Learn English – Is the line blurring between “accent” and “dialect”


The definition that I have had in my head for most of my life is:

dialect: a variation of the original language (usually regional), sometimes even using different vocabulary and grammar

accent: a discernible influence of another language (usually because the speaker is not talking in his native tongue)

Yet, I keep hearing about Southern, Scottish or New York accents…shouldn't these be more accurately called "dialects"?

I could see that the answer might not be as clear cut in the US as in the UK because there are probably far more "native" American speakers whose ancestors' native language was not English…

Disclaimer: I'm German myself and I'm more or less assuming that "accent" and "dialect" directly correspond to their German "lookalikes": "Akzent" and "Dialekt". Maybe the semantics of those two words are simply different in English? If so, feel free to close this question.

Best Answer

A dialect, as rightly pointed out by Splash, is a regional variation of a language. Accent difference is only one aspect of dialect. Dialects differ from each other not merely in pronunciation or accent, but also in vocabulary, spelling and even grammar. For eg. British and American English are two different dialects of English that differ not only in pronunciation (eg. 'schedule'), but also spelling (eg.fulfil vs fulfill) and grammar (eg. 'different from' vs. 'different than').