Factors That Predetermine Dialect/Accent

Due to the language differences in the society, everyone is aware of the dialect differentiation. The term dialect is often refers to a variety of languages existed in this of that region. Since languages are inevitably revealed through the existed dialects and accents, it should be pointed out that to speak a language means to speech some dialect of the language (Wolfram et al. 1998). Additionally, dialectal diversity constitutes the variation of cultures and social and political conditions. Finally, the emergence of dialect variation is predetermined by historical background and the migration processes. Therefore, in order to define the factors of dialect differentiation, it is obligatory to analyze such factors as social and cultural diversity, geographical location, and historical preconditions and to compare the studies in this field.

The dialect emergence is, first of all, predetermined by historical aspects. Hence, it is obviously that history greatly influenced the development and change of language varieties and occurrence of dialectical forms and accents. Hock (1994) mentions: “Where we lack sufficient evidence about dialectal prehistory, we can therefore take the existence of such patterns as suggestive of migration, rather than the more ‘usual’ interaction between statutory dialects” (pp. 472). Hence, the migration process is another reason of the development of new dialects and accents as well as their constant interaction in the past. The issue is closely connected with colonial past of some countries where “colonial” speech of the some groups settled in English-speaking countries predetermined the dialect differentiation.

However, there appear different theories of dialect emergence considering different migration process. Taking into consideration the fact that language is a historic output, we should consider the validity of different theories of dialect advancement. Thus, Sapir (2004) says:

“If we take two closely related dialects, say English as spoken be the “middle classes” of London and English as spoken by the average New Yorker, we observe that, however much the individual speakers in each city differ from each other, the body of Londoners forms a compact, relatively unified group in contrast to New Yorkers” (pp.121).

In that regard, Sapir supports the idea of population movement as the basis of the dialects variations. Therefore, since the newcomers from the British Isles established the first settlement in the United States, the dialects that existed in Great Britain deposited to the dialects in the America. That interaction triggered the appearance of the new varieties but the initial population if the New World resembled the dialect distribution that took place on the British Isles (Wolfram, 1998 p. 25). As the result, dialect level underwent considerable changes and influenced the cultural processes taking place in the United States.

Dialect diversity is a social phenomenon as well since it is inevitably revealed in different sociolinguistic situations. Moreover, our own dialect awareness could help us to determine the type of community we live in and identify the cultural and traditional background. In addition the social environment and the class affiliation also affect the linguistic variation. Thus Holmes et al (2003) insist on the fact that “Some of the same linguistic features figure in patterns of both regional and social dialect differentiation, with working classes varieties being more localized, and they also display correlations with other social factors” (pp. 100). The researcher also suggests the idea that each social class undergoes a language shift peculiar to this or that layer of society. That assumption is apparently true since there is a constant interaction between the classes. In addition, Lanehart believes (2001) that social conditions of a certain dialectal community and African American community in particular are quite specific and are in a constant change.

The language variety and dialects distinction are also motivated by the social activities carried out by certain speech communities. Lanehart (2001) believes that “the language use patterns that characterize a community at one moment in time may differ at another moment in time” (pp. 267). In this respect, the dialect development takes place within the community. Consequently, the processes that appear in the specific community can significantly influence the linguistic variations. To add to the above stated, Wolfram et al. (1998) point out:

The Linguistically, we look to the way we produce and perceive language as well as how individual language features are organized into coherent systems. These linguistic and social factors may come together in a myriad of ways, resulting in multitude of dialects (p. 24).

By this, the researchers explain the nature of dialect variation. The dialects are likely to form under the influence of separation and assimilation since in both cases these processes advance the social dialect distinction. Both researchers Holmes (2003) and Lanehart (2001) agree that gender and social class distinctions also influence social dialect. In particular, Holmes puts forward the idea that women are more inclined to use formal language than men are. In their turn, men are predetermined to apply non-standardized forms irrespective of type of community and age category. This phenomenon is ubiquitous among the current speakers thus giving a ground basis for social dialects study.

Another important factor that facilitates the dialect differentiation is geographic aspect that still plays a considerable role in dialect development and set the correspondent boundaries. Thus, the geographical situation may determine “the routes and that people take and where they settle” (Wolfram 1998 pp. 27). For instance, rivers and mountains serve as a serious obstacle for the speech groups’ assimilation on the one hand and advance the process of language isolation on the other hand. Regarding that, territories that separated the groups form other speech communities were likely to serve as the effective basis for the advancement of the dialect level. For instance, Afro-Americans and Anglo-Americans that lived in South California were isolated from indigenous speakers and the language diversity existed on this territory. This factor fostered the dialect differentiation since thee groups were not interacting between each other.

There is an ambiguity in the validity of the theory that geography influenced the dialect development. Auer et al (2005) believes: “The study of processes of [dialectic convergence] and dialectic divergence has a comparative aspect and, since traditional dialects are primarily geographically defined, the geographical factor will inevitably play a role” (pp. 28). Arising from this, there exist the inside and outside factors that make the dialects emerge. To support the idea Randall Gar (2004) says that “dialect island is one where a number of changes occurred but did not spread outward” (pp. 3). But at the same time, Auer et al (2005) put forward an assumption that “geography as such does not influence language varieties, but does so through its social effects” (pp. 28) that have been mentioned previously in the given research by Holmes(2001) and Lanhart (2001).

In conclusion, it should be admitted that the language variations and dialect differentiation is the result of complex historic, social, cultural processes that greatly affect the dialect leveling and contributed to its development. Moreover, it was figured out that since dialect reflects human attitude, it is also resulted in the introduction of some traditions and cultural aspects into the language. In addition, geographic factors predetermined the interaction of speech communities and fostered both the dialect divergence as well as its convergence.


Auer, P., Hinskens, F., Kerswill, P. (2005). Dialect change: convergence and divergence in European languages. UK: Cambridge University Press.

Garr, W. R. (2004) Dialect Geography in Syria-Palestine, 1000-586 US: EISENBRAUNS.

Hock, H. H. (1991). Principles of Historical Linguistics Germany: Walter de Gruyter

Holmes, J. & Meyerhoff, M. (2003). Handbook of Language and Gender UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lanehart, S. L. Sociocultural and historical contexts of African American English.

Sapir, E. (2004). Language: An introduction to the Study of Speech. US: Courier Dover Publications.

Wolfram, W. & Shilling-Estes, N. (1998). American English: dialects and variation. UK: Wiley-Blackwell.