areas|
|Focus on regional variation/varieties: accent and lexicon||Focus on social variation/varieties: accent, lexicon and grammar|
|Focus on NORMS (Non-mobile Old Rural Male Speakers)||Less restricted focus: study of diverse social groups (age, class, male/female…)|
|Elicitation of information via questionnaires and interviews (tape-recorded)||Plus corpora, modern statistical methods for analysis of linguistic data|
|: creation of linguistic maps (dialect maps) with isoglosses indicating dialectal borders|
|Also: regional dialectology or dialect geography||Also: social dialectology or urban dialectology (see Sociolinguistic Patterns)|
Isoglosses (sg. isogloss): isoglosses are boundaries on a dialect map, i.e. (imaginary) lines illustrating the geographical distribution of a given set of studied linguistic features (e.g. lexical or phonological). Thus, we can locate dialect regions on a linguistic map and then indicate dialect boundaries.
A dialect boundary can be drawn by dialectologists where isoglosses bundle together, e.g. where the location of an isogloss for a particular pronunciation feature overlaps with that of another isogloss drawn for a lexical feature.
Characteristically, the boundaries between dialects are not clear-cut but rather transitional. Due to a growing mobility of people and an increasing presence of media, which largely uses Received Pronunciation in broadcasts, dialects become less distinctive.
A collection of linguistic maps showing the distribution of diverse linguistic features is called a ‘linguistic atlas’. An example for the USA is this book by Labov, Ash and Boberg:
(Source: Kortmann 2005, 313)
- Labov, W., Ash, S. and Boberg, C. (2006). The Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change; A Multimedia Reference Tool. Berlin et al.: Mouton de Gruyter.
Click here for a map of major dialect regions in England and the USA