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What is the definition of dialect?

Dialect is the language or style of speech specific to a particular geographic location, community, time period, social class, or other grouping of people.

Dialect

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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

Dialect is the language or style of speech specific to a particular geographic location, community, time period, social class, or other grouping of people. A dialect is created from grammar, syntax, pronunciation, and diction variations within the same language that differs from other groups’ speech. In literature, writers often replicate dialects to make their characters’ voices seem more authentic. 

Dialect derives from the Greek dialegesthai, meaning “to converse,” from dia (“between”) and legein (“speak”).

In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the protagonist, Scout Finch, her brother Jem, and her classmate Walter all use dialects characteristic of the regions in which they live and the communities they belong to, as demonstrated in the following passage:

When Walter caught up with us, Jem made pleasant conversation with him. ‘A hain’t lives there,’ he said cordially, pointing to the Radley house. ‘Ever hear about him, Walter?’ 

‘Reckon I have,’ said Walter. ‘Almost died first year I come to school and et them pecans—folks say he pizened ’em and put ’em over on the school side of the fence.’ 

Jem seemed to have little fear of Boo Radley now that Walter and I walked beside him. Indeed, Jem grew boastful: ‘I went all the way up to the house once,’ he said to Walter. 

‘Anybody who went up to the house once oughta not to still run every time he passes it,’ I said to the clouds above.

see: colloquialismsyntaxdictioncharacterization

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